Boss Lady

Biggest pain and biggest opportunity: employee onboarding


As a former CEO with the responsibility for hiring and integrating over 100 of employees every year, there is nothing more frustrating than spending months and months searching for a great candidate to fill a key role in your team or organization, only to find the person you chose doesn’t perform, or even worse, performs well but resigns within their first year. Sound familiar?  Yet this occurs all too regularly in organisations and, more often than not, it is actually the fault of the organisation not the new hire. How and why is this so? Let me give you my view.

In my experience the ‘hiring:onboarding’ ratio of time allocated by managers is way out of whack. Much more time should be spent onboarding, however after a lengthy and potentially exhausting recruitment process many hiring managers have run out of energy to ensure the new hire has a great onboarding experience. Yet the research is clear: 22% of staff turnover occurs in the first 45 days of employment (source: Bersin), and 33% of new hires look for a job within their first six months (source: HBR). More often than not this is an outcome of poor onboarding.

Fortunately today’s technology can greatly assist managers to improve the onboarding experience. When combined with human touch elements onboarding can become a powerful driver of individual, team and company performance.

Please find below my top tips for great onboarding.

Pre-start date

The onboarding experience should start no later than when the candidate accepts the role as this is the very moment when they are at their most excited and engaged. Before the future employee starts is a great time to communicate essential information, collect any necessary details from them, and to surprise and delight the new hire about working with you. Remember, in most cases the new hire will be leaving another employer which can be a difficult time, so pre-start date activities are essential for validating the candidate’s decision about joining you and ensuring on day one they already feel informed and engaged with your organisation.

Day one

This is not the day to have the employee fill out forms and complete compliance requirements, rather this is the day for the new employee to connect with their new team and key stakeholders. As a former CEO and now, I go out to lunch with new hires from across the organisation on their first day as a symbol of how important they are to our organisation’s success. Make sure they have a buddy assigned to them to show them the ropes and facilitate crucial connections with key stakeholders across and outside the company. I always encourage hiring managers to personally meet their new employees at reception and have a welcome gift sitting on their desk. This may be as simple as a personally written card welcoming them onboard.

Key milestones

Onboarding is at least a 1-3 month process. Although some new employees get up to speed quickly, many will take longer. I have found it helpful to set up reminders to check-in with my new hires at the following milestones: 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 2 months, 3 months. If these conversations are built into your regular performance catch ups make sure you allow sufficient time to discuss both the employee’s contribution as well as answering any questions the new employee may have about people, processes, practices and the culture of the broader company. An interesting alternative or addition to these conversations is to form new hire cohorts where they can share their experiences and learnings with each other.

 Cultural/strategic integration

Too often onboarding is only about getting the new hire’s computer and security access set up, but onboarding is so much more. The entire process from before the employee starts to the end of the first year should enable the employee to deeply understand, and most importantly align, with the organisation’s culture and strategy. Not understanding how the organisation works, and not fitting in culturally are two of the top three difficulties in taking on a new role according to research by Egon Zehnder. Your onboarding process should spend as much time, if not more, on culture and strategic integration as it does on tactical items.

About Jan Pacas

Jan Pacas is the Co-Founder and MD of Flare.HR and Benefits, a platform that launched just over a year ago and raised over $9 million in start-up funding to date. Flare was created on the basis of giving new starters a really great first impression of their clients’ companies. Flare provides an intuitive cloud based platform accessible via computer or any mobile device based on today’s best practice onboarding principles. The onboarding process covers all the essentials (employee contract, collects all employee data in which is filled out only once, sends data to the ATO, informs the new hire about important policies, gives the employee the chance to make an informed decision about their super fund, life insurance and more). The platform has been designed to emotionally engage new hires, and make them feel a great first touch with the client’s brand. This includes features like a welcome video where the company vision can be communicated, personalised questions like favorite sports team, beverage, movies, and offers a small symbolic gift (if to the employer chooses to do so), and of course last but not least an opportunity to say a few words to the new team.

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