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Good onboarding = staff retention and high performance

By Chris Sheedy

Onboarding a new employee is the first good impression a company can make – but why do so many businesses get it wrong and how can the process improve?

A study by recruitment firm Robert Half claims that 98% of Australian businesses recognise their onboarding systems and processes are insufficient. Most surprising is that it continues to be a problem when it is easy to get right.

As a result, 43% of businesses have lost staff during their first month of employment because of poor onboarding, and 60% of managers say they’ve had a new staffer quit because the onboarding processes failed them.

“Research shows that good onboarding is the single most significant thing a business can do in the first few months to ensure people stick around,” said Katriina Tahka, CEO of A Human Agency (A-HA!).

“Yet most businesses completely ignore it, or organise a quick office tour and a morning tea, then expect people to simply get to work.”

Staff then leave during the probation period, Katriina said, because it’s easier and looks better on their CV. In fact, they may even be able to hide the fact that they ever worked at the business.

And just like that, a company becomes a brand that ex-employees are hiding from potential new employers!

“Do it well and the individual will always be an ambassador for your business, no matter where their career takes them,” she said.

“Do it badly and you’ll not only lose them immediately, they’ll also tell people, in person, on social media and on review websites, what a terrible experience they had during their short stay with your company.”

How to do onboarding right

A good onboarding process begins before the new employee’s first day.

In the week before they arrive, their new manager should get in touch and chat with them about getting to the office, what time to show up (it can be a good idea to ask them to show up a bit later, perhaps 10am), who will meet them, and what they should expect, Katriina said.

A one or two-week plan should be written, outlining the experience the business wishes the new hire to have. Include activities, essential individuals with whom they should meet and who will look after them at various times.

Ensure they’re never made to feel alone and list the systems and processes they need to be introduced to.

“If you’ve made a plan then it says to the new person, ‘We’re really excited to have you on board. We’ve been planning for your arrival and we want you to have a good experience and to feel comfortable about staying with us and being successful,” explained Katriina.

“Compare that to the feeling of showing up and being told, ‘There’s the toilet and there’s your desk’. That sort of welcome, which is all too common, tells the individual that the business doesn’t care about them.”

Importantly, the new employee must be told who they can approach with any questions at any time; a “safe person” who is always available.

“Otherwise, if they’re a bit lost or confused or unhappy and they have nobody to help them out or to speak with, they will go home, pour themselves a glass of wine and fire up Seek,” Katriina said.

Why do onboarding right

Everybody knows the terrible feeling of being at a party and feeling totally alone, despite being surrounded by groups of people who know each other. It’s no different for a new staff member.

If a business wants a person to become a critical member of their team, they need to make them feel like a critical member of the team from the very beginning. Do it right and the new employee can hit the ground running, delivering on the company’s investment.

“A new employee can be made to feel completely ridiculous and demotivated, sitting there on their own as strangers walk past,” Katriina noted.

“There is no excuse for onboarding to be done badly, particularly in large firms that have all of the resources.

“Onboarding is about inclusion, and it’s much easier for the group to make an individual feel included than it is for the individual to do it on their own. Onboarding is about doing the small things right, because the results of those small things are immensely significant.”

This article was originally published by CA Today.