Why onboarding must extend beyond day-one

31 August 2020 Consultancy.uk 3 min. read

Quite often, when someone goes through a significant life change, the support they receive from the people around them is concentrated on a ‘change event’, with that attention then petering out as time goes on. Starting a new job is one such example, and according to Shandel McAuliffe from Cezanne HR, organisations should ensure that their onboarding processes extend beyond day-one.

Changing jobs is a significant life event – daily routines are disrupted, familiar people are gone, and the work itself is different (even accepting a very similar role to a previous job can reveal surprising changes as people get used to how their new organisation ‘does things’).

Organisations need to be mindful that the job change period doesn’t end after a new employee’s first day or week, for some people it can take months or even years to settle in, so a consistent approach to engagement is a must. Onboarding needs to move seamlessly into an employee engagement programme – and each aspect of the employee journey can adopt ideas from the other.

Why onboarding must extend beyond day-one

Engaging with employees early on, and keeping them engaged

A recent survey from Cezanne HR on onboarding found that 11% of people decided they’d made the right decision in changing jobs after six months, and 13% of respondents said they still weren’t sure they’d made the right choice. So, although a lot of people do feel happy in their decision to move roles before the six month mark, there’s a significant portion of the workforce who don’t. 

What can HR do to engage these employees sooner? And, how can HR make sure employees who are happily onboarded early on, stay engaged? 

What’s your new starter experience like after the first day/week?

The survey respondents were also asked if they’d experienced post-first-day welcome events/activities. 51% said no, and 7% said they were unsure. For those that did have these events, they primarily centred around training/introduction to the company (72%), job specific training (61%), and compliance/security training (51%).

So, the picture for new starters post day one isn’t great. They are either not experiencing any sort of organised welcome programme, or, when they do, engagement is not at the top of the agenda.

It’s a given that businesses will always want to get new starters up to speed – and productive – as quickly as possible. HR can certainly look after new-starter administrative requirements; and excellent HR systems will facilitate delivering induction, including compliance, training, etc. But where HR can arguably offer the most strategic expertise is in taking a step back and thinking about the bigger engagement picture.

Think about what makes people feel welcome

By looking at a new starter’s experience, with the understanding that the person is going through a major life change, HR can begin to shape a welcome programme that truly helps people to feel ‘welcome’. A good starting point is to think about your own experiences beginning different roles, and to ask your fellow HR team members about theirs as well.

To gain a variety of experiences, reach out to people in your wider business for their feedback, too. Insightful questions to ask would be for an example of something someone did for the respondent that made them feel welcome, and then if they can think of anything that made them feel unwelcome. Gestures as simple as a card to mark six months in a new role can go a long way in ensuring a new employee feels remembered and valued.

Creating a bespoke approach to ongoing engagement

If you don’t already have a strong focus on employee engagement, or if it’s not aligned with your approach to onboarding, working on them both in tandem makes sense. Engagement points that work for new starters, such as social interactions with team members, are also great ways to maintain the goodwill and participation of longstanding employees. You want to start your engagement journey, through onboarding, as you mean to go on.