7 Questions Recruitment Leaders Must Ask Themselves Before They Define an Onboarding Strategy

With poor onboarding repeatedly held responsible for why employees resign in their first year, we challenged senior Resourcing and HR leaders from our Think Tank community to shed some light on best practice onboarding. Collectively, we’ve prepared seven questions (and answers!) that you should ask yourself before you define your strategy.

This Resourcing Think Tank, hosted by Canon’s Claire Gray, specifically posed the question ‘how can we not lose people before they start?‘, but ended up answering a whole lot more around stakeholder involvement, process consistency, technology and measuring success. 

Oasis HR Resourcing Think Tank Onboarding at Canon

So what questions should you ask yourself before you define your onboarding strategy?

1. Why are we doing it?

The desire for effective onboarding must be driven by a clear business need. You have to be clear on why you’re doing it and how good you want to be at it! Getting the basics of onboarding right is one thing, but going the ‘extra mile’ and creating an experience will take more time and cost more money. What balance do you want to strike? For instance, if you’re onboarding sales-reps, speed is going to be a key driver in ensuring your hires get up and running quickly. Therefore investing in technology to support efficiencies will be crucial.

2. When does onboarding start and finish?

This is a question consistently batted around the HR and recruitment world (and many times at our previous Think Tanks); with a variety of conflicting answers! So we’re going to keep it short and sweet and report that (for permanent hires) onboarding should start when you first make contact with a candidate, right through to their first year in employment.

3. Who should be involved in the onboarding process?

Onboarding is not just HR’s responsibility! And given that Forbes report that 50% of employees quit their jobs because of their managers, it’s important that all stakeholders take responsibility for the part they play in the process (initial attraction to first work anniversary). HR, recruitment, line-managers, IT (buddies?) all need to be clear on what’s expected of them in the onboarding journey.

4. How can I ensure my business’s onboarding experience is consistent?

Whilst consistency is clearly important, a degree of agility needs to be applied to the process to ensure it’s suitable for the individual being onboarded! Factors such as role seniority, geography, working location (field-based vs. home vs. office), employment type (permanent vs. contingency) and hire type (internal move vs. external hire) will all inevitably affect the process.

Having an overriding central approach that promotes your employer brand and mission is key. Remember that the ‘office’ is not the ‘business’. ‘You are the business’ and with effective communication and consistency, you can make people feel a part of that from anywhere. This will be the most successful way to build trust and engagement; whether that’s virtual, face-to-face or a hybrid of both, using tools like Yammer, Skype or simply the good old fashioned telephone! It’s, of course, appropriate to tweak the more granular details of your onboarding process at a local level (dependent on the type of role) and of course, seek feedback from all stakeholders to adapt your activities and touchpoints appropriately.

When it comes to onboarding contractors, you need to decide what level of time and money is appropriate (and justifiable) to apply to the process. It’s clearly important to onboard contractors effectively, but the objective is largely going to be around speed and ensuring they’re up and running to deliver their goals efficiently. You’ll also want to consider the IR35 regulations to ensure boundaries aren’t being blurred, but conversely, that contractors aren’t feeling distant and disengaged from the company’s mission.

5. How do I embed onboarding in my business?

One of the biggest frustrations faced by HR and recruitment professionals is spending lots of time and money recruiting great people to have those efforts wasted through avoidable onboarding mistakes. It’s not enough to define a strategy, it has to be embedded. A lot of the success of onboarding rests on your line-managers’ capability, so it’s crucial we give them the tools and training to deliver against our expectations. There will always be line-managers who are resistant to taking on this additional responsibility, so it’s important we make life as easy as possible and involve them in the process (e.g. recruitment activities) so they don’t feel dictated to.

Building onboarding objectives into leadership competencies is one option for ensuring it’s embedded successfully. Using key measures (outlined in our final section) is a good way of holding managers to account to make sure that the correct activities are being undertaken and behaviours being displayed. It’s not a question of ‘naming and shaming’, but an opportunity to support managers with tools and coaching to achieve the results expected of them.

6. What technology and systems will make my life easier?

There are a plethora of tools and technologies out there to support onboarding. But with anything you need to first identify the problem you’re looking to solve! If it’s engaging candidates and giving them access to vital information and advice so they can be prepared for day one, then tools like Hollaroo are going to be really beneficial. Looking into technologies like AI chatbots (particularly for sensitive questions), gamification (to help make the process more interactive) and customising your ATS (to help measure key process milestones) are also worth exploring. Automating as much of the low-touch checkpoints will help make you more efficient, and of course, investing in systems that integrate will make your life much easier!

7. How should I measure the success and impact of onboarding?

Measuring the success of onboarding can take many different forms, as different stakeholders/teams have different, more vested interests, in varying parts of the process. Setting some aspirational year-one targets is a good place to start and then using the data to tweak and enhance the process accordingly. So what should we be measuring? Looking at data points like first-year-attrition, offer to acceptance, speed to performance and candidate referrals are all great ways to help evidence success. However, it’s also worth balancing this quantitative feedback with qualitative, more detailed insights, that you obtain from employees and line-managers from surveys and performance reviews. When surveying employees and line-managers it’s important to be cognizant of timing and also explore the option of confidentiality, as you might find that respondents don’t answer truthfully if they have to disclose their identity.

So there you have it! 7 questions that you should ask yourself before you define your onboarding strategy. Please feel free to share your thoughts or challenge our thinking in the comments section below, or better still apply for membership to our group to join the debate!

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Luke Simpson

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Luke Joined Oasis HR in early 2014 having recently graduated from the University of York where he studied English Literature. Before joining Oasis he briefly worked in retail ('just to pay the bills' he maintains, but his wardrobe would suggest otherwise). He has an encyclopedic knowledge of football and a passion for literature and science fiction films.

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