Staff onboarding – what should we keep in mind?

Let me start by telling you a short story about ‘your aunt’s friend’s son’ who took a risk and decided to make a career change. It was a super important decision for him. Check out what happened on the first day of his new job:

After dozens of CVs sent out and many hours spent in recruitment interviews, I finally managed to find that one rewarding dream job. One that is meant to develop me and reassure me that it was a good choice. I was looking forward to my first day of work and wondering what it would be like. I was slightly concerned about the unfamiliar environment and coping with new responsibilities. Finally, when the day arrived, I chose the best outfit to make a good first impression and felt the adrenaline fuelling my steps. When I finally arrived at the door of my new employer, my thoughts were working at top speed and my heart was pounding like a hammer. I said hello to the girls from the administration, who led me to my work station. I met my team leader, and he quickly, almost stumbling over his words, explained what needed to be done. At the end he just said “Well! That would be it. Good luck.” He walked away from his desk and I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into.

Have you heard about similar cases of “not very successful” onboarding? If you would like to find yourself in the role of a recruiter or so-called ‘Buddy’, it is worth putting yourself in the role of a ‘fresh-faced’ employee first. How would you like to be onboarded? What information would be crucial? What would you be most concerned about? I won’t give you the perfect recipe for onboarding, but I’m happy to share my experience and insights that you may find helpful.

Firstly, you need to have a plan. I guarantee that without this, you will get lost in the amount of information, paperwork, organizing equipment or appointing someone to see to the process. The first day is both exciting and stressful. Information overload can be overwhelming. Therefore, in cooperation with HR, management or leaders, it is worth mapping the whole process. It wouldn’t hurt to ask current employees how they would rate their onboarding process and what was most important to them. You may find that the information on how to make coffee from the big coffee machine and survive the day was more important than operating the photocopier!

If it comes to welcome pack – it is not the welcome pack that plays first fiddle here, although it is nice to receive one. Proper presentation to the rest of the team is crucial. The possibilities are many. From a welcome email, to a digital slack card or in-house gamification. It all depends on the organisational culture and the style of work. The Gamfi Report study ‘Onboarding po polsku’ (Onboarding in Poland) states that:

8% of Poles indicated that on the first day either no one took care of the new employee or the team did not even know that a new member would be joining.

The organisation should ensure that the person feels part of the team from the start. It is worth creating opportunities to get to know colleagues and the company structure. And no, I am not referring here to artificially forced integrations in the kitchen. Keep in mind that every person is different – not always willing to do small talks. It looks reasonable to leave space and opportunity for decisions. This also works the other way round – a new employee should know whom to approach with a given issue in order to get an answer to their question more quickly.

Secondly, you need to know the target. Communicate what will be crucial during the trial period and what the criteria will be for deciding on further cooperation. This may seem obvious, but not everyone is talking about it. This way, the person knows what he or she needs to focus on now. Next, let us look at the introduction to tasks and responsibilities. Suppose you are tasked with submitting an email report to the CEO, so by analogy you send it only to the CEO.

After sending, the CEO writes back that the HR I Administration staff members are missing from this email. You didn’t know this because, after all, it was supposed to be an email to the CEO and your supervisor didn’t mention it. And in this case, the role of supervisor is extremely important, as the newly recruited person will be performing tasks according to instructions, so they must be understandable and relevant to the procedures in place. As they say “As you bed, so you sleep” 😉. If sufficient time is allocated for onboarding, misunderstandings and uncertainty on the part of the employee will be avoided. In addition, they will reach full productivity more quickly.

Now let us consider how long an effective and efficient onboarding should take? Well, in practice it is estimated that it can last between 3 and 9 months. So, knowing that this is a multi-stage process, it is important to continue to support and develop the new employee. It is often forgotten that implementation does not end with the first week of work. And finally, the icing on the cake – evaluation of actions. Supervision and regular feedback to the employee will be a hit. And in the other direction – ask the employee what he or she thinks of his or her own onboarding process, so that you can improve the process for the future.

In conclusion, let’s remember that everyone started out once, and as we know, beginnings can be difficult and stressful. That is why it is so important to have a well-organised implementation and to take care of the emotions and feelings of the newly recruited person. It is not only about rigid rules, but also about building trust, belonging or acceptance. In the recipe for ideal onboarding I mentioned at the beginning of this article, add two glasses of open communication, a spoonful of willingness to listen to your needs and a handful of support in case of difficulties. Mix the rest and add as desired 😉.

text written by:

Ewelina Partyka, People & Culture Specialist