RTT – Getting off on the right foot… Exploring the onboarding process and its associated challenges

These are the combined thoughts and takeaways from two Think Tanks on the Onboarding process. For further information please contact its co-founder Jeremy at Oasis HR – 0207 11 88 444 | jeremy.thornton@oasishr.com


Whether you’re an established retail company or a global giant in the construction industry, all businesses seem to face similar challenges when it comes to onboarding. With technology, communication channels and the work environment ever evolving; inducting candidates with a firm hand shake and a boot in the direction of their desk simply doesn’t suffice.

Fortunately, organisations aren’t alone and report related struggles with developing the ‘best’ onboarding process for their company. Typical challenges include:

  • Defining what the process actually is and where it starts and finishes
  • Assigning ownership and adjoining the different elements of onboarding
  • Engaging management with the process and obtaining their full ‘buy-in’
  • Creating the ‘right’ balance between technical automation and personal interaction
  • Ensuring that all individuals irrespective of contract type / recruitment process / work location; receive a positive and equal onboarding experience.

Back to basics…

Onboarding refers to the process of helping new employees become productive members of an organisation. However, this process is far more complex than many people realise in terms of procedure length, accountability, implementation and function location.  What’s apparent is that there seems to be no ‘right’ answer. Onboarding solutions are largely varied and seem hugely dependent on industry classification, volume of new recruits, employee location and of course organisational culture – so creating a bespoke process is advisable.

Engaging with candidates to determine what they want (and expect) is crucial, as is acquiring feedback from line managers to determine what works and what doesn’t. From here, you’re able to address areas, such as whether the process lasts the duration of the probation period, or sees an employee through to annual review; whether you conduct a formal corporate face-to-face induction or enrol staff on an e-learning course. The definition of ‘onboarding’ and what’s considered ‘right’ will ultimately depend on the individual business.

Our experts’ views:
a) Start candidates on a sensible date in order to sync onboarding days (e.g. Corporate Induction) and encourage ambassadors from different departments to present
b) Take a step back and assess your process from an objective point of view – what would an independent analyst think?
c) Decide whether it’s better to outsource part of the process. An improvement of 40% efficiency has been noted for one particular business; great business value to justify the extra cost.

Passing the buck…

Something deemed highly apparent was the reported aversion to taking ownership of the onboarding process and the lack of commitment from management. However, blame cannot be placed solely on the shoulders of those who fall within the resourcing function. It seems that unless a company has a dedicated onboarding resource, it’s inevitable that either through nomination or delegation someone will be reluctantly holding down the fort. Yet, it’s astonishing how quickly senior management experience an ‘onboarding attitude make-over’ when the CEOs induction runs far from smoothly. Suddenly, the process seems somewhat more important (especially when the CEO decides to champion it!).

Our experts’ view:
a) If onboarding fails, what’s the consequence to the manager? How dramatic would the changes be in you linked successful onboarding to their bonus…

Once bitten, twice shy…

It’s widely acknowledged that when building relationships, if you fail to get off on the right foot, you could spend large amounts of time repairing the damage. That’s what onboarding really is, building relationships and learning one another’s values, culture and skills. Why treat onboarding in any other way? Use a new recruit’s natural excitement, and sustain it by creating a positive experience from start to finish – it might be the different between them accepting a counter offer. This theory also rings true when ensuring you get management on board. Communicating ‘why’ to managers at the beginning of the process will mean they are far more likely to participate. Fail to engage with them in the early stages and you might find it harder to re-establish their commitment.

Our experts’ view:
a) Try building a business case and calculate the incurred cost of an unsuccessful hire and from this calculate the value of a good onboarding process. The business will soon take note when they hear the £££ involved.

Automation dedication vs. face-to-face embrace…

In a culture where the phrase “there’s an app. for that” haunts all manner of conversation, the assumption that technology must be embraced is paramount. Yes, e-learning programmes, online portals and social networking platforms can be highly effective But, at what cost? It’s important to remember that you’re dealing with living, breathing humans. Where do you draw the line between personal interaction and webinars on ‘visiting the canteen’? Cleary, a distinct balance between these channels needs to be identified to avoid managers ‘hiding behind the mouse’.

Key takeaways…

  • Remember that proven performers need just as much looking after as new recruits
  • Consider the difference between what companies want from the Onboarding process and what new recruits need / want
  • Identify a balance between automation and personal interaction
  • Engage in regular communication with candidates from when they apply for a role and actually starts the job, in order to reaffirm their decision and prevent counter-offering
  • Look to other areas of the business with an onboarding process and attempt to mirror it if it’s working – often slick Graduate and Executive Onboarding can impart a few gems
  • Communicate the story, culture and values of the organisation, and identify how the candidate fits into the structure
  • Communicate to stakeholders exactly ‘why’ the Onboarding process is in place to help cement their engagement.
Oasis HR

Written by , Network Driven HR Recruitment

Oasis HR is a multi-award winning HR Recruitment Agency based in London that delivers Contingency and Search services within the Human Resource and Business Change Markets. Our client base encompasses all industry sectors and we have a proven track record of delivering permanent, interim and temporary professionals at all levels across all HR disciplines. From a £20k HR Administrator to a £200k HR Director, Oasis HR is well placed to identify, approach and secure the best available talent in the market

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