Onboarding Take 2: Changing Times | Foxy News

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Onboarding Take 2: Changing Times

10th September 2020

Onboarding should be the easy bit as an employer: you’ve found the perfect candidate; you’ve made the offer of employment and they’ve accepted (woo!). The labour intensive and time-consuming search and interviewing process is in the rear-view mirror. But sadly, all too often we see candidates pulling out of a role between accepting an offer and their start date or even jumping ship after the first few months because a client’s onboarding process falls far short of the mark. Needless to say, this is not only extremely frustrating for both parties, but can quickly stack up costs for employers. The following hints and tips should help to bulletproof your onboarding process and ensure that your new hires really are dialled in for the long run.

What is Onboarding?

We’ll start by stripping things back to basics without being boring or too patronising. Onboarding is pretty much self-explanatory: “the action or process of integrating a new employee into an organisation” (thank you Google). The process begins the second a verbal offer is made and accepted by the new employee and extends for months into their tenure, namely until they feel entirely comfortable in their new working environment. Because, at the end of the day, first impressions are everything and an employee who feels welcomed and valued from the word go will be more likely to stick around in the long run.

In our previous article on the topic we pulled a figure from a 2009 survey that 86% of respondents believed that a new hire made their mind up about whether their long-term future lay at their new place of work within the first six months. The stats don’t lie! A smooth onboarding process is therefore integral to staff retention and concurrently to building a strong cultural environment in the workplace. We’ve split each step of the process into a timeline, with each bullet point representing a key stage of the journey.

Laying The Groundwork

The dust has settled following the whirlwind of interviews, verbal offers and acceptances. Jump into the candidate’s shoes for a second: they’ve taken the plunge and are preparing to launch themselves from the familiar comfort of their current role into a totally new environment. Are they nervous? Almost certainly. Don’t let there be a cool-down, you can’t engage enough with the candidate in this time! You need to put as many of their worries to rest as possible; left unchecked, nerves can become misgivings, which in turn can lead to a U-turn before they even start. Here are a few steps to smash their nerves out the park.

A Quick Game Is A Good Game. The interview stage is complete, the chosen candidate has delightedly accepted their verbal offer and then, radio silence. A week goes by, still nothing. Eventually a formal offer letter is forwarded to the candidate only for it to be declined in favour of a role they’ve secured in the ten-day lag between receiving their verbal and formal offer. Back to square one. We advocate getting your formal offer letter into the candidate’s in-tray within 48 hours of their accepting the verbal offer, any lag will just amplify any reservations which the candidate may be having about moving roles. Keep the candidate’s mind on your opportunity by moving the process along in a snappy fashion: if you come across eager and excited that they are going to join and add value to your company, the chances are that they will reciprocate.

Don’t Be A Stranger. The offer has now been formally accepted, success! Now is the chance to get your new hire feeling as comfortable in their new scenario as possible before they even step through the virtual door. The intimidation factor of meeting the new team on the first day has been mitigated somewhat by remote working, on the other hand this also makes it far harder to form a bond; Covid-19 means that lunch dates and coffee catch ups pre-start date are pretty much off the table, without even considering that people may live too far apart for socially distanced welcome events in person. However, the quality and popularity of video calling software makes this the next best option to integrate your new hire into the team dynamic from the outset. Likewise, a short call from a member of senior leadership or manager to introduce themselves and congratulate the candidate on their offer can add huge value to the process for both parties.

Welcome Packs. We’re not talking dot-to-dots and colouring in, as fun as they may be. Videos and interactive modules introducing new employees to business-critical software and processes are even more critical than ever, given the status quo of remote working. It can be extremely isolating working from home, let alone faced with a whole raft of foreign software and nobody on hand to walk you through it in person. Any tools to create a virtual walk through of a typical working day whilst introducing any key HR and support functions, coupled with an availability to answer any questions, will go a long way to making your new starters feel like they aren’t just being thrown down the river without a paddle.

It Works Both Ways. The sooner a new employee feels settled and happy, the sooner they become a productive part of your team. Fact. Also, by building a reputation for engaging your new hires and being an easy working environment to settle, you’ll have a handy feather in your cap for the next time you need to recruit.

So, It Begins…

Congratulations, your new hire has made it to their first day unscathed. Are you out of the woods yet? Definitely not, the fun is just beginning.

Day One. Your new employee nervously walks through the door 15 minutes early, turned out immaculately eager to make a great first impression or, more likely, is logging in for the first time from the kitchen table wearing their slippers. Don’t burst their bubble: make the first day as snappy, fun and informative as is humanly possible. Yes, there may be protocols and compliance boxes to tick, but since when did boring somebody into a stupor before their second cup of coffee on their first day ever fill them with optimism about the weeks and months ahead?

Have A Plan, Stick To It. Set out a clear, informative and engaging personal development plan which allows you to track your employees’ progress from the outset. This was already central to onboarding, but in the new world of remote working it is imperative to go the extra mile to ensure your new hires are both confident and competent as quickly as possible. Don’t be afraid to give a ‘warts and all’ induction process, better you show your new hire everything good or bad, big or small about their new workplace than them finding out the hard way. Now, more than ever, it is critical that the onboarding process is interactive and offers plenty of opportunity to give feedback for both parties; this will optimise the induction process and provide a handy indicator of progress.

The P-Word. We’re talking of course about probation periods. This word is basically weaponised for the first three months of any new starter (no exaggeration here) despite the fact that most probationary periods pass without any notification from the employer. Starting a new job brings with it a roller coaster of emotions at the best of times, so why plant a huge elephant in the corner of the room that really just makes the employee second guess whether they’re good enough for the job? Instead, shift the emphasis onto learning and development: create a feeling of progression and growth rather than constant scrutiny of performance. Targets can wait.

Review Performance Regularly. This may seem counter intuitive to our previous point, but it isn’t. If an employer lets the probationary period pass without a detailed review of a new employee’s performance, then, in our humble opinion, there is no point in having a probationary period. Not holding regular performance reviews with the opportunity for feedback from both parties will erode employees’ trust in the business and make them question whether there is actually a coherent personal development plan in place for them.

It’s a Marathon Not A Sprint. In our last article we cited around 8 months as the time it takes for an employee to feel fully settled. NEWSFLASH! We haven’t changed our minds on this. Onboarding doesn’t stop after a new employee finishes their first week nor their first month: it should be a gradual, scenic tour of life in your company and make them feel genuinely part of the furniture by the time it concludes. To thieve further from our previous musings on the matter: “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.” Everyone knows it’s not plagiarism if you use speech marks anyway.

And breathe… There we have it, so comes to a close one of our longer Foxy News articles in recent times. Onboarding is such a crucial, multifaceted component of the recruitment process that can set employers back to square one if not executed properly; you wouldn’t half-bake your onboarding process, so we didn’t want to write a half-baked article on it. As always, if you are looking to hire an exceptional candidate or in the market for a new role, don’t be shy, give us a shout on 01633 749400 or drop us a line to hello@foxwoodrecruitment.com and we’ll be happy to lend your expertise!