Onboarding: What is it and why is it important?
What is onboarding?
Onboarding, at its simplest, is the process companies go through of integrating a new hire into the workplace. Most recruiters know this isn’t a quick process. When done thoroughly it can last between six months to a year and like most things, the more effort you put into it, the more you will gain from it. It allows new hires to feel welcomed and valued and makes the transition into a new job a smoother and more comfortable process.
The 4 Cs of Onboarding
An effective onboarding process follows the 4 Cs: compliance, clarification, culture, and connection.
Compliance is the first level and involves learning about the basic policies and rules of the organisation. This stage ensures the new hire is aware of where they stand and of any important information.
Clarification allows the new employee to understand their position within the company, what their duties are and what is expected of them, ensuring they feel prepared and that there are no misunderstandings.
Culture refers to giving your employee an understanding of how your company functions, the organisational norms and what they can expect.
Connection is perhaps the most crucial part of the process. The relationships and network connections a new hire develops are important in ensuring a smooth integration into the company.
Why is it important?
Your first days at a new job usually involve a lot of nerves and uncertainty. Onboarding is crucial in letting new hires familiarise themselves with company culture and makes the integration into the organisation an easier process. If you don’t get enough attention or direction, you may feel slightly lost which could impact your motivation. Research shows that a good onboarding process can affect an employee’s decision to stay at their job, therefore increasing employee retention, making it a more cost-effective decision for your business.
New hires are more likely to reach maximum levels of productivity faster when working under a good onboarding policy. When an employee starts off with the right knowledge and tools, it gives them a good starting point to grow from, meaning they are already bringing in revenue and contributing to your company.
Onboarding reduces stress for new employees. Starting a new job can be rather daunting; giving them the answers to questions before they’re asked makes it easier for new hires to settle into their new role.
An effective onboarding process can help prevent mistakes further down the line. Teaching employees not only their role but how they fit into the organisation, the expectations and how to deliver, allows them to develop their job knowledge early on and ensures a thorough understanding from the beginning.
The onboarding process
A good onboarding process will begin during the recruitment phase. Communicating with new hires frequently and sharing answers to any questions before they start, such as letting them know what to expect on their first day, makes them more prepared. Getting all the administration work out of the way before the employee has their first day is usually a good idea, allowing them to come in and get comfortable in their new job role rather than being faced with a lot of paperwork. This can also be done digitally which means they have constant access to documents if they need them. Planning the first day/week in advance means they have some structure to come in to and enough to be getting on with whilst you appear organised and well prepared.
First impressions are everything so it’s important to make day 1 count. The first day of work will mostly be introductions to the environment, the job, and the people. Give out a welcome packet and/or company directory and ensure introductions to other employees are made. A team lunch or some icebreakers, if they are comfortable with that, would help acclimate new employees to company culture. Having a designated workspace prepared with a laptop/computer ready with access to any emails, software or accounts is also important in making your new hire feel like a part of the team. Reinforcing the job responsibilities and duties on the first day allows your new employee and their team to know how their roles work together. Any introductory training should be done on the first day as well as providing goals and a learning plan, presenting clear expectations, and ensuring a mutual understanding.
Schedule frequent check-ins for the future to keep up with how your new employee is doing, either weekly or monthly or at 30 days, 6 months and 1 year. This helps make sure they are settling in well and gives them a point of contact to bring up any queries. Similarly, continue encouraging participation in company activities, it may take some people longer than others to begin to feel comfortable. Further training may be done in the future depending on the role and how they are progressing.
Things to remember
It’s important to not overwhelm your new hire, starting a new job is already anxiety inducing enough. Throwing them in the deep end by giving them too much information at once can be counterproductive; start with the basics and allow your employee to get settled into their new role first.
Being organised gives a better impression. Your new employee will feel more comfortable and well looked after if you are present and aware of what needs to be done rather than running around with a million things on the go.
Ask for feedback. Communicating with your new hires about how they felt during the process will allow you to see things from their perspective. You can make changes and continue to improve your onboarding process based on the feedback from the people that have been through it.
Everyone learns differently; presenting information depending on their preferred learning methods will make them feel more understood and welcome. It will also increase the possibility of your new hire learning and understanding things more quickly and reduce future chances of having to repeatedly explain things.
Treat onboarding as a process not an event; monitoring and keeping an eye on your new hires shouldn’t be for just the first day or week. Making sure they are settled in well in the long term makes the transition more successful overall and less likely for problems to arise in the future.
Given the recent pandemic, remote working has become more popular and normalised in the workplace. This often means onboarding for these candidates is done remotely or with minimal face to face contact which may have an impact on how well the new hire transitions into their new position.
Loneliness and isolation may occur more frequently and intensely for those who work from home, and it is important to address this during onboarding. Having in person meetings and training, if possible, allows new hires to meet and get to know other people in the business and feel more comfortable building social relationships even when working from home. Introducing effective communication tools during onboarding may also help reduce feelings of isolation for employees working remotely.
A well thought out onboarding programme is vital in ensuring a good employee-organisation relationship. Creating a good first impression and making sure your new hire feels valued from the get-go is imperative to a successful onboarding, leading to employee retention and satisfaction.