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The Five Principles of Good Onboarding

Sarah Brown and her team at Meet & Engage manage the strategy and delivery of automated onboarding journeys for clients using Timeline for Onboarding

The idea of formally welcoming a new joiner into the business apparently stems from the rather severe sounding concept of ‘organisational socialisation’ that was conceived in the 1970s. The term ‘onboarding’ dates from the early 1990s, however, it wasn’t really until the early part of this century that the term started to get much use and only really in the last decade or so that it’s cemented itself into the HR psyche. 

During that time, there’s been plenty of research to evidence the benefits of good onboarding; Glassdoor found that a strong onboarding process can improve new hire retention by 82%, whilst those with weak onboarding programmes lose the confidence of their candidates and are more likely to lose these individuals in the first year.   

So, if onboarding as a principal isn’t a new phenomenon, why did a survey conducted by Gallup find that only 12% of employees thought their company did a good job ‘welcoming them aboard’? Perhaps we should be asking what onboarding an offered candidate should aim to do? For me, there are three key areas we should focus on:

  • We should inspire and excite them about the business they’re joining, to reinforce the decision they made to accept the offer was the right one. 
  • We should inform and reassure them about what’s required of them and by when, so they feel confident they’re completing and sharing what they need to. 
  • We should introduce and get to know them, so they start to feel a part of their new team and our community before day one. 

With the above aims in mind, I’ve set out what I consider to be the five key principles of a good onboarding strategy.

1. First impressions matter

Just as your new employee wants to make a good first impression, you need to do the same. Establishing an environment that’s inviting and inclusive will set the tone not only for their onboarding experience but also their first few weeks and months in the job. Sharing a welcome message to all new joiners from a senior business leader is a great way to make that formal introduction, particularly if this is a video message. At Meet & Engage, we often see these welcome posts getting the most likes when included in a client’s onboarding journey using our Timeline for Onboarding technology. If you don’t have an onboarding platform, then why not share this via email or even create a ‘hidden’ page on your careers site to direct your new employees to. 

2. Keep up the selling

53% of global professionals surveyed by LinkedIn* stated that receiving explicit background on their new company’s culture and values, whether through an employee handbook or an informal conversation with their line manager, is very useful. It’s highly likely your candidate will have done their research into your business during the recruitment process, most probably engaging with your careers and corporate websites. As they’ll be hungry to learn more, now they know they’ll be joining you, it’s a good idea to share new content specifically curated for them during their onboarding. Sharing the same old videos simply won’t cut it. Nice examples include demonstrating your culture and values through employee quotes and stories, maybe produce video content from recent joiners to talk through how they found their first few weeks and months. Think about what anxieties new joiners usually face and look at ways you can provide information and support that helps alleviate these. 

3. Staying in touch

When a candidate accepts their offer of employment you can bet their excitement and engagement levels are at their peak, so the worst thing that an organisation can then do is go silent. Keeping in touch can take on many forms but the most effective are the ones where you’re present. This might be informal online introductory calls with their new teams, or a coffee with their line manager – not only will this help build and nurture their new working relationships, but they’ll also help your new joiners be more productive sooner. Where individual contact isn’t always an option, then consider online chat events that can be scheduled on a regular basis with new joiners being invited to attend. Meet & Engage’s Live Chat is often used as part of our clients’ onboarding activity to allow these cohorts to connect with the business and get their questions answered. 

4. Building a community

This is particularly relevant for those businesses who hire in large volumes with a common start date (early careers for example), where there’s value in connecting your new joiners before they start. Not only will it allow them to get to know each other prior to joining, but it might also benefit them practically with things like relocating etc. Social media can be a useful tool with many organisations setting up Facebook or WhatsApp groups. At Meet & Engage, we have Channels which is embedded into our Timeline for Onboarding technology; different threads can be created to allow users to post messages and interact with each other, with new messages being flagged on their Timeline dashboard. The client can also use Channels to promote a message to a wall post so it appears as content in the candidate’s Timeline feed.

5. Ticking off the to-do list

We all know that starting a new job comes with lots of admin tasks. There are forms to fill in, documents to scan and verify, parking permits to receive, tech to take possession of… This can often feel overwhelming on day one so the more that can be completed before a candidate joins, the better. This can also help alleviate some of those anxieties we mentioned – if they don’t have a parking permit, where do they park? Having a laptop that’s already been set up and delivered before they start will allow them to familiarise themselves with your systems and reduce the usual first day tech faff. Other initiatives could be setting up and providing access to their company email address ahead of them joining or being added to the team’s Slack messages in advance. The more you can tick off beforehand, the more productive they’ll be from the get-go.

For more information about how Meet & Engage supports our clients’ onboarding solutions and how they incorporate the above key principles, then please get in touch.

Check out our Timeline for Onboarding solution here

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