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When does employee Onboarding begin and the recruitment process end?

Chuka Umunna recently dropped out of the race for the Labour leadership stating that he was overwhelmed by the potential responsibility that accompanied the role. For any candidate stepping into a ‘top job’ or not, leaving a current and comfortable position to take a tentative step into new waters is often a daring and nervous experience. Article by Steve Hewitt, HR Director, Lumesse.

To soften this experience and persuade new candidates to join their ranks, many businesses boast about their exemplary treatment of employees during the recruitment process. Yet many companies do not have a structured onboarding programme, leaving new recruits to fend for themselves in terms of understanding the company culture, its mission and expectations. Louis Dubois for Inc.com recently declared in a Forbes article that “Few companies prioritise onboarding programmes, yet they expect new employees to drive results within 90 days.”

Businesses need a seamless process and structured onboarding plan that will carry the candidate from the interview room right through to the first days and the entirety of their tenure at the company. Stats support this with a study by the Wynhurst Group finding that when employees go through structured onboarding, they are 58% more likely to remain with the organisation after three years.

The industry landscape

Competition is stiffening for recruiting the right talent, but once found, companies do not always conduct the right follow through to ensure that they stay within the business. Rather than looking at onboarding as a rather crucial, long-term and collaborative process, many see it as either a singular experience or series of separate events in which the new hire is introduced to different and various people in the business. Often this happens without a set structure; little is documented and much about the new hire’s knowledge of the role is taken for granted.

New hires can quickly find themselves struggling to understand the day-to-day process for their jobs with such a narrow and unplanned introduction to the business, leading them to feel overwhelmed by the task at hand. When it is generally accepted that nearly all new hires decide within the first six months, whether or not they will stay with their new employer, their induction period becomes key, helping to set the tone for what’s to come in their role. If they do not believe that they will be well looked after or have a career path, they likely won’t stay.

Barriers to onboarding

The financial and efficiency considerations of new hire retention should be motivation enough to ensure that greater effort is made to keep them in the business.  According to a 2014 report by Oxford Economics replacing members of staff incurs a cost of around £30,614 per employee made up of two main factors; the cost of lost output while a replacement employee gets up to speed and the logistical cost of recruiting and absorbing a new worker.  So why aren’t organisations better at onboarding?

Where onboarding is seen as a singular process – one that is siloed from the other components of the employee cycle; recruitment, learning & development and training, it is difficult to establish who is in charge of the process; recruitment teams, line managers, development trainers or HR.

The onboarding process really does start before Day 1. In fact, it starts long before Day 1; an overarching strategy that shows how onboarding fits in as one piece of the complex employee journey is crucial.  This will help to continue the messages delivered during recruitment through to the day-to-day application and will help employees either understand how this activity is aligned with the business’ agenda or prioritise workloads accordingly.

This also helps all leaders of the recruitment and learning mix to take a much more integrated and collaborative approach to onboarding candidates. With a strategy in place they can agree upfront the parameters of each role; when does onboarding a new candidate start and with whom does the responsibility lay? What role should recruitment play vs line managers vs colleagues and learning and development trainers? And how do you structure the programme?

A strategy should also help link onboarding specifically to the organisation – not just the role. Through a structured onboarding process with consistent company messaging and values sewn throughout each and every step, employees will get a true sense of how their contribution adds to the business and what the business stands for in terms of its mission and goals.

Lastly, an effective onboarding strategy should be underpinned by streamlined technology systems that help ease the administrative burden placed on HR leaders, while simultaneously offering the ability to track, measure and engage employees during the onboarding process so that they have a joined up experience. From applicanttracking (ATS) systems that build the talent pipeline, talent acquisition systems that help to identify relevant skills, social onboarding programmes that engage the employee before they start the role and finally learning & development systems, all technology should be integrated and aligned to give the employee one continual, personalised and relevant experience. This in turn provides HR leaders clear insight into the employee journey, flagging any signs of disengagement so that they can be dealt with ahead of time and before a valuable new hire is lost.

The right streamlined strategy, technology and processes will also help to connect the employee with different people from within the organisation not once, but several times. The building of strong relationships is key to ensuring an employee feels comfortable in their new working environment. Good relationships with key people within the business that have the potential to steer their career path, will give them a sense of a future with the business and for ambitious employees, insight into a possible development path and career ladder opportunities.

Onboarding is crucial for success

From recruitment to signing on the dotted line, to onboarding, a company has an opportunity to make a great first impression and convince valuable new hires they made the right decision. When industries are vying for talent in order to remain competitive, keeping every skilled person within the business is a must. Onboarding starts from the moment the candidate is in the interview room and doesn’t finish until each is truly embedded in your organisation

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