The Changing Role of L&D: Overcoming Onboarding Challenges

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Steve Finch
Thinqi Ambassador
The Changing Role of L&D: Overcoming Onboarding Challenges

“I truly believe that onboarding is an art. Each new employee brings with them a potential to achieve and succeed. To lose the energy of a new hire through poor onboarding is an opportunity lost.” – Sarah Wetzel, Director of HR, engage:BDR

Whether it’s that important meeting, a job interview or meeting someone’s friends and family for the first time, first impressions count. Think back to the last job interview you attended. Chances are, you thought carefully about your outfit, focused on making sure your body language was confident and professional, and that you had planned exactly what to say to impress the interviewers. The initial experience you have with a person can set the tone for your future relationship with them, as there will never be a second chance to make a positive first impression.

According to a study by Equifax Workforce Solutions, if an employee is going to quit, chances are it will happen within the first six months. More than 40% of turnover happens within the first month, with another 10% leaving before their first work anniversary. What’s more, the cost of finding and recruiting a replacement is estimated to be a staggering three times that employee’s annual salary. This is why, when it comes to welcoming new hires into your organisation, the initial impression you make can have a direct influence on whether a new hire decides to stay with the organisation long-term.

With only 37% of organisations having invested in a formal onboarding program for over two years, many are still primarily focused on socialising new hires into company culture, which though still important, can be difficult to measure. Today, organisations should also be rethinking their processes and technology options to help new hires get the most out of onboarding. Doing so can help them understand the overall business aims, get up to speed on processes and start working towards organisational goals – and really feel part of the business from day one.

Split screen showing learners engaging in learning content via mobile device on while out walking and at home on desktop computer

When Should the Onboarding Process Begin?

So, your HR managers have sifted through stacks of CVs, interviewed applicants and drawn up a final shortlist of successful names. Logically, onboarding should begin the moment your new hires arrive fresh-faced for their first day of work…shouldn’t it? For many companies, this is exactly what happens, but what would happen if onboarding began before new hires show up for work on the morning of their start date?

“Onboarding starts from the minute a candidate is contacted. We set expectations up front as best we can so that there are no surprises when new hires begin work. A candidate’s job responsibilities always match what’s outlined during the interview process.” – Joyce Westerdahl, Executive Vice President for HR, Oracle

Change can be stressful, and there’s nothing worse than being thrown in the deep end when starting a new role in an unfamiliar workplace. Imagine preparing yourself for a first day at work only to find that you don’t know where to park or where you can buy your lunch. You arrive at your desk to find that your laptop still isn’t set up and you don’t know who to seek for help. You aren’t entirely sure what the current business objectives are, and don’t know who is working in your department. All you have is the vague recollection of the research you prepared for interview several weeks ago, and maybe the name of the interviewer (whom you haven’t seen today).

The onboarding process should really begin before an employee’s first day. For some organisations, this might happen as soon as you offer them the job. In larger corporations with multiple businesses, career paths may be discussed as early as the first interview. This has the added benefit of giving potential hires attainable goals and objectives they can aspire to, and a greater sense of their own trajectory within the business.

The result? Your new hires are more likely to stick around.

Laptop with screenshots of onboarding process including induction training, working at desk, interview and signing contract

What Steps Should You Take When Onboarding New Hires?

Let’s go back to our initial point – we’re trying to create a great first impression. We want new hires to get excited about the organisation and to arrive at their desks motivated, engaged and fully equipped to start work. We want them to care about the company culture and have a genuine desire to contribute to organisational success.

The key here is communication.

1. Keep Your Applicants Informed

When you’ve just got out of an interview, there’s nothing worse than repeatedly refreshing your emails throughout the week waiting for the outcome. A simple message to let your applicants know that, if successful, they will be contacted (say, by the end of the week) can go a long way. Having to ring up a company post-interview to chase up an outcome can make an applicant feel uncomfortable and create impression that your organisation is aloof and uncaring.

A simple email can help reduce anxiety in the lead-up to hiring and soften the blow of rejection.

2. Assign a Mentor

A mentor is the person who is there to support the new hire and integrate them into company culture. These are the people who can provide key information about the company, answer questions and support new hires throughout their training.

A simple phonecall, video call or even a regular email can create a far more personalised onboarding experience than making no prior contact at all. Treat your employee like a person, not a number. Inform them of basic company house rules, key information (such as car parking facilities, the location of the canteen, and working hours for each day) and what to expect on their first day. They will arrive confident as a result, and ready to engage with their initial compliance training, rather than spending their time fretting about where to go for lunch.

3. Connect Through Technology

We all know that technology is never the standalone solution for the best onboarding experience, but just as technology enhances training delivery, it does play a vital part in maximising the success of your onboarding strategy. In fact, when it comes to onboarding, studies reveal that investment in world-class technology is one of the shared characteristics of firms enjoying best-in-class performance.

Empowering your new hires with a portal for social collaboration with peers can really help integration. For example, our blended learning ecosystem Thinqi allows users to collaborate and share ideas with colleagues in ‘Networks’, thereby welcoming new hires into work circles and introducing them to the key people in their team before they even set foot in the office.

It can also give your new hires 24/7 access to useful onboarding resources from the comfort of their own home. For example, you could add welcome videos, news bulletins, training assignments and presentations outlining key information.. New hires will appreciate having something to do while they wait for their start date, and will arrive at work feeling informed of the company’s history, structure and aims – and already part of the team.

Remember, when it comes to compliance training, no one wants to be filling out reams of paper on their first day at work. By adopting a blended approach in your compliance training, learners get the human touch of face-to-face learning with the added advantage that they can complete their learning digitally, wherever and whenever suits. Blending the best of both worlds is a proven way to boost engagement in what can often be a dreaded aspect of starting a new role.

4. Communicate Business Objectives

Many organisations are still failing to connect onboarding programs with business objectives, and as a result, face intense pressure to improve engagement (50%), meet company growth objectives (49%) and address shortages of critical skills in the market (44%). It’s vital that you align your onboarding strategy with your business objectives at all stages. If you want your staff to work collectively towards business goals, ensuring that new hires are made fully aware of and understand what your business is all about is paramount to organisational success.

L&D trainer presenting data on large whiteboard to classroom of learners

In Summary…

Onboarding should begin well before your new hires step foot in the workplace. It’s never too early to make contact, introduce new hires to key information or get them learning about company values and objectives. Maintain regular contact, check in often, and use technology to your advantage – a new hire who feels supported, included and valued from the very beginning is far more likely to become an engaged and loyal employee.

A lasting first impression makes for a loyal workforce.

If you want to ensure the onboarding process goes as smoothly as possible in your organisation, we’ve got the technology and expertise to help you succeed. Request a demo to arrange to speak to one of our experts.

We regularly post content with insights on the most pressing L&D developments. Keep an eye on our blog and social media channels to see when these insights are published:

To view the rest of our ‘The Changing Role of L&D’ series, follow the links below

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Steve Finch
Thinqi Ambassador
Steve Finch is Head of Marketing and Brand Ambassador for Thinqi, the modern learning system. With a background in customer success and digital learning programme delivery, Steve has been helping organisations deliver effective modern learning for nearly 20 years.