Re-Establishing the Importance of Onboarding
We’ve all been there at some point in our career – our first day on the job, nervously walking through the doors trying to look like we belong. Very much wanting to fast forward time until we confidently stroll in with a coffee, casually chit chatting to our colleagues about the weekend as we pass their desks.
Today, more often than not, that first day on the job for our team members is on a laptop in their home office. Perhaps with less nerves compared to when walking through an open plan office landscape for the first time, but nevertheless – there will always be a sense of anxiousness and nervous anticipation. Imagine then its 9am and … nothing. The log in details that were shared on Gmail last week don’t work, and with no access to the system they can’t access IT support or even see their first day’s meetings. Cue frustration.
In today’s rapidly changing business climate, following recent difficult geo-political and socio-economic events, the war on talent has never been more fierce. As a result organisations have had to review and often re-define their approach to onboarding new employees to ensure that the complete journey from interview to day one and beyond is firmly aligned with the company’s brand and culture. As competition for talent intensifies, its essential to firmly grab hold of, and hold on to, the attention of the new joiner even after the contract has been signed.
Speaking to Bhawna Ghandi, Director of Human Resource at Sodexo Corporate Services APAC, it is clear that they have had to revisit their induction process over the last couple of years:
“As our new joiners are experiencing virtual onboarding for the first time they need much more support, guidance, and handholding than ever before. Investing in virtual onboarding has become a must-have for businesses and is no longer a good to have. We have a lot of work to do in the HR community to reinvent virtual onboarding programs to match the needs of new team members and tailor that to the dynamic and hybrid environment we operate in.”
As Bhawna points out, the traditional approach to onboarding has been revolutionised. Factors influencing this change are predominantly the move to hybrid or completely remote workplaces which have brought about new challenges in relation to communication, building relationships, and gaining a sense of an organisations’ culture and belonging.
The Impact of Poor Onboarding is Too Great to Ignore
A poorly planned and executed onboarding for a remote or hybrid working colleague is a missed opportunity to impress and gain loyalty, potentially reinforcing any concerns that the employee may have had. Often leading to disappointment or, worse still, the rejection of an already accepted offer.
Speaking with HR leaders in our network, it is clear this has had an impact on training new staff in a remote environment and some have seen a decline in engagement for new employees, which in turn has led to a higher turnover in the first 12 months. While up to 20% of employee turnover happens in the first 45 days, 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experience a great onboarding process.
In her article Unpacking the Great Resignation, Anna Taylor, Senior Director at ChapmanCG, refers to research showing that it is easier to resign in the first few months if you haven’t met your manager or if you haven’t had the time to bond with your colleagues. A less than average onboarding experience is a real threat to a new joiner’s future loyalty, which in turn affects the bottom line of the organisation. Recruitment is not cheap, if we don’t get the process right the first time we end up spending top dollars to repeat the process again.
So how does an organisation re-define its onboarding process? And what are the key elements to ensure success? Mallika Sarkar, APAC HR Director at Medpace in Singapore, explains how her company redefined their team member journey when their workplace moved online:
”With 30-40% growth in the last four years in the region and more than 20% growth globally, it is imperative for us to track new hire retention and to ensure a revamp in new hire engagement and retention practices – while still working within the unique construct of the organisation. This included an improved and digitised pre-on-boarding process, moving to a streamlined global on-boarding process so we create the same foundational information for all new hires about the organisation and industry. By doing this we are equipping all new managers with training to manage and lead effectively as per the expectations of the company as they have the highest touchpoints and impact on retention and engagement. This holistic view of what would have the highest ROI for the company allowed us to improve and adapt best practices for creating long term engagement with our new joiners.”
What Does a Role Model Onboarding Look Like?
Whether office based or remote – the onboarding process starts well before that first day on the job. Often several weeks out. A clearly defined offer followed by the signing of the contract should trigger a multi-layered onboarding process with a coordinated communication and technology plan. Here it is essential that the recruitment team works closely with L&D, IT and line managers to ensure alignment across all functions.
Prachi Desai, who recently joined as Director at ChapmanCG– a fully remote operating model since its’ inception in 2008 – shares how valued she felt even before her first day:
“The onboarding at ChapmanCG was one of the most structured programs I have come across in my career. Right from the time I signed the offer, there were regular calls with the management team until I joined, helping me clarify any doubts as well as making me feel very welcome. The IT and support teams ensured all systems and meetings were well set up for me in advance which helped me understand what my first day, week and month would look like. As a new joiner starting off on my own remotely in India this really put my mind at ease, I felt connected from day one.”
Key to onboarding at ChapmanCG is our regular pre-boarding communications including e-signing all necessary documents, planning a first week schedule of introduction meetings, sharing who the individual will be working with and a ‘buddy’ system set-up. In this period of extreme pressure for candidates – stress of interviews, big decisions, resignations and second thoughts – it’s important to deliver on the promises made through a well-coordinated induction. This approach, and similar ones with a first day Welcome Pack – says to the new employee, “You’re a big deal, and we’re delighted to have you onboard”.
Critical Factors When Onboarding Remotely
When successfully planning onboarding for a remote colleague, there are two key touch points to get right – Technology and Team.
Firstly, let’s look at a classic hygiene factor; technology. A correctly set up email address or intranet-log in doesn’t necessarily motivate a new starter, but get one of these wrong and it’s a great cause for frustration and demotivation. When setting up a new employee with their technology, it’s imperative the equipment is correct, installed on time and a comprehensive introduction to software and internal systems is scheduled on the first day. These steps may sound simple and straightforward, however most of us have either been through or witnessed a bumpy onboarding. Ultimately what will set an average experience apart from a memorable one, is taking the time to coordinate and genuinely care about your new employees’ first impression.
Looking at the importance of onboarding today, and how it will only grow in significance, as much as human interaction has its’ advantages, the increased use and application of technology to complement and enhance this process is highlighted by Charley Zuidinga, CEO of Qualee (a leading cloud-based employee onboarding and engagement platform):
“Modern HR Technology solutions that leverage the power of cloud and native mobile app capabilities provide companies the ability to cultivate a seamless, repeatable, and overall positive employee experience from the very beginning. Using automation technologies and centralised digital platforms, it is possible to create engaging employee journeys, receive real-time engagement feedback, and ensure all mandatory actions are completed in full and on time.”
Just as technology is essential for a smooth start, advanced use of HR Tech is also key to retaining talent – as ChapmanCG Directors Ringo Lau and Dee Karsan, shared in their recent article Keeping Up with Tech: “Never before has it been so important for HR practitioners — regardless of their specialisation — to be tech-savvy. Organisations that fail to get their strategy right run the risk of not being able to attract and retain the talent they need, and this will mean candidates may be targeted by competitors, leading to accelerated attrition.”
Secondly, and just as important, is the team introductions. This is the ideal time for a line manager to show a high level of interest, to promote the internal culture of the business when making introductions and sharing insights.
Thought through and executed well, onboarding acts as a very powerful opportunity for organisations to show case their culture, values, innovation, DE&I agenda, and CSR programmes, which will not only enhance the experience and ensure they retain their employees for longer, but will also elevate brand value and positioning in the market. Prachi Desai at ChapmanCG continues:
“During my first couple of days I interacted with my entire regional team through Teams and got to know them as individuals. My colleagues spoke passionately about the company, the work they do, and made me feel comfortable and never physically distant from the them. All in all, I had an extremely positive experience during in my first month with the company, which gave me a lot of confidence to do this job remotely, it made me feel connected to my colleagues and helped me start off successfully.”
This type of warm, genuine welcome sets the standard and clear expectations for the long term. Any issues or concerns can be dealt with on the spot which is much more cost effective than to having to deal with a potential drop out later.
With the increased power of heavy weight brands, and their external brand positioning in the market, it’s encouraging to see companies like Sodexo and Medpace also making time to re-think, re-new and re-energise their internal onboarding processes and philosophies, to ensure their most valuable assets, their employees, are off to a great start.
Using employee focused technology empowers employers to quickly create a sense of belonging with new employees. With research demonstrating that 20% of turnover occurs in the first 45 days, creating that sense of belonging early is critical in driving both retention and productivity.
Ensuring a memorable onboarding experience will undoubtedly complement the culmination of an intense selection process, and with so much time, effort and money invested, the importance of delivering on the promises set out within a well-executed, personalised recruitment process has never been higher. As Sodexo’s Bhawna Gandhi so rightly points out: “Investing in virtual onboarding has become a must-have for businesses and is no longer a good to have.”
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