Crafting an effective onboarding programme for retention

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Does your onboarding programme “PR” match your work reality?

We have all heard stories of someone who arrived for their first day of work, only to find that nothing was ready for them. How there was no onboarding programme to help them fit in, how it took weeks to get a computer, an ID card or even a desk. This effectively killed any enthusiasm or engagement they may have built up during the hiring process, and made them reconsider accepting the job in the first palace.onboarding programme: The first few weeks are critical to retain talent

The first few weeks are critical for the retention of new hires.

New hires tend to be optimistic and engaged, but a lack of preparation or an incongruent onboarding programme can rapidly increase disengagement. A “Public Relations style onboarding event” that tries to sell ideas incongruent to their actual work experience can encourage a “one foot out the door” attitude. It may take them 12 months to leave, but the decision was made in the first week. 

Onboarding should start during recruitment. During the recruiting phase, recruiters should communicate the realities of the role and the organisation, and ensure the new hire’s expectations align with what they experience when they begin working.

The first few days can be daunting, but an effective induction can help make the new hire feel welcome, give them support to navigate the new culture and help them integrate easier. An effective onboarding programme provides useful information in bite-size-chunks, so that new hires can get up to speed quicker. An effective onboarding programme provides useful information in bite-size-chunks

There are many ways to help a new hire integrate into your organisation. Here are a few of the basics that can help make the transition smoother:

1. Onboarding programme – first day basics

Pre-arrival information:
  • What should they bring? (e.g. ID to verify paperwork)
  • Where should they park?
  • Who should they ask for at reception?
  • Are there forms they can fill in before they arrive?
  • A map of the building showing their work space, the canteen, restrooms, etc can be very useful.
As they walk in:
  • Make sure someone at reception is expecting them. 
  • Pre-arrange a security badge if required.
  • Let their colleagues know they are coming so they’re prepared to welcome them.
  • Have a colleague take them on a tour of the office, introducing them to co-workers and giving them the “lay of the land” (e.g. where is the coffee machine, and how does it work?)
  • Provide tangible signs that you are prepared for them (e.g. name plate on their door or a welcome pack with their name on).
  • Set up their computer with software and emails configured.
  • Provide manuals/guides for any software they need to use.
  • Have their phone (desk and cell) set up and ready, and provide instructions for using voicemail and an employee contact sheet.
  • Have their business cards waiting.
  • Let them know who they should talk to if they have additional questions. It is a great idea to assign a co-worker as a mentor to check-in with the new hire throughout at least the first few weeks.
  • Set up a team lunch with their new team.

2. First week elements to help integrate your new hire:

When we feel welcomed, that the organisation is prepared for us, and will help us get up to speed we are more likely to stay and be able to contribute faster. 

  1.  Socialisation. Set aside 1 hour or so each day of their first week to help them get to know their colleagues. Socialisation is an important part of promoting teamwork and collaboration. Ask colleagues to share tips and techniques they wish they had known when they joined. Tips on who to speak to to get things done can be extremely valuableConsider having a team social function after the new hire has been there 1-2 weeks. Simple things like the best local coffee places, the best places to shop or park can also be very useful to reduce new hire stress.
  2. Individual & Team Meetings. Depending on your business set aside 2-3 hours per day to meet with managers, colleagues and stakeholders (+/- 10-15 hours in their first week). Bring them up to speed on current projects, clients, products, and other required elements that form part of their new role. 
  3. Training Materials. Set aside about 2 hours per day in in their first week to go over training materials related to their new role. E.g. product packs, intranet videos or trainings on any company systems. Try not to overwhelm them with information. These materials should be compiled before the new employee arrives. One-on-one training or shadowing an experienced employee during calls or when completing processes can be extremely useful. Culture is best understood when demonstrated – not as a lecture!Culture is best understood when demonstrated - not as a lecture
  4. Small Projects. A maximum of 10 hours in their first week. Set the new hire small projects or tasks to get them up to speed and contributing to the team. Shadowing a high-performing colleague, attending client meetings as an observer, listening in on client calls, and other observation techniques can help them get up  to speed while learning company best practice
  5. Feedback. Ask for the new hire’s feedback on their experience to help refine your onboarding process. Also, ask for their perspective on what they see, and on why they think you do things in a certain way. Encourage them to ask questions! Their perspective and questions can help refine your processes and help them internalise what they see.

Onboarding doesn’t stop at the end of their first week, it should continue over the first few months. We are each different, and a customised onboarding programme produces the best results. 

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Richard Riche

Engagement and communication specialist at One Clear Message
Richard specialises in helping you build real human communication skills.TED style speaking and presentation skills, Emotional Intelligence skills, Employee Engagement/Experience, building high performance teams and a great place you want to work. One Clear Message offers training, consulting and coaching.
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