5 top tips for great on-boarding

Employee welcome, induction, on-boarding, joining party, there are lots of different names for it. Whatever you call it, it’s the process by which we take a brand new worker into an organisation, and get them up and running as quickly and effectively as possible. 

I’ve worked on a few on-boarding programmes, and seen some things work, and others fail. It’s usually all well intentioned, but sometimes poorly delivered, mainly because of underestimating the amount of time needed, what needs to be covered, what needs to be communicated (and when), and who needs to be involved.

Firstly, more people should probably receive a welcome than are currently getting it

It’s normal for brand shiny new employees to undergo some sort of induction. They need to know what the business is about, what the big aim is, what their role is in delivering the strategy or mission, what is expected of them, what they can expect from their new employer, where stuff is, what is available to them, who they work with etc. 

But what about fixed term employees, contractors, casual workers? They are also representing your organisation and you pay them, so they need to understand how things are done. Your customers probably won’t know the difference between your casual workforce, and your permanent employees, and they won’t really care, they just want a good level of service.

Consider returners after sickness or maternity – they could have been out of your business for 12 months – has anything changed during that time that they should know about? Probably.

And what about those who have moved internally? Promotions? Changes in location or department? They may not need the full bells and whistles version of your on-boarding, but the likelihood is they need some information or support that they didn’t need before.

For example, a new line manager who didn’t need to know where to find certain documents before and didn’t need to enforce policies before that they do now. At what point do you give them the information they need to do their new role as effectively and efficiently as possible? Or do you leave them to find it out for themselves?

Identifying the anxiety

I’ve run focus groups around on-boarding, and one of the things that comes up a lot is the anxiety people feel when they leave one job and/or start a new one. 

There’s anxiety when you go for interviews, when you’re waiting to hear if you have been successful, when you’re waiting for the contract/formal offer, when you hand in your notice, when you realise you are leaving something you know and starting as the newbie again, the day before the new job starts, the first day and the list goes on.

A good on-boarding programme should anticipate all of these points, and make sure the new starter gets the information and reassurance they need, when they need it.

Top tips for an effective employee welcome

1. Involve recruitment

A lot of welcomes start on day one, but you should start much earlier. The experience new starters have of your organisation begins the moment they read the job advert. The really forward thinking businesses are looking to engage future employees long before they become potential job applicants e.g. when working with students.

Do your recruitment processes give the right impression of your organisation? Do you deliver on your values? Do you practise what you preach? Do you stick to the deadlines you give? Is the tone of your recruitment communication on brand?

2. Be clear about who has responsibility for what

Some sort of checklist helps keep the process on track, but ideally the elements should be divided up between the new starter, the line manager, the team, a buddy, and whoever else should be involved. People need to know which bits they are responsible for so nothing gets missed.

Some teams may not have new starters for months at a time, others may have a few every month – does everyone know what needs to be included in a welcome, and who is responsible for what. And is this information easily accessible when it’s needed?

3. Use variety in the methods of delivery

As with any learning, vary the methods you use. If we apply 70:20:10 principles, we should be looking for a blend of on the job learning, learning from other people and formal learning events.

Can you use AI in your welcome? Can you send videos before the start date to bring the information to life? Can you write case studies or day in the life style stories? Arrange meetings or work time with other people or teams? Can the new starter have a project to start on straight away that allows them to build relationships? Are there any learning events they should attend, Health and Safety perhaps?

4. Block out time, with everyone that needs it

On boarding takes time, you need to make room for it. Time invested early on in a great settling in period, will pay you back in productivity, efficiency, engagement and reduced turnover. It really is worth it.

The thing is, it’s something else to do as well as the day job. I get that. And you’ve probably been waiting for this new person to start so they can take some of the workload. But it’s much better that you plan the time in advance, than try to squeeze it in later. Making your new starter feel like an inconvenience isn’t a great start.

5. Make it enjoyable and relevant

Despite the nervousness, starting a new job is exciting! New challenge, new people, different work, more money, progression; you don’t want to replace this excitement with nervousness, confusion, or even regret. Make it fun, make them feel welcome! Can you give them a small gift or a welcome pack? A mug with a teabag is enough. Add a notepad and pen if you’re feeling fancy. Can you give them some of your product (if that is relevant to you), can they experience your service?

Can your employee experience reflect your customer experience? How would you treat your best customer if they came to spend a week with you? Can you do the same for your new team member?

There is a lot to think about when considering what a comprehensive, effective and enjoyable welcome looks like, but it’s absolutely worth the effort. Just think about the time and money you have invested in getting your new starter to their first day, it makes sense to see it through and help them reach their potential as quickly as possible so they can make a real difference to your business.