Recruitment in Focus: On Boarding – First Impressions Last

Part 1

Having started at Globe 24-7 made me think about my experience over the years recruiting people for a large multinational and then on boarding them.

The on-boarding process is so critical. In my view this is the final stage of the recruitment process – it is the hand over point. This is the point where the new starter (let’s give this person a name – Joe) experience the company first hand. Up until this stage Joe has been going through an emotional roller-coaster. Joe might have been happy in the previous job when this new exciting opportunity presented itself. Joe might have been looking for this opportunity for a very long time or Joe might have been out of work and needed this role to get back into the job market. At this stage of the recruitment process Joe feels excited, enthusiastic, energized and ready to go, but Joe also feels nervous, insecure, unsure, etc ……. Yeah – I am talking about feelings.

Up to this point the new employer / recruiter sold a good deal, whether it is that next level job, a better career prospect, a new challenge, a better remuneration package, a better work-life balance, better terms and conditions. Whatever it was – Joe bought into it and here we are. Accepted the new role, resigned from the previous place and ready to start a new chapter.

This brings me back to the final stage of the recruitment process – the on-boarding.

In my view the on-boarding process sets the stage. It is comparable to that first date. If it does not go well – there will be a lot of damage control required. On-boarding sends a message to the new hire. What is that message? I am sure we all would like it to be:

“Joe welcome – congratulations and thank you for deciding to join our team – we know who you are and we are ready to see what you can do”.

Many companies and hiring managers get this piece wrong. If this stage is neglected – Joe might be disappointed, disillusioned and start re-evaluating the decision to start with this company. This feeling will carry for a long time and will take time to bring around. It is even re-enforced when Joe gets home (or phones home) and everybody ask what the new employer is like.

What is that discussion? What should this discussion be?

If we look for one moment at Joe as a brand new piece of equipment we’ve spend weeks to source – we researched what it can do, what make & model it is and made sure it is the right size, etc. When it is delivered – do you ask someone else to pick it up and process it via the normal procurement process, asking them to deliver the item to your office once they are done with it?

Makes you think – doesn’t it. If people are our biggest asset – why then do we get an Administrator (a bus driver or security person) to meet Joe at the front desk or airport. Who in turn takes the new hire to an automated video induction, ensuring all paperwork are completed and then get delivered to your office?

My point. New hires need special attention in order to integrate easily, adjust to the new employer culture, structure and become a productive member of the team quickly. The on-boarding stage is the vital first step. The new hire needs assurance, needs structure and personal attention.

Part 2

In this section I would like to deep dive into the days leading into as well as the Day 1 on boarding experience. I will also continue with Joe as my new hire.

Let me start by saying ON-BOARDING should be a holistic deliberate team focus and effort.

This stage of the recruitment process can be broken up in four very distinctive, yet progressive stages. They are:

  • Pre-start Preparation and Communication
  • Meet and greet
  • Induction
  • Introduction and Orientation

1.  Prestart Preparation and Communication. Once the new hire accepted the role Joe would need to resign. This is the point where Joe’s existing employer either try to counter offer, accept the resignation or tell Joe to leave immediately. Joe will feel dispositioned whilst the messaging from the new employer should focus on encouraging Joe to get ready for the new challenge ahead. This communication could be an email but even more effectively a call from the hiring manager or HR. By implication the new employer will need to step in to support Joe during this transition phase. This stage is normally associated with a million questions. Joe will need to know when to start, where to go, what to wear, etc. As hiring manager (or HR team) this is a critical stage to communicate and ensure Joe is well informed to prepare for the first day at work. The last thing you want is for Joe to scramble to find contact numbers, bank details, tax numbers, etc., Joe will need structure. A first day at work program would be nice. It is always good to get the new hire to complete basic paperwork at home (i.e. biographical details, banking details, code of conduct, next of kin form, cardinal rules, site orientation documents, country information leaflets). This is good, but the content should concise and relevant. There is a point where the information sent can be just too much and the new hire gets lost in the details and many emails. Too much information could lead to a “tick and flick” type approach (just to get through the volumes) and Joe might miss the importance of what is pertained in some of these documents. Enough said on this – let move to Day 1.

Were you briefed before you arrived?

2.  Meet and greet. It is critical to ensure the hiring manager meets with Joe as soon as possible. It re-establishes the employer-employee relationship and provides Joe with a soft introduction. It also demonstrates that as hiring managers “we value you and welcome you to our team”. This can be brief. It can be a pickup at the airport (for those fly-in / fly-out setups) or it can be a quick coffee with Joe on arrival at the office. For FIFO type organisations this can be tricky. Hiring managers might be underground or in a remote location. In this instance the same rule applies – Joe needs to feel he/she is an individual, not just another “newbie”. In these cases, the Camp Management team is critical. They need to be well organised, friendly and efficient. Camp Management should treat Joe as a customer booking into a hotel (and why not – many camp management teams are from the hospitality industry). Some of the best experiences were camps where the reception handed the new hire an envelope (with his/her name on it) with keys together with a short message from the hiring manager welcoming Joe to the team. The note can and should also indicate what happens next. The overall message is – “we are organised – expected you – we value you – welcome”.

How did you feel when you first started?

3.  Induction. It is always good for the hiring manager (or a representative) to personally take the person to HR and / or the induction room – explaining the process for the day. It gives the new hire a feeling of personal attention and “I am not just a number”. The induction program should cover (and most inductions do) an overview of the company, the organisational structure, site values, rules and responsibilities. The induction team should be engaging, informed and able to handle basic questions. This demonstrates “we know our company and our business”. The facilitator of this session is normally the first or second company representative Joe meets and the interaction will give Joe insight into “how things are done”. Employers should therefore ensure this is not simply a DVD / video type induction, with a register to sign at the end. This session should be the one where Joe gets first-hand information on how we as the employer do things around here. Induction is most effective when there is a set date and a set program with numerous subject matter experts as presenters. The key presenters should include OHS and HR as a minimum. Once the induction is complete the hiring manager or representative should collect the new hire personally and take Joe to the workstation / work place.

Who is running your induction program?

4.  Introduction and Orientation.  This is a weird stage of the on-boarding process. It normally involves a flood of names and faces and at times, a feeling of awkwardness. Pending the size of the section / department this is the stage where the new hire is introduced to the team and it normally goes as follow: The hiring manager and Joe walk about and Joe gets introduced to everybody possible. When Joe is done – he won’t remember 30% of the people – yet they all know Joe (“Hi Joe”). In my experience the “buddy system” seems to be more effective. I will not deep dive into this – it is a story for another day. Saying that – the induction and orientation is critical. Some level of personal attention, some structure and/ or a program (one page with names and position titles) goes a long way to ensure Joe familiarises himself with the team members. Having a dedicated workspace (or locker) is a small thing, but goes a long way to indicate “we are ready for you”. A scheduled formal meeting with the hiring manager on day one is critical. This is the stage where the hiring manager re-establish the relationship, whilst setting expectations.

Let me then stop here.

The objective of this article is to speak to the importance of the on-boarding process. This is such a critical time and I believe employers sometimes miss the opportunity to impress by doing the basics right the first time, whilst ensuring the new hire (Joe) gets into the swing of things quickly. In times where productivity and efficiency is paramount – even the “Day 1” experience is critical.

Ben Swarts, Regional Manager – Africa, Europe & the Middle East

Email Ben

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