Organisations with a standardised onboarding program enjoy 62% greater new hire productivity, Harvard Business Review say. Plus 50% faster time-to-proficiency and 42% lower turnover.
Yet a lack of clarity and ownership around the process often holds businesses back.
Not any more…
Here are eight onboarding best practices based on our experience helping some of the most innovative businesses in the world transform their recruitment from first touch to first day.
1 – Define clear lines of responsibility
Onboarding is a weird transition period where ownership is typically fragmented and complex. It’s not clear where recruiters’ responsibility ends and HR’s starts; or where and when hiring managers should get involved.
This complex ownership can lead to a lack of accountability. Nobody steps up because they assume someone else is. Or everybody steps up, and the process descends into inconsistency and chaos.
To adhere to onboarding best practices achieve a seamless experience, the first step should be to disentangle ownership and define clear lines of responsibility.
In essence: who’s doing what, when?
If you’re starting from scratch, a good starting point might be a good ol’ fashioned brainstorming session with champions from both HR and recruitment. Map out your as-is onboarding process, to highlight who you’ll need to get on-side to start getting a handle on onboarding.
This will also help you spot potential efficiencies and points of overlap, which can help simplify unnecessarily complex processes.
2 – Track accountability
Defining responsibility is pointless unless you hold people accountable. That’s where your onboarding technology comes in. (Whether you’re using an all-in-one HR system or pure-play recruitment software, onboarding functionality is a must).
Good onboarding functionality will empower you to map your processes digitally, tracking candidates, recruiters’, hiring managers’ and HR’s activity, showing progress through an intuitive dashboard and sending reminders when tasks need to happen.
Look for software with onboarding workflows that are highly configurable to your processes, rather than expecting you to conform.
You want something that’ll allow, say, different onboarding processes for senior hires versus junior hires. Or different onboarding processes for decentralised hires versus centralised hires. And different onboarding tasks for different recruiters.
3 – Introduce comprehensive automation
Onboarding can be a massive time-suck and often lacks consistency. That’s a compliance consideration (have new starters had the right HSE and security training?) and an onboarding experience consideration (how will new starters feel if they fall through the cracks?)
The business consequences of both – from the costly accidents, mistakes or breaches that arise when employees aren’t properly trained to plummeting engagement when employees are treated like an afterthought – can be severe.
Any onboarding software should introduce comprehensive across-the-board automation from issuing contracts to requesting references. That way you’ll spend way less time on repetitive admin – but can trust your new starters are reliably enjoying the fantastic experience you’ve designed for them.
4 – Digitise contract management
If you rely on manual, paperwork-based contract management processes, digitising and automating these should be an urgent priority.
Manual processes add days – maybe even weeks – onto the onboarding process. They’re inherently inconsistent and hard to track, which is a compliance consideration. And most important, they’re a terrible candidate experience.
Onboarding best practices involves automating the contract management process, so candidates get the right contract, fast, online.
A modern onboarding tool should:
- Automate your contract approvals process
- Remind everyone involved when action’s needed
- Create and store template contracts with editable forms
- Allow you to easily add, format, edit and clone contracts
- Preview contracts before you send them
- Lock contract permissions depending on your internal hierarchy
- Support secure, compliant e-signatures
- Remind candidates to review and complete contracts if incomplete
5 – Empower candidates with a self-service portal
Good onboarding software shouldn’t only consider the recruiter and hiring manager experience. A great candidate experience is one of today’s biggest recruitment priorities – and what’s definitely not great is the experience falling off a cliff once an offer’s made.
Look for onboarding functionality that seamlessly continues the recruitment experience, offering consistency, clarity and control as candidates transition into employees.
Ideally, offer candidates a portal that centralises all their onboarding info. That way, they can review and re-review past documents, check outstanding tasks instantly and check their progress.
Plus, a self-service portal isn’t only good from an experience perspective. It also means your HR team will spend way less time fielding questions and directing back to previous resources.
6 – Don’t just inform – engage
Onboarding isn’t just orientation. It’s not purely functional but experiential. That is, you’re not just aiming to educate new starters about your processes and policies but to engage them. Build their excitement. Reinforce they’ve made a great decision joining you.
A boring, sterile, dry onboarding process will hardly galvanise excitement.
Look for onboarding tech that can support you to deliver engaging content and personalised workflows. For example, maybe you embed a welcome video from your CEO and include a reminder for managers to reach out and introduce themselves personally.
Right now this multimedia side is especially important, to help counteract the effects of onboarding remotely.
For example, maybe your in-person onboarding included face-to-face training with IT. Your onboarding software can help with some of the heavy lifting here – like, you could embed video walkthroughs of your critical systems and tools.
7 – Remember your contractors!
As the workforce evolves, most businesses are consistently working with many more freelancers, contractors, locums and temps than before. How businesses work with that contingent workforce is fast becoming a major critical differentiator.
That’s true of the contractor candidate experience – and it’s equally true in onboarding.
Look for recruitment software that empowers you to deliver the same standard of experience to contractors as you do employees. Engagement, productivity and loyalty depend on it. (Which ladder up to easier, faster, less expensive recruitment).
8 – Improve continually
Stand-out recruitment experiences are made, not born. The same’s true of onboarding. A best-in-class onboarding journey won’t happen overnight – but by making incremental changes and tracking your progress, it will happen.
To measure your progress and identify improvement opportunities, you’ll ideally want both quantitative and qualitative data.
The first should come from robust onboarding reporting, allowing you to scrutinize the functional elements of your process.
What’s working? What’s not? Where are your bottlenecks?
Then the second is about collecting feedback from your new starters as part of the onboarding process. Asking for (and acting on!) feedback is an integral element of onboarding in its own right, showing you care and surfacing possible issues before they become disengagement-drivers.
But feedback can also provide invaluable meta-insights into your process. To help you edge towards an experience that ticks more boxes for more people.
You needn’t over-egg the onboarding pudding
None of these onboarding best practices are groundbreaking, revolutionary ideas. But that’s the power of them.
Because onboarding doesn’t need to be groundbreaking or revolutionary – at least not as your first priority. It most needs to be consistent. Coherent. Considered.
Because taken together, those things are the foundation of a first-class onboarding experience that delivers more engaged, more prepared and more productive new hires.