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Is your company getting onboarding?

Reading an American article on the topic of onboarding it started me thinking about to what degree is our industry successful at onboarding? What impact does an organisation’s onboarding program have on recruitment? How does a company’s onboarding program relate to the success of a new employee we have placed with them?

According to David Lee from HumanNature@work the term onboarding refers to “the process of integrating new employees into the organisation, of preparing them to succeed at their job and to become fully engaged, productive members of the organisation. It refers to the initial orientation process and the ensuing 3-6 months.”

In our experience few of our smaller travel industry companies have a structured orientation program. New employees are told where things are then given guidance as they go, the approach of ‘learn on the job’. Some larger travel companies and hotel groups have orientation programs which can run up to one week.

Unfortunately we have experienced candidates leaving their new job within a few weeks, and sometimes even days, because of a non existent or poorly structured orientation program. A common reason is the lack of guidance and instruction led them to feel lost. New employees hate having to interrupt their busy new colleagues to ask simple questions that would help them get started in their role. They also lost confidence in their decision to join the company, sensing their new employer to be unorganised and unprofessional.

We all know what it’s like starting a new job and this should assist us in designing our orientation programs from a new employee perspective.

Some onboarding mistakes noted in the article that I could readily identify with include:

Information overload on day one

Trying to cram too much information into a short period of time, learning everything about the company in one morning session. This leaves the new employee feeling overwhelmed and negative, with the impression the company doesn’t do things properly. We should break information down into bite sized chunks and select the most appropriate medium for them to access information, be it the company intranet or website etc.

Believing that a hurried, second rate, disorganised orientation program has no negative effect on employees

This sends the message that you run a less than professional company. New employees experience great anxiety when they don’t have a good understanding of what is going on or why something is done in a particular way. This leads them to feel vulnerable and thus insecure and they come to hasty conclusions based on their minimal information. It also sends a negative message to all existing employees.

Making your orientation program dull and boring

Filling out forms, speakers droning on about rules and regulations is not the way to go. One of the most important roles of the orientation program is to create an inspiring experience that reassures new employees that they have made the right career choice and lay the foundation for high employee engagement. Your orientation should include messages along the lines of: “we’re happy you’re here; you’re part of a great company; this is why your job is so important; you’re part of something great; you matter.’

Using the sink or swim approach to onboarding

Throwing a new employee into the job without appropriate support and training. It dramatically increases the odds of an employee leaving. It also communicates to all employees two damaging messages. Management doesn’t care about their people and management doesn’t have common sense.

Using the ‘no news is good news’ approach to follow up.

Providing a level of support to new employees after their orientation is most important. Establishing a mentor and periodic check-ins communicates that you care and value the employee and this leads to engagement and loyalty. Actively seeking them out to find out how they’re going – this is critical as it makes it easy for them to tell you what’s on their mind.

Research has shown the benefits of successful onboarding to be a reduction in staff turnover, improved attendance, increased productivity and the highest levels of employee engagement.

I think that is definitely worth working towards. I wish you every success with your recruitment. 

Sandra Chiles