17 November 2022

Day one is the most important; Successful onboarding


First impressions make an indelible impact. They must be right.

“You only have one chance to make a first impression.”

That truism – simple and often trotted-out – applies to the employer as well as the employee. And in the current high employment, candidate short environment it’s something organisations should take heed of.

Starting a new job is a big step. The new employee may have left the relative comfort zone of an established role, they might be making a career change, or coming back into the workforce. They will have researched the company, been through interviews, tests perhaps, waited on an offer, thought it over – perhaps weighing it up against other opportunities. They have invested themselves. Then they turn up on day one.

“Sorry but your manager is on holiday.”

“We ordered your laptop, but it’s not here.”

“We haven’t got you a desk yet.”

There’s a lengthy list of deflating things some new starters hear. And these things play into why around 4% of new starters quit on or shortly after the first day. It also influences the 50% who leave within the first four months when that lack of employer engagement on day one continues.

Engagement is key

Engagement starts early – before the employee even starts the job. There are many touchpoints between employer and potential employee starting with hitting ‘submit’ when they apply. The time between first touchpoint and starting the job can sometimes be several months. It’s a period where good or bad impressions can be made and a period when meaningful engagement with the new employee can start. Consider a few things:

  • How long between application and contact / invitation to interview?
  • How long between interviews, and how much communication was there?
  • How long from last interview / contact and offer? How much communication?
  • Once the employee accepted how often and how did you communicate with them before they started?
  • Have they met any of their new colleagues? Consider some kind of social activity before they start so they can meet key people in a relaxed environment.
  • Did you speak to them about choice of equipment or kit for when they join?

This is often referred to as ‘pre-onboarding’, and it can make a big difference.

There is little worse for a manager than finding out just before someone starts that they have taken a job elsewhere. This is far less likely to happen if they’re engaged and excited to be joining, they have looked at your company website, they're learning about the philosophy and culture and they know you're ready for them. They will be less likely to be tempted elsewhere because they have emotionally bought-in to your organisation.

Paperwork exchange

At some point prior to starting there will be an exchange of signed contracts between employer and employee – now usually done online. Try to ensure this is done soon after the offer and the process is simple. In addition to the salary on offer, outline other key benefits. This could include development opportunities, mentorships, training as well practical things such as season ticket travel loans, parking, gym memberships and so on. Think about the whole ‘package’ on offer. Also ask if there’s anything else they want to receive or know before they join.

Day one

Onboarding or induction? The former suggests a longer process with several potential layers, the latter something formal and concentrated. Either way, organisations who do this, and do it thoroughly and professionally are immediately putting themselves at an advantage by engaging effectively with their new hire.

Onboarding varies from organisation to organisation. The period before starting and immediately after is invaluable. It’s when new people will start to engage and start understanding a bit about the company, the “how we do things around here” bit. It will give them an advantage in getting up to speed and acclimatised to the culture and organisation philosophy.

Providing a list of key contacts with a brief outline of their role will be valuable as will teeing-up times for the new recruit to meet those people in the first weeks.

Outline clear expectations, and a timeline. If the role is output-based (number of customer appointments or sales figures or widgets produced etc) then outline the expected output levels.

Often in larger companies there will be a few people starting on the same day. This provides an opportunity for support and friendships to develop through the “we’re all in the same boat” element of the relationships. More formal and probably more powerful is having a buddy system – with newbies teamed up with a longer-serving employee, likely from the same area of the business and a peer or on a similar level. Having someone to turn to – friend or buddy – during that early period in a new job cannot be underestimated.

The first few months

Keep in regular contact with your new hire – face-to-face as much as possible. Check-ins are vital for building communication and engagement as well as providing an opportunity to gauge progress and employee commitment through observing behaviour and body language.

Does your company have any social or special interest groups that new employees could join? Another relatively simple but effective way to welcome and engage a new employee.

A new employee is a big investment – one that should be nurtured and developed into an asset.

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Graham Fisher, Product Owner at MHR

Graham Fisher

Product Owner at MHR for Recruitment and Onboarding. 

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