What is onboarding?

While it might sound like how you get on to an aircraft, onboarding is actually the official HR term for helping new staff settle into a company. This covers helping a new employee understand their role within the business, what their duties are, and how to find their way around (ie show them where the bathroom is). Onboarding also means helping them understand your business methods, values and objectives.

Find out more about Which? Trusted traders’ experiences of taking on employees. Read on for more about onboarding.

Why is onboarding important?

It’s essential for large companies to have a process in place, but even small businesses need to help new employees settle in, to ensure the effort of hiring them isn’t wasted.

A 2017 study by CV-Library found one in five employees (22%) left a job during or at the end of their probation or training period. Almost half of these left because the job was ‘not as they expected’, a further quarter because they found a better job elsewhere, with most of the remainder not liking the company’s culture or their new boss. Another 12% of employees did not successfully reach the end of their probationary period.

That’s potentially a big waste of effort when it comes to recruitment. However, studies also show that employees who go through a successful onboarding process are significantly more likely to stay with the business for three years or more.

How do you go about onboarding an employee?

You wouldn’t expect a new employee to walk in and know everything about your company and the way it works immediately. It’s up to you how you introduce the different areas of your business and ways of working to your staff. Creating a process that you follow with each new starter gives you and them something to work with.

The first few days

First days are often difficult for new employees. Think about how you can structure a new employee’s first day to best introduce them to your business. This could include meeting colleagues, learning about the business itself and their role within it.

You may want to structure initial training over the first few days, to quickly get your new employee up to speed with how you work. Or it may be necessary to spread out any training over a period of months.

Sharing information

You may not want a formal process, but it’s still worth thinking about all the different areas your employee needs to get to grips with. These include everything from the practical (health and safety information, technical skills, working with customers and so on) to learning about the business itself: how it runs, your values and culture.

Options for sharing this information with new staff include:

  • online visual or written information
  • physical information sheets
  • videos
  • specific training sessions
  • an induction programme over the first day or week.

Training and goals

Set up any training your new employee will need – whether that’s sitting with them while they get to grips with your filing system, or technical learning while they work with you. Let them know how any training will work, and what you expect from them.

Give them some concrete goals to work towards, and review those goals regularly. Will your new starter have specific tasks or responsibilities? Let them know what these are, and allow them to take ownership of their particular area.

Review their performance at regular intervals and give constructive feedback. This will help employees start off on the right foot, and you can quickly correct any areas that aren’t up to scratch.

Where can you find support?

If you can afford to engage an HR professional, they could help you set up an onboarding process for your business. Otherwise, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the professional association for HR people, has an online knowledge hub with further information about different areas concerning recruitment.

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