Onboarding vs Retention - Why the first few months matter. | Foxy News

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Onboarding vs Retention - Why the first few months matter.

10th January 2019

An age-old issue in recruitment: the welcoming of new employees to the business; it can be a bit of a minefield. Businesses cost themselves upwards of twice the salary of the new hire by failing to execute a good onboarding experience, which often leads to candidates leaving before their start date! Find yourself with this issue? Take a look below for some worthwhile tips (we think) on how to get your newbies in for the long term.

Onboarding, the process of joining a company and effectively upping your skills to a level where you’re able to maximise your potential – we’ve been there ourselves, and we’re sure every candidate has their fair share of anecdotal stories, good or bad about their first few nervy weeks. In this article we look at the importance of the first few weeks at a new firm, and what employers can do to make sure their newbies are there for the long-term.

We think Ben Peterson, CEO of Bamboo HR, hits the nail on the head with his definition of the onboarding process;

“it’s not a single event, it’s an ongoing talent strategy.”[1]

A survey conducted by the Aberdeen Group in 2009 suggested that 86% of respondents believed that a newbie’s decision to stay with their new employer long term was made within the first six months.[2] The route your business chooses will drastically define your retention rates and ability to build an effective team, so take note!

Our in-house senior appointments consultant, Malcolm, discussed his previous experience at one of the UK’s leading travel businesses whereby the business defined three key areas which it felt it needed to address to create an effective on-boarding process; these included culture, people and the role. Focusing on these three areas, we’ve come up with a few hints and tips for the would be recruiting business to make the most of out of their first few months!

No Man’s Land – Radio Silence between the offer and the start date?

The awkward in-between bit. Put yourself in the shoes of the candidate. Great, you’ve had your offer and you’re over the moon, but you’ve got a niggling feeling of dread in the back of your mind, is it nerves? Have you suddenly started reminiscing about the good times in your previous role? This period between the day of offer and the scheduled start date can be really tough on candidates who feel they’re stuck in limbo; there are a few things your business can do to alleviate those early worries!

Welcome the New Starter.

Have a senior manager or team leader call the candidate, congratulate them on their offer and welcome them to the business. From the candidate’s perspective it feels as though the business is genuinely pleased to have offered them and the call also provides the senior manager / team leader with an opportunity to engage directly with the new-starter, introduce themselves and get to know a little bit about each other. A call that takes 5 minutes can add instant value to the recruitment process.

Have a Face-to-Face.

An opportunity to introduce the newbie to their team or other colleagues they might be working alongside, outside of the office. A long lunch or coffee break is a worthwhile way of welcoming the new starter to the team in a natural, less contrived way that both sides benefit from. Ask the starter to join the team on your monthly long lunch; this will lessen the intimidation factor of ‘meeting the team’ in the office!

Provide the Starter with a Welcome Pack.

Objectively introducing the finer aspects of the business to the starter – videos and interactive modules which show how certain systems might work within the day-to-day operations are an effective way to graduate the learning curve. There aren’t many people who genuinely appreciate being thrown in the deep end!

Welcome packs can also be a great tool to introduce the senior management, show what an average day in the office might look like, introduce the relevant HR mechanisms and outline the company’s key objectives and ethos. All of these add to a better understanding of the business on day one, and less of a marmite reaction to the workplace!

The Benefits aren’t one-sided, either.

Brand reputation doesn’t get much better than being known for an excellent employee – employer relationship. You’ll want to be known as a company that welcomes its new employees, offers support and guidance, not one that throws new hires in the deep end and fails to provide set targets for the first few weeks. Keeping your new employees warm from the offer date

First Day at School – Day One and the following weeks.

Don’t bore your new starters. Health and safety, compliance, risk assessment – you’re right they’re all important, but don’t transform the first day into a lecture; if it’s imperative your new starter is up to scratch from day one, make sure it’s an interactive day that’s not too dry otherwise you may be giving off the wrong impression. Yawn.

Set an Adaptable Induction Plan.

Create a clearly defined, achievable and engaging induction plan that you can track your new hire’s progress against. Give the employee a ‘warts an’ all’ introduction to the business and encourage an atmosphere where questions are welcomed, participation is key and regular feedback will be main indicator of progress. Nothing undermines the professional appearance of a business quite as much as the failure to ensure there is a clear induction process from day one.

Ask Senior Management to Introduce Themselves.

An effective way of making a new starter feel like part of the team is to be welcomed by a top dog on the first day. If it’s your business, welcome the new starter, individually or collectively. They’re a newbie on your territory and it’s your duty to make them feel welcome, by doing so you help foster an environment of familiarity even if you work at opposite sides of the building.

Why not take the Starters out for Dinner?

Step outside the office environment and grab an early dinner or organise a lunch break with a few members of the team. Often starters might shy away in a new office environment, by taking them out for dinner one afternoon you can understand what makes them tick in a less stuffy environment.

Probation. Probation. Probation. We have beef with this term.

Firstly, why make the first three months of your new starter’s job sound like a sentence? Secondly, note that most probationary periods will go by without notification from employers. So, what we need to ask is; are they really necessary, and do they instead put your new employee’s relationship with the business on a nervous footing?

Replace the Probation Period with something else.

The words probation doesn’t exactly exude warmth and hospitability. Probation is a lot like telling your new employee that they’re good enough to make the cut through interview, but now they need to prove themselves. If anything, shouldn’t the employer know that the candidate was the right person for the job over the course of the interview stages?

Perhaps introducing the idea of an on-going learning programme might ease the pressure of a ‘probation period’ and help create a more inclusive feeling in the office. With a learning programme, new employees will feel as though they’re learning with the business, rather than being objectively scrutinised by a distant HR department.

Ensure you Review your Employees’ Performance.

Amazingly, 60% of companies fail to set real targets or milestones for new starters.[3] Our main gripe with probationary periods is that often employers will let the finish date slide and expect the employee to continue as normal, without personal review and feedback. Practices like this will only work to undermine your employee’s trust in your business, where probation periods are extended, employees’ attentions may turn to looking for a more permanent role.

Unsurprisingly, it takes around eight months for a new starter to reach full productivity,[4] to go back to our first point, an effective onboarding process should be more of a scenic route to getting the perfect employee; people need coaching, encouragement and to feel as though they are genuinely part of the team. The onboarding process should start from the day of offer and go right through until you and your new starter are comfortable sharing the same vision for the business, aptitude to work and loyalty to the firm.



[1] Ben Peterson, CEO, Bamboo HR

[2] ‘Onboarding Key to Retaining, Engaging Talent’, Roy Maurer - https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/onboarding-key-retaining-engaging-talent.aspx

[3] O.C.Tanner Blog Info Graphic. http://blog.octanner.com/editor-picks/an-onboarding-checklist-for-success-infographic

[4] Allied Workforce Mobility Survey: Onboarding and Retention 2012, AlliedHR IQ http://hriq.allied.com/pdfs/AlliedWorkforceMobilitySurvey.pdf