Helping parents back on board: why welcoming returners will boost retention

With Mother’s Day just around the corner (31st March for those who need a reminder), this is a time of year when we show our appreciation and recognise mothers for the great work that they do.

However, in a workplace context, it would seem that mothers – and indeed fathers – are all too often not party to any form of ‘re-onboarding’ process when they return to work after parental leave. This begs the question: are UK businesses doing enough to cater to parents as they return to work? Are employers taking the commitments that parents have outside of work into proper consideration so that employee experiences can be optimised?

A recent survey of 250 UK HR professionals revealed that as many as a third (33%) of businesses are still not tailoring onboarding experiences to include those returning from extended leave, including maternity, paternity, and long-term sick. Collectively, this represents a huge proportion of the UK workforce – hundreds of thousands of talented employees whose engagement will quickly wane if they feel a track record of high performance has been forgotten due to a temporary – yet fully justified – absence. In these instances, the need to onboard ‘returners’ in an optimal way is absolutely key to talent retention.

Welcome back sign and balloons

So why are so many businesses failing to onboard returning parents?

For many HRs it will simply be a case that efforts are still focused on implementing and improving onboarding processes for new recruits. And with only 17% of respondents describing their onboarding processes as ‘best in class’, as well as a huge 87% saying they are still to digitise their onboarding systems, there is clearly still much work to be done on this front. With this in mind, the reasons as to why re-onboarding has taken a backseat to onboarding can at least be better understood, even if it makes little sense in overall business performance terms.

Needless to say however, with the UK witnessing a surge in the number of working mothers over the past decade, failure to set appropriate re-onboarding processes has become a growing problem for UK business. When you consider too that this is a relevant issue for every organisation that employs a parent with dependent children (the vast majority of UK organisations), the enormity of the problem and its potential business detriment cannot be denied.

Spend that makes financial sense

Interestingly, Cezanne HR’s recent survey also revealed that average onboarding expenditure is just 17% of average recruitment spend – a statistic that highlights how sensical it is to invest in onboarding as a means of proactively keeping recruitment spend down. Organisations that fail to heed this message are simply going to keep on recruiting – and then losing – employees due to poor experience and inadequate communication, or both. With one in five (19%) UK workers staying in their job for less than a year, that’s a very costly – not to mention completely illogical – exercise.

According to HR analyst firm, Fosway Group, the outlook for onboarding is looking healthier though, with nearly half (48%) of organisations set to allocate more funds to this facet of HR in 2019. That’s fantastic news for business, and will surely generate positive ROI.

If you’re one of the many UK organisations that recognises the need to optimise employee onboarding and/or re-onboarding, start by improving communication and ensure you are including your entire workforce, irrespective of their role, geography or personal situation. Next, make sure your HR software comes with a comprehensive onboarding tool that meets the needs of your organisation, and you’ll set yourself in good stead to improve employee experiences and reduce costly staff churn.

And finally…don’t forget that Mother’s Day card!

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