How an employee initially perceives a company in terms of opportunity has a huge impact on how long they will stay

Michelle Hoover, Principle of Baem Leadership

According to Gallup, 88% of organisations do not onboard well however a study by Brandon Hall Group found that organisations that onboard well, improved retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%. These are scary statistics, but they do highlight the need for an effective employee onboarding programme that will leave your top talent feeling valued, motivated, confident and ready to go out there and serve your customers and clients in the best way possible.

What is an employee onboarding programme?

Most SMEs and large businesses are probably aware of what an employee onboarding programme is; however, if you are just getting started or are a solopreneur, you might not be so familiar. One excellent definition of an employee onboarding programme is from Kissflow HR Cloud and states…

Employee Onboarding is the process of introducing new employees to the organization’s environment and culture. However, the time taken to achieve that might vary from one organization to another. A few organizations consider onboarding a one-day affair whereas others stretch it out for 18 months.

At Career Voyage, we are big advocates for longer onboarding programmes rather than one-day training. Think about your business and the job you are recruiting for. Can you honestly say you can give your new candidate everything they need to be able to do their job, interact with colleagues and customers most effectively and contribute to the business, all in just 8 hours? Didn’t think so.

However, don’t worry or feel overwhelmed. This blog has been written to help you create an effective employee onboarding programme that will help you keep your top talent. So grab a cuppa, and let’s get started…

What are the 5 phases of employee onboarding?

Before the first day

This is one of the most important stages of the employee onboarding process. It’s an extremely nervous time for many new employees, so the more you can prepare them for their first day, the less anxious and more confident they will feel. Here are some things you can ensure the employee has:

  • A copy of any paperwork that they can complete before the day, so they have a chance to review and complete it without feeling rushed
  • Exact details of where they should go, not just the address, but where they should go to in the building, parking arrangements and who they should ask for when they arrive
  • Details such as the itinerary for the day, how many other new employees will there be, what are lunch arrangements

TOP TIP: If you have a company team building or social event between a new employee accepting the role and the day they start, invite them along, so they can start getting to know their colleagues and the company culture.

During the first day

The first day should be about the employee getting to know the company’s culture, setting expectations, introducing the job role and responsibilities, and socialising with co-workers. Here are some things you need to consider:

  • Does the employee have a functional workspace ready – working computer, log in details, access passes etc
  • Welcome the new employee to their colleagues and the Managing Director
  • Give them an overview of all departments within the business and how their role fits in
  • A tour of the building is always helpful to ensure they know where bathroom and kitchen facilities are as well as other departments and their own work area
  • Have the Managing Director send an email to the business welcoming the new employee

And finally, it goes without saying, ensure any Health and Safety details are included and that new starter paperwork has been fully completed.

TOP TIP: Organise a team lunch, preferably away from the office, so new employees can get to know their colleagues in a more relaxed setting.

The first week

The first week should consist of training and meeting the necessary customers, clients and key stakeholders. The employee should still not be responsible for full deliverables; however, they can start completing tasks as part of their training and should be aware of what their deliverables will be once initial training has finished.

At the end of the first week, make time for a review meeting between the new employee, their direct line manager, and HR to discuss how the first week has gone, raise any concerns that any party may have, discuss what the employee has liked or disliked and set training needs and targets moving forward.

TOP TIP: Throughout the week, encourage the employee to have 1-2-1 coffee breaks with their immediate team members so they can get to know them and their roles better.

The first few months

This is now one of the most critical times for a new employee, as most employees will decide if they are staying or leaving within the first 3-6 months.

Ensure the new employee is aware of their monthly/quarterly targets or deliverables and provide regular check-ins with both the direct line manager and HR to ensure any issues are addressed and that the employee is happy in their role. Training should continue in the first few months until the employee is competent and confident in their new role. If your organisation offers flexible or hybrid working, the first few months are also an excellent time to start thinking about how those arrangements will work.

If possible, also continue to provide opportunities to get to know each other better through team building events, socials or team lunches. This helps build strong connections within the team and work together more effectively.

TOP TIP: Work with the employee to develop their individual development plan and outline any additional training needs. This lets the employee know that you are interested in their personal development and want them to become the best they can be. Currently, up to 60% of employees would take a pay cut to join a company that invested in the employee’s development.

The first year

If your employee is still with you for their first anniversary, you have obviously provided a great onboarding process (although some new employees will leave as no matter what you do, the business or role might just not be right for them and vice versa).

So, now is the time to review the first year, be sure to discuss:

Tips for virtual onboarding

If your business has an Intranet, this can really help with virtual onboarding; however, it is possible to provide a great employee onboarding programme for remote workers as well as in the office – it just takes a little more planning and check-ins. Here are some of our top tips for making the most of virtual employee onboarding programmes…

  • On the first day, still have the managing director send a welcome email, and have the team join a Zoom (other tools available) call to meet each other
  • Join a video call and show the virtual team member around the office, having members of the team wave and say hi
  • Send a “Welcome Package” that includes company stationery for the employee’s desk, stress ball, and other quirky items
  • Host a remote team welcome lunch similar to the team lunch mentioned above
  • Schedule “get to know me” calls between the remote team members and those in the office on a 1-2-1 basis

When thinking about virtual onboarding, it doesn’t have to be too complicated. With ever-evolving technology, it’s becoming easier and more accessible; however, the essential part of virtual onboarding is ensuring the new employee still feels as though they are part of the team. Ensure they are given the opportunity to attend in-person meetings or events, if logistically possible. And if not possible, certainly ensure they are present via the various video technology platforms.

TOP TIP: Set up a dedicated Slack channel just for new virtual employees that day/week/month. This is so they can talk to other employees in the same situation as they are. This can help alleviate any feelings of isolation and/or anxiety.

Common mistakes made in the employee onboarding process

Here are the top 5 mistakes we regularly see businesses making when onboarding new talent:

  1. Not providing information before the new employees’ start date leaving them feeling apprehensive about the day ahead
  2. Throwing employees in headfirst and expecting them to hit the ground running in their new role
  3. Failing to set expectations for the week, months and year ahead
  4. Not giving new employees and current employees a chance to socialise or get to know each other better
  5. Forgetting that virtual workers need the same level of onboarding support (if not more) than office-based employees

TOP TIP: One of the most important factors to top talent in the current climate is personal development and the opportunity for progression. Ensure these things are discussed and planned for during the first year and beyond.

Final checklist

To grab our full Employee Onboarding Checklist so you can start transforming your onboarding programme, click here. Or, find out how we can support your employee onboarding programme here.

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