On-boarding employees: 5 ways to make it less painful

On-boarding is the industry term for the process by which new hires adjust to the social and performance aspects of their new roles. Here are five fool-proof ways to make the process smooth for new employees.

A new report shows on-boarding trends are evolving just as hiring and training are within organisations. On-boarding is the industry term for the process by which new hires adjust to the social and performance aspects of their new roles, enabling them to learn the skills and behaviours needed to function effectively.

The Top Employers Institute ran a global study to understand what best practice looks like when on-boarding new staff. Five stand-out trends include making on-boarding a process rather than a single event, measuring effectiveness and senior business leaders playing a key role in inspiring new employees from the first morning.

The findings in the report are based on a sample size of 600 “certified” organisations in 102 countries. Only organisations with more than 3000 employees locally or more than 5000 employees worldwide are included.

“We’ve seen a lot of exciting growth in on-boarding during the last few years. Companies realise its a key time to engage with employees meaningfully and that it leads to a better employee experience, a more engaged team and better results for the company,” explains Eleanor Nickerson, director of UK operations for Top Employers Institute.

“The trends outlined in our report are things that any company can do in their own way – even off the shelf technology can be relatively inexpensive – and I would encourage employers who don’t currently invest much time or energy into on-boarding to build a programme – the results show it pays off.” Here are the five top trends in on-boarding according to the report.

1. From event to process

Historically, on-boarding lasts a maximum of two to three days after a new employee joins the business. Top Employers, however, are starting on-boarding during the recruitment phase and maintaining it three to six months post commencement, with some lasting up to 12 months. The scope is broader too. Key practices remain around the role, HR policies and procedures, however there is a growing focus on internal connections. Seventy-five per cent of the UK companies researched assign a buddy, 77 per cent use internal social media to chat with employees, 92 per cent conduct a post-hire assessment and 58 per cent hold a follow-up session a year after the employee joined.

2. Towards a multi-dimensional programme

The first impressions new hires gain may well shape the way they feel about their new employer in the longer term. Effective on-boarding needs to cover three main areas:

  • The business context (mission and vision; organisational strategy, branding, positioning and, potentially, challenges)
  • The situational context (the job; expectations, deliverables and what success looks like)
  • The cultural context (organisational values; how they are lived and the way they shape what the business does).

3. More active involvement of senior management

Senior business leaders play a key role in inspiring new employees from the first morning, whilst helping them to understand from the outset the overall business purpose.  77 per cent of UK executive managers ensure they meet with new recruits (an increase of 15 per cent since 2015) and 93 per cent of executive management actively promote the importance of on-boarding.

“The benefits of creating a multi-dimensional programme are rewarding for employees and company alike. When a new employee is educated, not only on their new role, but on values, strategy and how the organisation operates, they gain a more rounded understanding of the business – and that pays off as they settle in,” adds Nickerson.

4. On-boarding goes digital

Trends show that technology assumes a central role in formatting and streamlining on-boarding. It provides a quick and easy way to ensure traditional paperwork is completed digitally and an added bonus is the reduction of manual work and risk of potential errors. It also provides data for reporting and gaining insights to inform process enhancements. Within the on-boarding process, there is the potential to identify learning needs, create a learning plan and set up specific e-learning modules, as well as to help employees connect, engage and share. Seventy-seven per cent of UK companies researched use internal social media to chat with employees (up 14 per cent on last year), 66 per cent share experiences over social media (up 20 per cent) and 90 per cent provide an on-boarding portal.

5. Gain insight: data driven programme improvement. Key metrics are being tracked. These measure impact and effectiveness, particularly if the aim is to assimilate new employees quickly, smoothly and effectively to become productive. Two main areas to look at are to check on the progress of employees and reflect on the process itself looking for areas of improvement. 69 per cent of UK companies researched report on KPIs, up 6 per cent on 2015. Where KPIs are used it’s often to measure operational effectiveness, such as induction training completed on time. Participants are beginning to measure programme effectiveness, such as first year retention.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.