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Onboarding: Creating the lasting first impression

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Onboarding: Creating the lasting first impression 

The Impact of Effective Onboarding on Employee Retention and Productivity

In both personal and professional settings, first impressions are pivotal in shaping subsequent interactions. This is particularly significant in the workplace, where the initial moments of a new employee joining a business can greatly influence their future within the organisation.

The introduction of a new employee to their colleagues is just one aspect of a comprehensive onboarding process. This process plays a crucial role in determining their commitment and productivity in the long run.

Studies show that positive onboarding experiences yield remarkable results: employees who undergo a smooth transition are 18 times more likely to feel committed to their employer. Given this, it’s essential for companies and HR functions to prioritize this stage of the employee lifecycle.

Despite its importance, only 12% of employees believe their organizations have a good onboarding process. This highlights a significant opportunity for improvement.

In our last roundtable of the year, we focused on onboarding, challenging attendees to propose initiatives and solutions. Many attendees acknowledged that perfecting the onboarding process is a continuous task.

There was a notable stance of defiance around employee feedback for onboarding. The term ‘feedback’ often incites negative opinions or constructive criticism, rather than positive responses. Therefore, data and insights that aim to quantify the success or failure of onboarding must be approached with caution.

Despite these challenges, everyone at the table recognized the benefits of an impressive onboarding process. The conversation initially centered around the ownership of the onboarding process. This is particularly relevant as several global clients have recently shifted responsibilities away from central HR to Learning and Development functions.

Despite this shift, there remains a cohesive understanding that the generalist HR function should retain oversight over onboarding. After all, they serve as the primary point of contact for any employee or employer-related inquiries throughout the process.

However, the intricacies of this debate soon became apparent. The recruitment team assumed a critical role in setting the tone for the onboarding process. Their responsibility was to demonstrate commitment, transparency, and structure. This became especially crucial in candidate markets, such as those experienced in 2022. Candidates were more likely to accept counteroffers or continue exploring other interview processes if they weren’t fully convinced of the role offered during initial interviews.

Taking it a step further, one professional emphasised the job description as a pivotal focal point for onboarding-related and recruitment actions. A well-crafted job description should provide a clear and measurable list of experiences and qualifications required for the role, along with soft skills. By pre-defining these measurables in collaboration with line managers, organisations can limit unconscious bias and enhance transparency throughout the process.

There was a neat transition here from the impact of wider People functions on onboarding to more widely the importance of effective communication between teams in creating a seamless process.

Within this, a common frustration was around the lack of engagement or commitment from line managers around their onboarding duties. HR can create templates, build schedules using tools such as Notion to block times and activities for managers to complete, despite this, ensuring managers take the right approach is not guaranteed. A couple of HR Managers in attendance highlighted some useful principle and behavioural profiling tools to complete as employees and managers during the interview process to more effectively align the working styles and management approaches. Julie Harrison’s disc profiling, or Principles YOU were highlighted as useful tools that can be implemented in the hope that matching working styles will ensure the onboarding structure will reflect this, and also take their personal motivators into account. For example, some may be motivated hugely by progression and money so setting a very clear and transparent path and expectations they need to meet from the outset is very important. Whilst for others, it may be that the 30, 60, 90 day touch points focus more on providing recognition. Of course, it must be mitigated here that if motivators and values are vastly different to the company it may be a reflection on the recruitment process and the unsuitability of the new joiner, not the onboarding process. Nevertheless, the setting of clear boundaries, both company wide and personalised, were agreed to be extremely important for future development and satisfaction. Manager mapping, setting separate and equally-respected managerial and individual contributor pathways helps mitigate poor management in future and sets a visible option for development from an employees first day, and can be used as an indicator in touch points moving forward. Charlie HR’s blog on the stages of development for individual contributors was lauded as a brilliant insight on this aspect.

There was also attention placed on the merits of set induction days. Of course, for larger or rapidly growing firms the need for set induction days is obvious – to ensure there is not a burn out from teams with continual onboarding duties, provides consistency of the process, and gives new joiners the opportunity to be ‘in it together’. However, this limits the possibility for bespoke onboarding processes to mirror how individuals or teams work best, and also can mean candidates are out of work for a number of days or even weeks whilst they wait for the set induction day.

Conversations naturally led to further solutions and thoughts around onboarding. A ‘one pager’ or FAQs page which details not only the best points of contact but also includes details such as what should I wear on the first day, what should I bring on the first day, good lunch spots around the office etc. This puts a genuine people-first perspective on the onboarding process and helps alleviate some of the typical pressures people can feel prior to joining a new firm. Often, it is these small actions that employees remember most!

Interestingly, when questions were posed around the personal experience of onboarding processes for HR professionals, there seemed to be a sympathetic tone, whereby they recognise the effort which goes into onboarding and treat them as uncodified templates designed to grow and adapt. The onboarding process then, is seen more as an indicator of the current People function’s capabilities and infrastructures when it is HR employees on that journey, and is perhaps less of a measure of future longevity.

This roundtable provided some of the most interesting insights yet into not only the challenges People functions face, but also how they view the merits and impacts of their roles. Onboarding will always be an unfinished process however the success remains to be centred around individuality, the commitment of line managers and the coordination between all teams involved.

As ever, a huge thank you to all those who attended and came with honesty and solutions! Our next roundtable will be on Menopause in the workplace, and how HR can ensure the fastest growing demographic in work can be supported. Reach out to if you would like to join us at C&C Search!

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