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Employee Wellness & Total Rewards

The Importance of a Positive Hiring and Onboarding Process: Insights and Best Practices

Amy Davies

CEO, First30

The hiring and onboarding process plays a crucial role in shaping the initial experiences of new employees, particularly in industries facing labor shortages and high turnover.

Why is the hiring process important for employers?

In some industries (I.e. manufacturing, technology, trucking, healthcare, etc.) there is a labour shortage, and turnover is high. Despite a labour shortage, and a high level of competition for top talent, many employers are still operating on the premise candidates should feel lucky to be interviewed for open roles.

The job descriptions say it all. Job ads are still overwhelmingly employer centric “Here’s what we require from you…” followed by a laundry list of qualifications and job tasks, rather than “Here’s what we offer to our employees, how we treat our employees and the benefits of working with us…”

Employers run multiple rounds of interviews, that can take weeks and even months, causing top candidates to drop out. A sought-after candidate will not waste their time with a subpar candidate experience. The candidate experience says a lot about how they will be treated as an employee, leading to disengagement even before their start date.

Hiring processes are a future employee’s very first impression of a business. They should be designed to engage candidates, to make them excited about the business and, in a scarcity era, to win them over! In order to be effective, thought must go into each touchpoint of this experience.

For reference, by “top talent” I’m referring to resourceful, creative employees, and those with a high level of experience and/or specialized skills (I.e. AI experts, developers, operations experts, nurses, etc.)   

How does the onboarding process imprint on employee experiences long term?

Imprinting occurs during periods when we are cognitively highly receptive. Imprinting happens when we interact with anything new: a new restaurant, a new brand, new people and a new workplace.

It’s from these initial interactions, we build what’s referred to as a ‘belief system’. Once established, a belief system can be very difficult to change. This is one of the reasons making a positive first impression with new employees is so important. It’s true what they say, we do NOT get a second chance to make a first impression.

How does a positive first impression correlate to employee retention?

Imprinting positively will lead to higher levels of engagement among new hires, lower turnover (research shows that 33% of new hires quit within their first 6 months), and higher speed to productivity.

Employee turnover is expensive. It costs 30 – 50% of an employee’s salary to replace them. That doesn’t account for the soft costs like employee morale as the result of high turnover, or operations slowdowns.

Effective onboarding can reduce new hire turnover by 82%.

It’s shocking to me the frequency with which companies deprioritize revamping and improving the employee onboarding experience. When we consider the importance of onboarding to employee retention, engagement, the increased speed to productivity, the money, and resources that will be saved, the return on investment seems so clear. Still, so few companies take these simple steps.

What are the components of a positive hiring process that create lasting impressions?

There are several simple ways that hiring and onboarding practices can create a lasting and positive impression on candidates and new hires:

  1. Ensure interviewing processes don’t drag on: A rule of thumb is three interviews within a three-week period.
  2. Be responsive to candidates: Ghosting candidates is becoming an epidemic. Just because a candidate wasn’t chosen this time, doesn’t mean they won’t be perfect for a future role. Set a standard to be responsive and notify candidates if they did or did not get the job. It will benefit the organization in the long run, and it’s the right thing to do on a human level.
  3. Train interviewers so the laws are followed: Ensure that anyone who interviews candidates is aware of current laws and illegal interview questions so these are not asked during interviews.
  4. Be Inclusive: Ask multiple times if a candidate requires accommodations. Even if they say “no” initially keep asking, and share with them the ways in which the organization accommodates employees with Disabilities. Many Disabilities are invisible and the more times we ask about accommodations and demonstrate we welcome diversity, the more likely a candidate is to ultimately share the accommodations they require to succeed.
  5. Implement a “preboarding” program: It can be a long wait from the time a job offer is accepted until an employee’s first day. Don’t wait for an employee to walk through the door to get them engaged and excited about starting. A few ways to effectively preboard an employee include:
    • As a manager, send them a note once the offer has been signed back to let them know how excited you are they’ve accepted the offer.
    • Set them up with a new hire buddy who contacts them before their start date to answer any questions they might have about the organization, the culture, the dress code, etc.
    • Send them some swag, like a branded coffee mug, reusable water cup, notebook, jacket or hat (people LOVE swag!).
    • Send them some short videos with “fun facts” about the company.
  6. Let them come in late and leave early on their first day: Change is difficult for people, and managers can have trouble getting organized in time to have a new hire start as soon as the doors open. This practice benefits everyone!
  7. Make sure they have the tools they need to do their job: Ensure their computer, phone, PPE, etc. are all set up. If they aren’t, have a plan and share the timeline. If there their equipment is not set up, don’t let them sit their staring at an empty desk. Send them home to rest.
  8. Provide links so new hires can easily revisit training resources: Have an onboarding program that allows new hires to revisit the content they have learned. Make sure employees have easy access to training materials and information that is part of their orientation.
  9. Help them learn the language: Compile and share a list of the acronyms the business uses. Understanding the language will make them feel closer to the culture. “To have another language is to possess another soul.” – Charlemagne

The bottom line when it comes to onboarding: Something is better than nothing. Have a program in place, even if it’s basic. This will demonstrate to your new hires that you appreciate them and care about their outcome with the organization.

What are the benefits of investing in an automated onboarding platform?

Automating the orientation aspect of the onboarding process means that new hires can be more independent – it also means HR won’t have to spend ½ day to two days teaching the same content again and again in real time. Automating aspects of the program can actually enable deeper human connections.

Memories are fragile – in fact, within a week we forget 90% of what we learn. An automated program will allow employees to revisit and relearn training. This repetition will help new hires retain what they’ve learned during their orientation. It will also mean they don’t have to continually reach out to HR or their hiring managers to complete simple tasks or access important information. This ability to perform autonomously will build confidence and save business resources.

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