Masterclass: How to make onboarding painless

A good welcome process for new hires is critical to their engagement with the company, as John Hixon explains

Once the process of recruitment has taken place and a candidate has accepted a job offer, the process of onboarding – introducing them into the company – begins. 

Between finishing their prior role and embarking on the new one, there are many things you can do to ensure the process runs smoothly. Of course, there are boxes to tick, such as ensuring they are allocated a line manager, requesting any equipment needed and correctly taking their personal and payroll details. 

But where many employers go wrong is communication. This is most likely the first interaction a new hire has with a company beyond the recruitment phase, and it is their first experience as an official employee. Setting the tone of their experience at this early stage is therefore vital. 

Research has suggested non-starter syndrome is something all employers should worry about. A survey earlier this year found two-thirds (67 per cent) of 250 UK HR professionals had seen new recruits quit before starting. 

The same research also surveyed 1,000 employees, and found nearly a third (31 per cent) said they failed to start because of no follow-up, poor follow-up, or a bad experience with the organisation after a job offer – 45 per cent also heard nothing between being offered the job and their start date.

It is clear that bad communication is the biggest pitfall for employers, costing them talent in an increasingly competitive labour market. 

There’s nothing worse than just saying “we’ll see you in four weeks’ time”; a friendly, clear and informative dialogue should be established to ensure new starters feel welcomed and understand exactly what to expect. Firms should try to tailor the experience to each individual. These processes can also be applied to returners or graduates.

A user-friendly portal that someone can work through in their own time is ideal. They can be informed of their obligations or look at health and safety procedures, and also get a flavour of the company culture through videos or personalised welcome messages. 

A common misconception is that onboarding finishes at the end of the employee’s first day. On the contrary, it’s important to keep checking in with them for weeks or months afterwards, ensuring they feel informed.

Ultimately, successful onboarding gets engagement right, balancing it with the boxes that need to be ticked. It forms a small but vital part of a wider engagement strategy. Putting the effort into getting this right will boost retention instead of wasting the valuable investment put into recruiting candidates in the first place. 

John Hixon is research and development director at Cezanne HR