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How to Create the Best First Impression With Employee Onboarding

The recent pandemic has changed the face of the way we interact with employees, not least because we are rarely in the same room together. Businesses are ramping up their adoption of technology and AI and we’ve all had a crash course in managing fragile mental states as our levels of underlying stress have been raised simply by trying to keep going on a daily basis.

Even before the pandemic and disruption of 2020, a One Poll/Webonboarding survey revealed that 66% of HR teams were still using a paper-based approach to onboarding. Add to this that 46% of new starters reported a negative onboarding experience, and the whole system looks broken. Negative experiences included ineffective handling of paperwork, outdated processes and overly lengthy onboarding periods.

Step 1: Start As You Mean To Go On

Your onboarding process is the all-important first impression of your business and critical to gaining the loyalty and trust of your new starter. But it doesn’t have to start on that nerve-wracking moment they open the door to the office.

At Jigsaw Cloud, our CEO gets in touch with new recruits via email around a fortnight before they join. When we asked how this made our new colleagues feel, the benefits were obvious: “I felt welcome before day one…. which removed some anxiety before joining a new company. I have been able to give everything to HR before day one and the company provided me with my equipment to work from home with, which was also set up a week before I started work.”

Paying attention to small details at this early stage will make new starters feel that an effort is being made to ensure a smooth beginning to their new role.

Step 2: It’s All About Them

Creating an accessible onboarding system will mean you can offer a personalised and relevant experience to new starters. Take learning and development: it’s far better to find out what makes them tick – what they love, what sort of learner they are – before presenting them with a development plan. Imagine a world where employees can further personal goals as well as work ones: the experience is immediately more positive and inclusive. They are being invited to grow with the business rather than asked to complete a series of one-dimensional learning modules which tick boxes in the organisation’s employee manual.

Our new starters have all their first week’s meetings booked up prior to day one. One recent new team member, Matthieu explains the benefit of this: “Calendar invites were sent to my personal email… which gave me visibility of upcoming meetings. I was also given the opportunity to join a couple of meetings before I started to help me to get familiar with the team and the market.”

Step 3: Build And Nurture The Relationship

Getting off to a positive start with your new employee sets the scene for how things should continue. Forward-thinking organisations will maintain an open channel of communication and feedback – especially during times of remote working. A culture of two-way communications allows issue to be identified at an early stage as well as support to be provided. This is about building human connections and making people feel valued.

“I was involved and participating in activities within a short time period” explains Matthieu. “It helped me to better understand how my colleagues behave and work. It also helped me to be more confident when performing my role.”

Nurturing a relationship takes time, of course, and should continue throughout the initial months of employment. At Jigsaw, we schedule regular coffee mornings and evening drinks online to help teams bond and build the necessary social links that virtual working doesn’t facilitate easily. Employees feel that these are a great way to get to know their colleagues while taking a step back from work.

Our onboarding process is carefully planned for day one, week one and month one to ensure a gradual drip-feed of information, connections and learning. This avoids overwhelm and ensures a positive experience.

Matthieu also reported that the best thing about the onboarding process was having a buddy. He said “It meant we had frequent meetings and I could rely on my buddy for any questions I had.”

For onboarding to contribute to your employee experience in a positive way, it needs to be so much more than completing forms and ticking boxes. Hopefully the ideas and real experiences we have shared here will help you to design a process that will create the very best first impression.

Find out about the crucial role HR technology plays in today’s new normal with our Free Guide to HR Technology and Employee Experience

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