There’s nothing like the rush of getting a new job. But once the celebrations are over, new employees and managers alike can be swamped in a tidal wave of paperwork and induction-based bureaucracy. Global information services company Experian knew things didn’t have to be this way, so in 2017 it set out to make its recruitment experiences the best it could be for everyone concerned.
“A good onboarding experience is one where a candidate has a totally clear, authentic and transparent view of their role, what the organisation stands for and their values – as well as ensuring that we set them up for success,” says Sarah McKinlay, UK&I and EMEA head of talent acquisition.
On a chilly April afternoon, she is sitting on the sixth floor of Experian’s London office, overlooking a sweeping vista of Buckingham Palace Gardens. But McKinlay’s reach extends far beyond the capital, with teams based in France, Spain, Bulgaria and the Nordics.
Technology and innovation matter to the business, which is best known for products that help consumers understand and improve their credit scores. In the last year, McKinlay and her team have been working closely with the firm’s wider HR function to bring their onboarding process into the future.
“I felt very aware that there were ways of enhancing and streamlining the process,” she says, referencing her own positive but paper-heavy experience of joining Experian from her previous role as director of global talent acquisition at CGI in 2015. “I wanted to look at the innovation we could bring using new technologies, while reducing the time it took to hire, compile all the documentation and onboard.”
A seminar run by the Top Employers Institute lit the spark for creating a hiring process that was “a little more innovative and unusual” than standard practice. “We wanted to develop something online, which had a consistent theme with interactive pages, video content, PDFs and the ability to download information from the website, all tied together in one publication,” McKinlay says.
With backing from the company’s UK HR director, she organised a team to run a year-long pilot phase on its innovative ‘Welcome Pack’ project, which would evolve onboarding into the digital age.
“What was wonderful about the project was that it wasn’t just about talent acquisition but was a cross-functional HR project,” she says. “We brought in staff from talent acquisition and our reward and L&D team, which enhanced our strong partnership as an HR function, and enabled people who had not worked together before to embed new relationships.”
The project team worked together to storyboard and design the Welcome Pack series for the organisation’s hiring process, including digital magazines that detailed the onboarding process, with built-in digital content, such as employment contracts tailored to each individual who joined the company.
Following a job offer, new hires now receive a welcome pack providing information about Experian, and employment contracts that can be electronically signed and returned over email. On their first day in the office, a ‘First Day Essentials Pack’ lands in their inbox, which will see new employees through the first 12 months at the organisation, including a company and role-specific overview, crucial onboarding milestones to be met and details of e-learning courses.
“By containing all of these in one publication, the individual can go back at any time and not only be thinking about their journey, but also whether they should be doing any tasks or checking in with their manager. This means they are accountable for their success in that first year,” McKinlay says.
With line managers playing a crucial part in the onboarding experience, the team was careful not to leave them behind. An Experian ‘Right to Work’ app guides managers through the documents needed – such as passports – which can be photographed at the interview stage of hiring and sent directly to HR, significantly reducing the time required to get the relevant paperwork in order. Following a hire, the ‘Manager Onboarding Guide’ provides a step-by-step process for onboarding employees in a clear and concise way, which is sustained through the first year of their employment.
“Everyone understands the role they play in ensuring an individual lands well,” McKinlay says. “It works from the most basic steps – ‘have you ordered a work phone and laptop?’ – to broader guidance on how to create a positive induction for their joiner.”
Feedback captured by the organisation’s engagement survey records the enthusiasm for the programme from managers and new hires alike – and it has the numbers to support it. The time taken to accept a job by candidates has fallen from an average of 10 days to two, thanks to the ease of access of the electronic content. Early attrition has also fallen by more than 10 per cent in the last year, a major contributory factor of which is a greater understanding of the Experian brand and culture.
Of those surveyed, 95 per cent reported that they were proud to be working at Experian, and in February 2018 the organisation was accredited as a Top Employer for the second year running.
“The statistics and accreditation are wonderful,” McKinlay says, adding that “our role as an HR function is to help sustain the sense of engagement among employees throughout their working lives at the organisation.
“Engagement should be central to the employee lifecycle from the moment they join the company, whether a recruiter phones someone for the first time or meets them at a networking event.
“For me, that relies not only on individuals understanding and representing the brand and culture, but generating an excitement that stays throughout their entire experience with the company.”