Cracking the onboarding code

Onboarding – the process of taking an interested candidate and turning them into a productive and engaged employee – can sometimes be ignored by senior HR professionals in their rush to focus on recruitment and retention.

But from fairly humble beginnings, most companies now realize that they need to invest sufficient time and resources to ensure that everyone that joins their team time has the potential to really make an impact on the future of the business.

Recent research showed that 70% of HR directors had starters who were gone within a year. That troubling statistic shows how important getting onboard right. “A lot of that is down to a flawed approach to onboarding,” said Mervyn Dinnen, who recently hosted a webinar on the subject for HRD Connect.

“If we can get onboarding right and get people embedded in the business so that they can understand the business’s mission and values and what’s expected of them, then the chances are that retention will improve.”

Dinnen’s argument was further strengthened by a poll conducted as part of the webinar that revealed 55% of respondents felt they needed to focus on improvements in the onboarding process, with nearly a third admitting they didn’t have a process in place.

Dinnen was joined by Amanda Cliff, Senior Learning and Development Manager at Weetabix, who pointed out that the onboarding process at her company starts the moment a candidate gives notice from their current role. “It’s very much a getting to know you and an introduction to the team. Our induction process is a 2 day introduction that’s led by the business – the MD and so on – and not HR. That’s a crucial part of it.”

Andrew Hyland runs a similar function at Macmillan that share similarities with the Weetabix model. However the cancer charity has pioneered the use of online tools and animation to secure and embed new starts. “We can collect data that way, we’ve started new starter communities,” Hyland said.

“We built that on the back of research into what gaps technology can fill – and we’re introduced an online platform that candidates can use across a range of devices and can connect them with managers. That system allows us to personalize the onboarding process for each candidate, and make it work better for both sides, making sharing easier and more efficient.”

That struck a chord with Ben Rowland, who has worked in training provision for over a decade, and founded Arch Apprentices in 2012. For him the key element of a successful onboarding strategy focuses on giving candidates clarity over their role. “We always speak to the lone manager when placing apprentices to make sure the candidate knows what to expect,” he says.

“And I think sometimes companies feel obliged to give the new starter an exciting tasks but in fact that can be a mistake: they need to be giving them something they can excel in to get confidence going and make themselves immediately useful.”

It was a message that resonated with all the guests, who used the webinar as an opportunity to swap expertise and insight. And you can listen to the webinar by clicking here.

Related reading