Where the Journey Begins

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Remember when on-boarding consisted of an hour on day one with HR? Being presented with an HR policy handbook, a chunk of marketing literature and information on the location of fire exits? We have certainly come a long way! And most businesses now realise the value of carefully nurturing the relationship between employee, employer, and colleagues over a longer time horizon.

In today’s employment market, on-boarding has evolved to become ‘organisational socialisation’. Employers now think beyond the new-hire induction and more about the lengthy process that equips individuals to maximise their chances of success in the organisation. This requires commitment and time from HR, leadership and talent acquisition, but it’s more cost-effective and better for continuity than the cycle of short tenure and hiring again.

To check whether your on-boarding strategy is working, a good starting point is to understand what percentage of senior new hires leave within 18 months of first joining. External hires often struggle as they are sold a picture of coming in to change and transform an organisation and yet when they join the reality is all too often different, or the culture means that change is going to be harder to effect.

Does your socialisation process, or on-boarding strategy, help to paint a picture of ‘what it’s really like to work here’? In order to understand how effective your strategy is, research can be employed to gather market insight from internal and external audiences:

Insight: The starting point is understanding how your organisation and culture is perceived so you can build this in throughout the organisational socialisation and on-boarding process. For example, are there differences between perceptions for certain groups such as women or those from minority groups? How is your proposition viewed compared to your direct competitors and is this consistent across all the markets in which you operate?

Attraction: How can you better market your brand to target talent pools? And how can you use this to tap into passive talent, those people who aren’t looking for a role and who therefore won’t respond to being approached in sales-mode? Ensure you engage talent in a non-hiring manner at first.

Selection: Ensure your selection process gives candidates the opportunity to explore the organisational culture and to ‘self-select’ whether they want to go any further with their application. Provide a fair, consistent, and bias free selection process.

Brand experience: On-boarding should be consistent with the attraction and selection process and new joiners should not receive a culture shock on day one! Do you provide the same standard of experience for direct hires as those who come via head-hunters and agencies? Don’t view on-boarding as a standalone process (think the employee handbook again!) nor that it’s an HR admin task. It’s all part of the brand experience.

Feedback: Get regular feedback on the whole on- boarding experience from initial contact to first six months on the job, in order to continually improve it and to make sure it’s consistent (but not the same) for all new joiners.

I think the most important thing to remember with on-boarding is that the journey extends well beyond the tenure of employment – both before the recruitment process and after the employee leaves. In our experience, if you get to know your talent before they join the business, you will build a better and longer-lasting relationship with them.

This article originally appeared in The Firm’s newsletter, 17th October 2016

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