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Employee onboarding processes help new staff members understand their job roles and fit into the company. They can be the difference between an engaged employee and a failed hire, so it’s important to get it right. We asked Simon Swords, founder of simple HR software company Staff Squared and UKBF member, to share his experience.
So, you're hiring someone new? Unfortunately, you can't just push them into a seat and expect them to get on with their work. At the very least, you'll need to provide some basic training.
Get it right and you're going to ease someone into their job. They'll feel comfortable – or at least as comfortable as anyone ever feels when they're the newest business recruit – and will understand their job and what's expected of them.
Get it wrong and you're going to leave someone feeling confused and stressed. You may end up with lower productivity, or big mistakes, as a result. Eventually, your new employee may give up and hand in their resignation notice. It's a costly error to make, on every single level.
Here are five things that to know about a good onboarding process:
Onboarding isn't a process that begins on someone's first day. It begins much earlier.
As soon as you've offered a job, you should be starting the onboarding process.
Make sure that all of your existing employees know their responsibilities. Many will have a part to play in welcoming their new colleague. Your IT team may have to set up a laptop or PC, or create a user account and marketing might be responsible for updating the company profile page, for instance.
Create a series of emails that you can send automatically to all new employees, the week before their first day on the job.
Make these a relaxed introduction to the job and the company. Include things like building maps, mini-biographies for existing staff and a workplace canteen menu - nothing too serious, just enough to help someone to feel 'at home' when they first arrive.
'Buddying up' might seem like something that you gave up in primary school, but for new workers it's surprisingly effective.
A single point of contact reduces confusion. It means that any issues or concerns can be dealt with quickly and it minimises disruption.
Remember that a new employee's buddy does not need to be an expert in every aspect of the business. The buddy will know who to contact for answers to any questions. That's what's important.
In small businesses, any issues can be noticed quite easily. They're usually quickly corrected.
In larger businesses, each new employee is a minnow in a very big lake. If they're flapping around completely lost it's possible that nobody will notice. If their work is going in the wrong direction, how long will they be doing the wrong thing before someone picks up on the error?
You should design your own onboarding schedule based on the size of your business and the level of individual attention that each employee gets.
If you don't want to drag your onboarding process out, then you should arrange frequent meetings. One-to-ones allow new employees to iron out any issues, in a safe and non-judgmental environment. As a result, they're not left thinking things over for months.
At my company Staff Squared new recruits attend weekly meetings for the first three months. This provides an opportunity to discuss concerns and worries, clarify details and make sure that everything's on track.
It's pointless developing a good onboarding process if you then leave it to crumble over time. It’s important to review your onboarding process regularly, to check that it's still working as it should be.
Each employee going through the process should be encouraged to provide their own feedback.
Are there any changes that you can make to streamline the process and improve efficiency, or to make things better where previous employees have struggled?
It can be difficult to ask a new employee to pick apart the way you're running your business. It'll be just as hard for them to criticise their new employer. It can help if this isn't included in a one-to-one meeting. Perhaps ask for feedback by email?
A good onboarding process should improve every time you go through it. This is because yesterday's new recruits are today's managers and team leaders.
Any excellent training that you've giving to your existing employees will trickle down your newest ones, where it can continue to be enhanced and improved.
The strength of your entire business is affected over time.
Employees need to be eased in slowly, but you're storing up trouble if you start then with tasks that are dramatically below their skill level.
Challenge new staff members from their very first day, but expect and allow results that are a little below your usual expectations.