The process of onboarding new hires is one of the most critical activities HR must undertake. Not only can it help an organisation make that all-important dazzling first impression, it can also act as a jumping off point for potentially long and successful careers.

However, the first few days and weeks can also be incredibly tiring, unsettling and intimidating for new hires. Establishing themselves in a new environment and looking to impress during probationary periods can be incredibly stressful.

It makes sense then, that the onboarding of new hires helps them to settle into their role, responsibilities and team as quickly and effectively as possible. But, whilst that all should happen in principle, the reality looks to be somewhat different…

Only half of all new hires said they felt productive and capable of doing their jobs

In June 2022, we conducted research into the state of employee onboarding in the UK and Ireland, and we discovered some surprising results.

Of the 1,000 employees we surveyed, only half of them said their onboarding helped them to feel productive and capable of doing their jobs. In addition, nearly two thirds said their onboarding experience was stressful, whilst over a fifth said their onboarding experience made them question their choice in jobs.

These statistics should be worrying for HR professionals. Although our survey found that most organisations recognise the importance of onboarding, many companies could do much more to support employees both before they start and during this initial ‘settling in’ phase.

Supporting employees during these first few days and weeks isn’t just good for an employee’s confidence levels: there are also some incredible benefits for organisations that choose to focus on improving onboarding programmes.

For example, Business News Daily recently reported that companies that focus on onboarding retain 50% more new employees than companies that don’t. They also found that standardised onboarding programmes can result in a 50% increase in productivity.

Despite those clear benefits, our survey discovered there are fundamental mistakes being made that can be highly damaging to a new hires’ levels of confidence. If a new employee feels unconfident in their abilities or their choice of employer, there’s an ever-increasing chance they’ll decide to cut their losses and take their talents elsewhere.

So, what can HR do to help raise the confidence of their new hires, improve their productivity levels, and make their onboarding experience less stressful?

Considering the run up to starting a new job is such a delicate stage of an employee’s journey, it was surprising to discover that over 22% of employees we surveyed didn’t hear a thing from their managers before they started their new role.

HR should encourage hiring managers to contact their new employees before they officially start. This is an excellent opportunity for them to confirm their new hire’s role and duties, and what their first week at work will look like. This will also help them to fully prepare themselves for their first day and get off to the best possible start.

HR should also keep an open line of communication with a new hire after they’ve accepted a job offer and share onboarding plans with them. It will be much easier for new employees to feel comfortable in a new environment if they have a better idea of what has been arranged for them.

Other things HR can do include:

New employees will be eager to make a good impression and get stuck into their new role. However, they won’t be able to do that if they don’t have the equipment, access or – if working in a shared workspace – a place to work.

Being kept waiting for vital equipment or the tools needed to do a job can be hugely frustrating. It can also create feelings of anxiety if an employee is keen to impress during their probationary period or are in a results-driven role. So, HR should be ensuring that before new employees arrive, their equipment, software or IT access and (where applicable) workspaces are set up and ready for them to use right away.

Regular check-ins play a big part in any effective performance management strategy. They can also be vitally important when it comes to maintaining the confidence of your new hires.

Regular check-ins with managers can help new members of staff build a rapport and clarify initial short-term priorities, as well as their longer-term goals. It’s also a great opportunity for new starters to raise any difficulties they may be having, and what support they’d like to overcome them.

Check-ins can really help settle the nerves of new starters as they can provide a ‘safe’ opportunity to talk about any challenges they’re facing and to ask for help. It’s also a good opportunity to let new employees raise any ideas they may have about alternative ways of approaching the job, projects they’d like to get involved with or innovative ideas they’d like to pursue.

It’s important that new hires don’t feel isolated or on the peripheries during their onboarding. As our research into the psychology of HR discovered, an engaging onboarding experience not only boosts productivity and confidence, but significantly reduces the risk of employees leaving within the first six months.

If new starters feel as if they’re being forgotten or isolated, you may find them considering their career options sooner rather than later – and this is especially true for workers who may be carrying out their duties remotely. Luckily, there are a few simple things that can be done to prevent this, including:

You can read the full report and actionable insights by following this link.