How to onboard & induct new staff - main region

How to run effective onboarding and induction processes

How new staff are managed into a business – an organisation’s onboarding and induction process – can be the difference between an ultimately successful hire and one that is destined to fail. After all, for many people the first few days in a new job are usually spent learning names, forgetting names, developing a mental floor plan of the office and making notes on everything possible.

Now, imagine instead that a new employee walks into the office on their first day, recognises a few friendly faces and sits down and very quickly becomes a productive part of the team. This is the real benefit of onboarding and induction.

Both are crucial for organisations to address if they are to retain new hires, build trust and empower staff to be productive as quickly as possible. Despite this, if you asked most managers what new employee onboarding and induction looks like in their organisation, and how they differ, they’d be left scratching their head.

Onboarding and induction: when do they begin and what’s the difference?

Contrary to popular belief, onboarding does not start on day one of a new job. Onboarding begins before the new employee has started working, from the moment that he or she is offered the job. Onboarding allows you to make the best use of the key time between making an offer and your new employee arriving for their first day. It imparts the knowledge necessary to begin their first day informed and with confidence.

Induction or orientation programs, on the other hand, are designed to help new arrivals learn the ropes once they start their new role. An induction program is practical, hands-on and supports an employee so he or she can successfully navigate their first few weeks or months in their new role. Induction effectively takes over where onboarding leaves off.

Tips for an effective employee onboarding procedure

Looking firstly at the onboarding process, best practice typically includes the following:

  1. Maintain regular contact: It’s important to develop and maintain a conversation with your new hire during the pre-start notice period, such as by calling to check in on how their notice period is progressing, copying them in on relevant team emails and adding them to any team chat or social media group. This contact should be maintained throughout the period between contracts being signed and their first day in the workplace.
  2. Share relevant information: An online starter pack filled with relevant information will help your new hire get to know the organisation, including its culture, values, goals and operations. You could also include detailed project information, top-line figures, an organisational chart and a glossary of common acronyms used within the business. The aim here is to provide your new employee with the big picture, from which you can then communicate how their specific role will impact the organisation’s overall success.
  3. Connect the team: Informally introduce your new starter to their colleagues and key stakeholders ahead of time. Your online starter pack may include team profiles, but you could also ask your team to connect with their new colleague on LinkedIn and set up a small informal coffee chat with key team members. Such casual interactions establish cohesion between your new and current employees and help your new starter feel that they belong.
  4. Set expectations: Before your new employee walks in the door on their first day, they should know exactly what you expect of them in their first few days or weeks. While you can wait for the induction period to have a more detailed discussion about expected output and break down their longer-term objectives, in the onboarding process your new employee should come to understand what initial success in their role will look like.
  5. Plan their first week: Identify the tools and knowledge required to be successful in the role and the appropriate people who can deliver this knowledge. Set appointments with these people then share the schedule with your new starter. This allows your new employee to arrive for their first day knowing who they will meet with in their first few days.
  6. Get the basics right: Prepare your new employee’s workstation and password logins in advance. In addition, rather than handing them a pile of paperwork to read and sign on their first day, email this in advance so they can review and return it before their start date. Have required security passes ready, too.

When does induction take over?

The work isn’t done when your new employee walks in the door. As mentioned above, once your employee arrives for their first day in the workplace, your induction process takes over. An induction program builds confidence and competence, which ultimately helps your new staff member become more productive. It helps them feel that they fit in and are supported to find their feet, rather than being left to try to find their own way.

During this period, it’s important to remember that an induction process is two-way; your employee is also deciding whether they want to stay long-term with your organisation. A new starter will gain some sense of this during the onboarding process, but it’s during their induction that they are shown the practical application of your organisation’s culture and values, and the unique way that your team works together. Through this experience, they come to feel that they belong and will thrive in your business – or not.

Crucially, while you lead the onboarding process, anyone can be part of the induction process – from an administrator demonstrating a software package unique to your organisation to a senior manager discussing why a certain approach is used with a key client. Such personal attention creates a positive environment and imparts not just skills but cultural understanding.

Tips for an effective induction process

Best practice induction typically includes the following:

  1. Assign an internal mentor: During their first few weeks, provide your new starter with a peer-buddy or mentor who can help them successfully navigate their new workplace. Spending some time watching how this employee works or how they conduct themselves when visiting a key client will help induct your new employee into the way your organisation runs. The mentor should also share the norms and unwritten rules of the organisation’s culture and way of working with your new employee, along with any implicit knowledge such as go-to people, team etiquette, or why things are done certain ways.
  2. Work through the schedule: In your onboarding process you identified the tools and knowledge required for success in the role and set up meetings with the appropriate people who could deliver this knowledge. These meetings should also allow your new employee to get to know colleagues, clients and key stakeholders. For example, perhaps they could attend a client meeting with one of the organisation’s top performers or sit in on an inter-department meeting.When your new staff member arrives for their first day, they’ll be able to start working their way through this schedule of meetings. Crucially, at the end of each day, talk to your employee about what they learnt in these meetings. Fill any knowledge gaps and relate what they have learnt back to their role.
  3. Review objectives: Sit down with your new employee to revise what is to be achieved in their first few weeks. After a few days in the role, they may have some questions relating to these initial objectives, so allocate some time to review them and ensure your new employee has everything they require to achieve them. This also allows your new staff member to monitor their own understanding and creates shared accountability for their effective induction into the organisation.
  4. Create an opportunity for an early win: When assigning initial work tasks, allocate one that will lead to an early success. This will build your new employee’s confidence in their role.
  5. Communicate longer-term expectations: Importantly, you should also clearly set out your expectations for your new staff member’s performance in not just the short term, but also the medium and long terms. Make sure they understand exactly what output is expected of them over time and what constitutes success longer term.
  6. Discuss learning and development: Linked to this is a discussion around the professional development opportunities that are available in your organisation, whether internal or external. Discuss opportunities and ask your new employee if any other professional development would aid their success in the job.
  7. Communicate your management style: Every leader has their own management style. To avoid any confusion or embarrassment, take a few minutes to share yours with your new employee. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses, your hot buttons and any sensitivities in the team.
  8. Tick all the boxes: Finally, ensure your induction program covers all relevant human resources, occupational health and safety, payroll and legislative issues. Don’t overlook small practical issues either, such as how to use the photocopier, where the best coffee shop is, when lunch breaks fall and how to dial an outside line.

Onboarding and inducting new staff remotely

If you are in the position of onboarding new members of staff remotely, your virtual onboarding and induction process should cover the above elements, while also offering additional support. Our remote onboarding guide below has been designed specifically to help you navigate this process and successfully bring your new employee into your remote team.

Onboarding and induction are crucial for senior hires, too

Ironically, entry-level positions often involve better onboarding and induction plans than those provided to top level staff. The more senior the hire, the less hands-on the onboarding and induction generally is, leaving your new senior manager or executive to find his or her own way. It’s also much less likely that you have a formal process in place when hiring executives because you do it far less frequently than at the entry or mid levels.

Yet senior members of staff need to lead and promote the company ethos and require just as much help before starting a new appointment as entry-level staff.

To conclude, no one forgets a difficult adjustment period, such as being left to work things out for themselves through trial and error. So, make sure your new employee’s onboarding process imparts the knowledge needed to perform productively from day one, and is followed by an effective induction process that leads to long-term career success.

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