Based on a scientific study by Princeton psychologists, Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov, it takes us somewhere between one-third to one-tenth of a second to decide if we like and trust a new acquaintance. Our brains simply work that fast, and that snap decision, while unconscious, can take a long time to undo.
Yet, so often, businesses expect new hires to simply put up with a poor onboarding experience without understanding how profoundly it can affect the new employee’s view of the company, their manager and how long they are likely to stay. According to an isolved study of over 1,000 full-time employees in the U.S., a poor benefits enrollment experience would make 64% of employees consider looking for another job.
Those first few days, hours, and yes, even minutes, shape very deeply how an employee thinks of their employer — and if they’ll stay with the company long term. Delivering a better employee experience has become top priority for many employers: 83% of human resources (HR) leaders say it’s a priority this year, so why not start with those first set of interactions?
Making onboarding a more effective introduction to the business means learning and development (L&D) leaders and their organizations must focus on creating a more human-centered experience. One that not only introduces the employee to the new company and their role, but also makes them feel connected, valued and a part of a team where they belong. Successful L&D teams can deliver this more effectively by focusing on these three key areas.
1.) Make Onboarding Streamlined and Smooth
L&D leaders can work with other departments in the organization, like information technology (IT), HR, payroll, accounting and so on, to ensure that the administrative processes to onboarding, from paperwork to simply getting access to email, are delivered as smoothly and easily as possible. A good place to start is to use electronic documents rather than paper — reducing the amount of time needed to get things signed and returned. While this might seem to be table stakes, even the most strategic departments are still littered with paper processes.
Most importantly for making onboarding streamlined, don’t have employees repeatedly filling out the same information, but rather use a centralized system to eliminate unnecessary work. For remote workers, have their laptop delivered early, so they are ready to start onboarding on day one, and make sure they have all the necessary access rights from the beginning so that frustrating downtime is minimized.
After all, onboarding at a new company can be bewildering at the best of times, without expecting a new hire to navigate the intricacies of your internal processes and systems. Most critically, a poor experience here sends the clear message that the new hire simply isn’t important enough to get VIP treatment. And while not everyone can be the new chief executive officer or even meet them on their first day, everyone wants to feel valued. Making the onboarding smooth and efficient demonstrates that the new hire is important to the company.
2.) Make Onboarding Human
Starting a new job can be stressful, and everyone wants to feel connected and a part of a team that cares. Recognizing the individual and not treating new hires as a number is essential. Simple things can go a long way – taking time to introduce them to the rest of the business or at least their immediate peers can help establish new connections. Assigning an onboarding mentor or “buddy” who can help with basic questions can go a long way to removing some of the worry in those early days. While not strictly “human,” conversational virtual assistants within collaboration apps can also reduce any first-week friction — empowering new employees to get answers to frequently asked questions that are easy to access on the job.
Most importantly, adding structure to the first few days and/or weeks of a new hire’s workday can help demonstrate not only that they matter, but also that their role is important to the company. It’s also best practice to schedule regular check-ins with not only their manager, but also with other stakeholders and leaders in the organization. This can help new hires gain a better understanding of company’s processes and operations, as well as the people.
Onboarding is such an important time to introduce new hires to your company’s culture. Give your new hires the opportunity to learn and see how your company expects everyone to behave. Setting expectations and integrating new employees into the company culture can make it easier to for them to feel a sense of belonging in the long run.
3.) Make Onboarding Replicable
The Great Resignation continues to reverberate throughout almost every industry. So as businesses rehire and respond to a changing workforce, recruitment and onboarding have become a steady state of activity. This means it’s essential to build an onboarding approach that is not only streamlined and human, but also replicable. After all, there’s little point in delivering a great onboarding experience if the process burns out your L&D teams. Rather, it’s better to shape onboarding to balance the needs of the new hire with the capacity to deliver.
This means that the processes should be documented well (nothing makes a process harder to repeat than having to rely on the knowledge of a single person/point of failure). It also means the process should be as automated as possible and transferable between team members. Standard approaches to gathering information, sharing it and delivering a great onboarding experience are vital to keeping something scalable and repeatable.
Lastly, businesses should remember that in the end, onboarding is the start of a, hopefully, long-term relationship. And great relationships are built on honesty and transparency. So be honest and transparent with your new hires. If something doesn’t work out quite right, if that laptop arrives late or the manager misses the meeting, be honest and direct about it. A simple, “Hey, sorry, we messed up. That’s not cool,” is a powerful indicator to a new employee that this business not only understands what onboarding should be like, but also cares about them and their experience.
It’s a relationship and just like in any other relationship, treat the other person as you would want to be treated. Set the right tone. Put in the effort. Be honest and open, and above all, be human…the rest will take care of itself.