Success from the start – Getting onboarding right

It’s an exciting time at cHRysos HR as two new full-time members of staff join the team along with additional associates and I’m really looking forward to the fresh ideas and contribution they will bring.  But I’m also really mindful of getting it right from the start so that our new team members feel settled and able to add value to the business as soon as possible.

Having an effective onboarding programme in place gives new recruits the best of starts in your organisation, helping them to get up to speed and add value faster and stay longer.

So what do I mean by on boarding?  

Most often we use the phrase ‘induction’ to describe the way in which we enable employees to get used to their new workplace, understand the organisation, their role and meet and begin to build working relationships with new colleagues.  We also talk about ‘orientation’ and ‘socialisation’ as part of this process; perhaps referring to an induction training course that new starters attend and latterly referring to the time needed to get to know colleagues and find a place within the team.

Onboarding does include all of these things, but is seen as encompassing wider aspects than this, beginning before the employee’s first day at work with the organisation and including the interaction and contact we have with them and they have with the organisation leading up to their formal employment.

Best-in-class onboarding programmes help employees to understand the organisation, its purpose, mission, vision, etc., help them to understand their role and how this fits into the organisation’s strategy, helps them to identify and relate to the culture of the organisation and to form relationships with colleagues and other key stakeholders.

It follows then that whilst some aspects of an onboarding programme may be standard for every employee, certainly one size will not fit all.  Best practice onboarding provides each employee with a customised programme built around the nature of the job they will hold and their background.

When designing a programme, think about these key points:

  1. First impressions count.  Provide an experience that helps new employees to confirm that they made the right career move.
  2. Involve the incoming employee and their manager in creating the onboarding plan and the measures of success.
  3. Ensure onboarding programmes are simple enough to implement but have enough content to do what needs to be done.

Onboarding needs to drive five clear messages:

  1. We are a great place to work;
  2. We are fortunate to have you;
  3. We want you to know who we are and how we work;
  4. We want to know who you are and how you work; and
  5. We want to help you succeed.

(Adapted from Goldsmith and Wheeler, 2009)

It’s not just new employees who need onboarding.  Existing employees moving to new roles within the organisation need help in understanding sub-cultures. Programmes should also be in place for particular groups with specific needs such as graduate trainees, those returning from career breaks, or long-term absence for example.

The alternative scenario to effective onboarding has repercussions that are likely to be costly.  The new employee struggles to understand the organisation or their role within it, they integrate poorly within the team, experience low morale and are unable to reach their potential; they may even leave at an early stage.  For the organisation this impact on turnover brings costs associated with separation (administering the employee’s exit), covering the vacancy, repeating the recruitment exercise and onboarding the replacement.

Organisations need to be mindful of the experience they give individuals throughout the employee lifecycle: from the point at which they apply for a job to the point at which they leave.  Effective onboarding makes a lasting impression, enabling employees to become productive and add value at an early stage, as well as promoting buy in to the employer brand.

Julie Gordon heads up the team at cHRysos HR Solutions, an organisation specialising in the delivery of HR and Leadership-related training, professional qualifications, as well as HR and business consultancy services. With over 20 years’ experience in learning and development within the private and public sector, Julie’s key strengths are now in the management of the learning and development process and in work-based learning. As well as working in industry, Julie has held various academic teaching posts and has published journal papers in the field of learning and development.

For further information call 01302 802128 or email [email protected].

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