If you’re an HR professional, it’s likely effective onboarding of new staff is one of the most important aspects of your job. It’s a critical point in the career journey of a new hire: get it wrong, and you risk damaging their morale, confidence and trust in your business before they’ve even gotten their feet under the desk.

Get it really badly wrong, and the time and effort you’ve spent bringing a new hire into the business could be wasted altogether!

Organisations with poor onboarding are more likely to suffer from ‘non-starter syndrome’. Our research found that nearly a third of employees that failed to even turn up to a new job said it was due to a bad experience with an organisation following a job offer. In addition, a 2009 Aberdeen study revealed that 86% of their respondents felt that a new hire’s decision to stay with a company long-term is made within the first six months of employment.

What are the fundamental dos and don'ts when it comes to onbaording?

It’s also a well-known fact that a poor onboarding experience can lead to some particularly negative effects on a wider business. For example, a 2017 study from CareerBuilder found that 16% of HR managers believed poor onboarding lowered their company’s productivity, 14% said it brought on greater inefficiencies and 12% said it led to higher employee turnover.

Effective onboarding: fundamental dos and don’ts

Clearly, there’s a lot at stake for HR when it comes to creating an effective onboarding strategy. But fear not: there are some simple, yet fundamental dos and don’ts you can follow to enhance your organisation’s onboarding processes…

DO: Communicate regularly with your new hires

Our research into people’s experiences of onboarding discovered that over 45% of employees didn’t hear a thing from their new employers between accepting and starting a new role. Considering this is such a delicate stage of an employee’s journey, it’s vital you keep in regular contact with your new hires between them accepting and starting work with your business.

Send them information about where they need to be on their first day, including the specific site address, time, department and person they’ll need to report to. If your premises are off the beaten track or difficult to find, provide specific instructions so they can plan their route and ensure they make it on time.

If the role is remote, make sure they know what kind of tech or equipment you’ll be providing, when it will be delivered and who will be in contact with them to set it up. Remember to cover health and safety issues early on, like do they have an appropriate office chair or desk to work at. If not, that may be something you’ll need to provide too.

Don’t leave them waiting when it comes to sending all the formal details about their new role, either. After all, any new hires you bring on board will be excited to know more about what challenges await them. Encourage your hiring managers to make contact and give them details about their duties and what their first week at work will look like. This will help them to prepare for their first day with your business and get off to the best possible start.

Also, once they’ve joined, ask your new hires for their feedback about the hiring process. This is a great way to strengthen their impression of what kind of company you are and can help you to evaluate whether there are areas for improvement.

DON’T: Leave new hires without the tools to do their jobs

New hires will be eager to get started and hit the ground running. They can’t do that though if they don’t have the equipment, access or space to do it! So, always make sure that before new employees arrive, their equipment, software or IT access (where applicable) and workspaces are setup and ready to go.

If your HR software comes with task management, it’s a good idea to set up a number of different onboarding ‘task templates’, so you can pick the one that works for each new joiner. For example, to automatically notify the relevant facilities manager so they can arrange access, desks and other equipment, your IT team when specialist software is required, or a local payroll manager if your business is global. That way, you can be sure that any important steps aren’t missed, and you’ll waste a lot less time on chasing everyone up.

DO: Make it personal

Since the focus of effective onboarding is to make each employee feel welcome and integrate them into a business, you should tailor your processes to reflect their different demands and expectations.

Your HR software can play a crucial role in creating a more personalised onboarding experience. For example, Cezanne HR’s onboarding module allows you to create customised welcome portals for new employees really easily. These can be setup to include tailored communications, key information about their role, and tasks that need to be completed. You can even include features such as a company welcome video, team bios and relevant contact details for the team members your new hires will work with.

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DON’T: Drown them in forms and email attachments

Once they join, your new hires will undoubtedly be busy learning the intricacies of their new role and settling into a new team. The last thing they’ll need is to be bombarded by huge volumes of emails on their first few days at work.

This is where your choice in HR software can make effective onboarding a lot smoother. By using a software solution with onboarding functionality, you’ll be able to make essential administration much more manageable for you and your new employee. For example, with Cezanne HR you can set up personalised welcome new joiner portals with all the documentation and forms a new hire may need to complete or read as part of their onboarding process.

One company that has seen the benefit of Cezanne HR’s software is William Reed, an established digital, data and events agency with a global workforce. HR Partner Samantha Bedington commenting that “Cezanne HR’s onboarding module lets us provide new starters with a personalised portal with lots of online company-focused content that is all stored in one place. They can take their own time in digesting all the information.”

Do: Reinforce your brand proposition and company culture

Did you know that over three quarters of employees research a company’s culture when applying for a job? And that over 85% think that company culture is very important?

It makes sense then to utilise the onboarding experience as an opportunity to reinforce your company values, employee value proposition and culture. Not only will this help you build vital engagement with your new joiners, but also demonstrates that the employee experience is something your business takes seriously.

DON’T: Leave them to their own devices

Starting a new job can feel a little bit like your first day at school. It’s important that any new hires don’t feel isolated or on the peripheries during their first few days. That’s because first impressions really do matter. As our research into the psychology of HR discovered, a great onboarding experience not only boosts productivity and engagement but significantly reduces the risk of employees leaving within the first six months.

At the very least, ensure that new hires are given a tour of the organisation and introduced to their team members – either in person or virtually if working remotely. If possible, introducing a ‘buddy’ system (where you pair your new starter to a more experienced member of their team) is a great way to help a new starter settle into their role.

You could also encourage team or line managers to arrange social activities for them to get to know their new colleagues. For example, a team lunch can be an excellent environment for your new employees to meet and chat in a more casual setting and banish those first-day nerves.

DO: Maintain regular check-ins

No one likes to feel in the dark about their performance at work – especially when they’re still new. Having regular check-ins with new members of staff can help them build a rapport with their line managers, and clarify initial short-term priorities and longer-term goals. It’s also a chance for your new starters to raise any difficulties they may be having, and what support they’d like.

If your new starters are working remotely, the power of regular check-ins shouldn’t be underestimated. A pre-COVID study by Gallup on remote workers found that the more frequently they received feedback from managers, the more engaged they were with their work. So, it makes sense to ensure your managers are regularly checking in with both new starters and more established team members.

DON’T: Forget that onboarding is not just for new starters

Alongside a well-structed onboarding programme, you should also give some consideration to inboarding. This is a process that focuses on the retention of existing talent rather than on new hires: but has the same goals as onboarding in mind, such as greater job satisfaction, better job performance, and less employee turnover.

By frequently engaging with your more experienced employees as part of a structured ongoing inboarding programme, you’ll stand a better chance of keeping valuable employees happy and reduce their flight risk. You can read more about inboarding here.

Paul Bauer author image

Paul Bauer

Paul Bauer is the Head of Content at Cezanne HR. Based in the Utopia of Milton Keynes (his words, not ours!) he’s worked within the employee benefits, engagement and HR sectors for over four years. He's also earned multiple industry awards for his work - including a coveted Roses Creative Award.

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