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Onboarding: Getting it right from the start!

As a recent new hire into Oakleaf I have to say how impressed I am with the way I have been welcomed into the fold and made to feel one of the team from the get go. This has lead me to ask the question: what makes a good onboarding programme?

I am sure all HR professionals know the merits of a good well-structured onboarding process. With a quick Google search, I have found some stats that I am sure you are familiar with even if I wasn't.

  • 25% of new hires leave within 12 months
  • 48% of new hires in their first job leave within 18 months
  • The cost of losing a new employee within 12 months is equal to 2 years of that person's salary

If ever there was a strong business case for good onboarding the third point is it! All businesses want to maximise profit and minimise loss and keeping hold of good hires is surely an easy win? Why then do so many companies get it wrong?

Before I go on I am not here to give you the answers. I am a recruiter not a HR professional so I look to you to understand what you have found has worked in the past and what hasn't. I guess where I can add insight is my management experience and my current experience as a new hire. Let's look at the latter first as I am pleased to say my experience is a positive one.

Day one at the office. It was like my first day at “big school” only this time it was me ironing my shirts on Sunday night and not my mum. Was I nervous? I'm not sure I was. Should I have been? Maybe. My first day was a late start as my line manager wanted to make sure all the Monday morning business had been taken care of and she had time to spend with me. Made complete sense. When I arrived my work space had been organised for me with not one but two screens and I had a brand new iPhone waiting for me – winning already! Now I am sure many of you share the same experience as me where you have raised a ticket with IT weeks before your new hire starts but come their first day the tech isn't in place or it isn't working. More often than not it is out of your hands but how frustrating is it. And more importantly it doesn't look good!

Lunchtime came around and I was taken for lunch by one of my colleagues who I would shadowing. Nice touch I thought. Day one continued in the same vein and my first day was positive and set the tone for the rest of the week.

Now you maybe thinking what about the introductions to the team? Wasn't that an important part of Tom's first day? Yes you are right, introductions are crucial to making someone feel at home. However, my introductions where made before I arrived at the office so on my first day I was welcomed rather than introduced and this is probably one of the reasons why I didn't feel nervous. So, in theory, my onboarding had started before I have even formally started my new job. Not only had I met my line manager and team but I had also met the CEO and Chairman. Ok, so I work for a boutique company and I guess this would be a little more tricky if I was working for BP or Deloitte, however, a welcome from someone senior is a nice touch. This is something I experienced and will always remember from my first job in recruitment. On my first day in the company I received a call from a lady called Marlene. I thought to myself, who is Marlene and why is calling for me on my first day? I soon found out she was the owner of the company and she wanted to wish me well and tell me that she knew I would be successful. Nearly 13 years later and that is still with me and although Marlene is no longer my boss she is definitely a great friend.

Now back to my first week at Oakleaf. It was busy that's for sure. New systems to learn, clients to call and whole new sector to understand. Crikey where do I begin? Well at the beginning is always a good place to start. I was fortunate to have a daily and weekly schedule put in place with support from my colleagues and much needed training. Nothing was too much trouble. Introductions to different business areas had also been arranged giving a wider insight to the company and allowing me to meet colleagues from across the business. By Friday I was exhausted but I felt I had learnt a lot and I was excited for more. And there was more to come that week. As it was my first week my team wanted to take me to the local watering hole to buy me a beer (#winning!). A great way to be made to feel welcome and it was a great opportunity to meet other people from across the business in an informal setting.

So, although not an expert in the HR process of onboarding I have first-hand recent experience of how to make a good first impression. Now I know onboarding isn't all about welcomes and having a pint at the end of the week but it is certainly a good starting point.

So what else is an important consideration when onboarding new hires? What should my company be doing to make sure that I'm not one of those 25% that leave within my first 12 months? Well my experience as a manager tells me that getting new hires up to speed quickly and being successful is paramount, especially in a sales/commission based industry. Failure to perform leads to disengagement and quite often people will leave rather than try to re-engage. A professional, well-structured approach that gives the new hire all the tools to be successful whilst minimising the barriers should lead to a faster time to performance and the subsequent success. Success is motivating, whatever success looks like for that particular job. Successful hires are less likely to leave therefore increasing retention rates and increasing employee engagement whilst reducing potential stress and sickness. Taking all this into consideration, you would expect this to build a better employee brand and reputation, something all businesses strive for surely? If only it was that easy.. or is it?

What are your thoughts? I am certainly interested to know what works for you and just as importantly what doesn't. When should onboarding start and when does it finish? Should onboarding be tailored to the individual or should it be standardised? I am always keen to share best practise and get better insight.

Over to you!


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