While hiring activities have slowed down for many organisations, when a key employee leaves and a role opens up, it becomes a race against time to find the right person to fill that position and get them settled in. A recent report by recruitment agency Robert Half shows 43% of UK businesses are looking to maintain their workforce, filling in vacated roles in 2021.
A carefully planned onboarding programme can help settle people in and find their feet, as well as avoiding the huge waste of time, money and energy expended on recruitment that doesn’t work out.
So, what can employers do to get new people up to speed and fully productive as quickly as possible?
1. Plan for new arrivals
In a pressurised working environment, managers often feel they simply don’t have the time to sort out a detailed onboarding programme for new recruits. They give them a whistle-stop tour on the first day, introduce them to a few key folks, and then leave them to get on with it. The trouble with this approach is that it leaves people feeling lost, disorientated and unsure of what’s expected of them. This is exacerbated in a remote-working environment when there’s no new workplace to see and barely any chance to interact with colleagues outside of their team.
It’s worth investing time in drawing up a thorough onboarding process with managers for a new arrival’s first few weeks. Make sure it covers off all the essential information, the equipment they need and people they should know, but try not to pack too much into the first few days. Joining a new company can be bewildering, especially when they might not get to meet everyone face-to-face for a while. As people will only be able to retain a certain amount of information, spread out the tasks and activities outlined for them, so they have time to breathe and ease into their new work routine better.
2. Be clear about roles and responsibilities
People won’t settle into a new role quickly if they are unsure about exactly what it is they are supposed to be doing, who can help them and how success will be measured. The first few days is a great time for the manager to go over and be really clear about the remit of their role and what you want them to achieve on the grander scale, as well as to set some detailed objectives or targets for their first few weeks and months.
Make sure your new employee is clear about where to go for help and advice if they need it, and set up regular, informal ‘check-ins’ where they can report on progress and ask any burning questions. The key to setting people up for success (and happiness in their role) is open, honest communication with their manager, clarity about what’s expected and reassurance that people are available to support them.
3. Give them the tools to do the job
You’d be surprised how often new recruits show up for their first day at work to find they haven’t been given a computer or an email address. And as our work increasingly involves the use of multiple digital platforms, it’s even more important that they are given access to the tools they need. Make sure all the basics have been sorted out in advance, so people at least feel that they are expected.
HR also needs to ensure new employees are clear about company rules and policies, the procedures for logging sickness or booking holidays, and whether they can access information about their pay and benefits. If you have HR systems, they will be able to get up-to-speed quickly by logging into a central portal where this kind of information is housed.
4. Help build strong internal networks
People are likely to be much happier at work if they are quickly able to build a strong internal network. It’s important people feel welcome from day one, so make sure their manager or a close colleague is available to look after them on their starting date and send an all-staff email announcing their arrival and encouraging others to come and say hello. Some companies allocate new recruits a buddy to guide them through their first few weeks, although be careful not to pair them with a disengaged employee who will dampen their enthusiasm with a stream of gossip and complaints.
If you’re onboarding your new employee remotely, creating these connections might be harder to do without face-to-face interactions. But it’s still important to keep communication open to not make your new recruits feel left out. The internal social workspaces that come as an integral part of modern HR systems are a great way for people to easily find out who’s who, using ‘chat’ facilities to connect and collaborate informally. Failure to establish connections and build strong interpersonal relationships is one of the key reasons people leave their jobs, so allowing time for people to build their network and immerse themselves in the company culture through organised socials, even if just virtual, is well worthwhile.
5. Provide training
Our homeworking report found that missing out on training and development is the number one concern for younger employees (18-24) while working from home. If people are to feel confident and be quickly effective in a new role, they need proper training, especially when starting a remote-working role. The exact nature of the training will vary depending on the role and type of business, but at the very least new recruits will need a thorough introduction to any internal software systems or databases you use. It’s also worth spending time familiarising people with the things that aren’t necessarily formal or written down anywhere, like some of the jargon or acronyms that are used or how decisions are made in the business. If specific skills training has been promised at the interview, make sure this is organised straightaway so that people are properly equipped to do their job.
The first few weeks is also a good time to emphasise the importance the business places on developing its staff – a key factor in many employees’ decision on whether to stay with a company or go elsewhere. Make sure people are aware of any training programmes that are available internally and be open to discussing other less formal training, such as job shadowing or stretch projects, they could use to develop their careers.
Do you know what your retention rate is like for new hires? Think about what small measures you can put in place immediately to improve the chances of people staying.
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