Successful onboarding

Written by
Gary Browning

27 Jun 2016

27 Jun 2016 • by Gary Browning

Dont mismanage onboarders

Despite all the anticipation and build up, all that investment in time and recruitment costs, they leave after just a few months in role, or in some cases don’t even arrive on day one? Is it a poorly managed recruitment process? Did the candidate oversell themselves in interview? One area that is often overlooked, yet frequently to blame for new starters leaving so quickly in a new post, is a mismanaged onboarding process.

Now take the time to think through what the recruitment process must have been like for the employee. They finally secured an excellent role, with a business, salary and role that ticked all the boxes. They plucked up the courage to hand in their notice at their previous job, signed on the dotted line with your company, and then what? Nothing, but silence. As anticipation and nerves begin to build in advance of that all important first day, they might begin to wonder whether they’ve made the right decision, and this will be intensified if they don’t hear anything from you until their first day of work. Then, they arrive on day one, they are greeted with frantic looks being exchanged among colleagues as they realise no-one has taken charge of their induction. Time to default to the ‘new starter tick list’; keeping the new employee ‘busy’ with introductions to IT, the HR department and finance team. Sofar, so ‘process’. The dream role the candidate was promised seems a dim and distant memory as they undergo various meet and greets, and no doubt feel a bit like a fish out of water as they struggle to quickly immerse themselves into their new role.

A few weeks in, and the employee starts to discover that the “innovative and creative” business they bought into is in fact based on one unique project that the hiring team like to frequently refer to; it’s the exception, not the rule. Instead, the employee finds out that the business is actually quite pedestrian and certainly not the fast paced, exciting company they were promised. Just as they start to question whether they made the right decision to move company, a convenient phone call is made from their old employer, typically around month three in role ,kindly checking in with them to see if everything is OK and reminding them that the door is open if they wanted to come back. Before you know it, the talented new recruit with so much promise, has left the business.

Retain your talent early

Sound familiar? It’s a story, in various iterations, we all hear about too often. Yet it is one that can so easily be avoided, with just a few simple interventions in the onboarding process. And this doesn’t start from day one of the recruitment process either,to get it right you need to go back much further, before a potential employee has even seen your job ad or perhaps even contemplated that there could be opportunities for them at your company… At Penna we call it ‘minus 100 days’.

One of the key starting points is to make sure that your shop window is in order. Is your website up to scratch? Are your social media channels accurately reflecting the work you do? Do your business channels create an honest picture of what it is like to work there? Do you feel that your brand is compelling and that even someone completely unfamiliar with your company could quickly understand and connect with the business just from what they see online? It’s easy to succumb to the temptation to overinflate your credentials as an employer, but doing so will only result in new recruits leaving after a short period of time as they will feel mis-sold to. You need to think about potential employees as your consumers,we are in an age where consumers are king. Brands can be brought to their knees or raised to legendary status within a few clicks of social media, so businesses cannot afford to misrepresent themselves in any way. The socialisation of society through online media means we live in a transparent world with tools such as “Glassdoor” (the trip advisor for employees to comment anonymously and brutally honestly on their employer) enabling candidates to get it from the horses’ mouth rather than simply rely on the marketing blurb. So, putting yourself in the place of a potential candidate, 100 days before they may begin working with you, or have even applied for a job at your organisation, make sure your employer brand is engaging but most of all authentic.

Your new recruit needs to trust you

The recruitment process should reflect this too, ensuring that business values and career opportunities are accurately represented. Then if the candidate likes what they see and accept your job offer, check in with them to see how their current employer took the news. Handing in your notice is rarely a pleasant experience, so it’s important for employers to recognise this and check in with the new recruit to see how it went.

The resignation process is fraught with the danger of counter offers and persuasive employers desperate not to lose a talented employee. Coaching a candidate through the resignation process can be an effective way of managing these risks. If a candidate is serving a three month notice period, stay in touch. Invite them to team drinks or client events, send them updates about the business, and give them an opportunity to be exposed to what they might be working on in advance. Being greeted by an eerie silence once you have accepted a role is disconcerting. Although it’s exciting to land your dream job, the period after the intense flurry of interviews and meetings is often when uncertainty creeps in and it doesn’t help when the candidate feels completely disconnected from their new company.

On the first day of starting a role, make sure new recruits know when to arrive, who will greet them and consider assigning them a mentor or simply a friendly impartial face who will organise often overlooked things like making sure they have log in details, the right stationery and equipment and that they are introduced to key people they haven’t yet met. Have activity lined up that is more than a tick sheet of meeting internal departments. Whilst integral, it’s important for new starters to feel as though they have a role to play. If they have as much potential as you think they have, they will soon become frustrated with a merry go round of dull induction meetings when they want to get going and be productive as soon as possible.

What are you waiting for? Successful onboarding awaits you

Checking in with the employee at regular intervals is very important too. Think about assigning a ‘new appointee coach’ or mentor. Don’t just leave them to sink or swim. Ask if they are enjoying the role, if it was what they expected, if there is anything they have questions about.  Or if you sense that they might not feel comfortable telling you how they’re getting on, again, consider asking someone impartial this might be someone from a separate team, to help mentor them in the early days and offer advice and support. This should extend well beyond the first few weeks too, as its important employees feel continually supported, even after their “new recruit shine” has worn off.

This advice may sound obvious, but with research from Wynhurst Group finding that 22% of staff turnover occurs in the first forty-five days of employment, it is apparent that onboarding processes aren’t as solid as we hope or assume. By accurately reflecting the business and role you are recruiting for, staying in touch with a new recruit whilst they serving their notice period, and checking in with them once in role, can dramatically reduce the amount of people that leave within the first three months. And in a market where the balance has shifted back into employees hands, with offers and counter offers a plenty, businesses can’t afford not to have their onboarding processes up to scratch.