All too often, this is the onboarding process new employees face: It starts with an awkward walk around the office, where they’re put on display and overwhelmed in the process. If they’re lucky, there’s a desk ready for them at the end of it, and if they’re really lucky, a computer. Then the new hire is left on their own to complete all of the required paperwork and training — and to hope someone remembers to check on them before lunch.
Research confirms that this experience is sadly common. According to Gallup, only 12 percent of employees think their organisation does an “excellent” job of employee onboarding. The challenges they cite include a lack of participation from current employees; an inability to track effectiveness; and programs that are too short, don’t reflect the company culture or fail to show a path to the future for new hires.
So, how do we fix this mess? Here are four ways to improve your onboarding process and engage both new and existing employees:
Make it a group effort
Onboarding isn’t exclusive to the human resources (HR) or talent acquisition departments, though many employees see it this way. At the same time, HR can’t expect other departments to understand their role without giving some guidance. Before a new hire joins, brief their team-to-be about what employee onboarding entails and what role they will play.
Offer resources to reinforce the process; even something as simple as a checklist can give employees a reference point for what needs to happen when a new hire joins the team. Include milestones along the way: For example, the week before they start, make sure their desk and equipment get set up. On day one, deliver a welcome kit. During their second month, sit down and talk about career development, mentorship and coaching; and so on. Providing this ahead of the new hire’s start date helps bridge any gaps, developing a stronger program that involves everyone.
Onboard for 100 days (at least)
Repeat after me: onboarding isn’t one and done. Offering to take an employee out to lunch on their first day isn’t going to guarantee their loyalty to the organisation weeks, months and years down the road. Allow employees to be onboarded for 100 days or more — learning from their colleagues, absorbing information in meetings, getting up to speed on strategy and solutions and observing what’s happening around them.
Trust me: You don’t want them to make any big decisions their first week. They don’t know your organisation yet; they don’t even know anyone’s name. Onboarding new hires slowly gives them room to breathe — and will work in your HR department’s favour, helping them assess employees on the job.
Throughout the onboarding period (and employees’ tenure, for that matter), deliver “micro-experiences” whenever and wherever possible. Rather than lumping new hires together in generic training courses, consider alternate methods that personalise the content and make it memorable.
The same goes for learning and development. A PowerPoint isn’t enough to help employees retain what they need to know, whether that’s finding their way to the cafeteria or mastering your benefits administration tool.
Everyone processes information differently — which is why employee onboarding programs should include immersive and interactive elements, using both in-person and online media to support employees from all angles. Think videos paired with storytelling; games and quizzes (but not tests!); interactive simulations; and more. Finally, include unstructured time for the new-hire community to meet and interact freely.
Now comes the hard part. After you’ve made your onboarding programs a team effort, mastered their length and made the content more engaging, three problems remain: culture, cost, and efficacy.
Here’s how you fix all of them: Get real. You can’t force your culture, fudge your costs or pretend a program works when it doesn’t. Instead, you’re going to need to conduct some organisational introspection.
Talk to your latest hires; read through the most recent exit interviews; dig into your onboarding spend; and then compare your findings. Chances are, you’re going to learn that your core values don’t necessarily match up with your employee onboarding experience. In the process, however, you’ll identify areas of improvement in both your culture and your programs, and you can fix things from there.
An employee’s onboarding experience is an extremely subjective function of the recruiting process. That’s not going to change anytime soon, and it shouldn’t. But what can and should change is the time and attention paid throughout the process. By following these four tips, you’ll improve the experience for new employees — and for the recruiters who are dedicated to finding those hires in the first place.
William Tincup is the President of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. Find him online Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Indeed.