Getting onboarding right
Onboarding and employee experience are key buzzwords at the moment, which makes sense in a market where it’s difficult to hire and retain top talent. If you’ve found the right person for your organisation, it would be great if this candidate is still the right person after a few weeks, months or even years.
While most organisations have an onboarding programme, not every organisation has clearly embedded development and performance management into their programme. Onboarding is the perfect opportunity to create buy-in into these processes and generate insights for both the employee and the organisation.
Onboarding is more than just a warm welcome
Most onboarding programmes are built on multiple pillars. These typically include elements such as:
- Social (quickly getting acquainted with your colleagues and feeling like a you’re part of the team)
- Operational (getting the right equipment to get started and knowing what is expected of you in your work),
- Strategic (gaining an awareness of the organisation’s mission, vision and culture, and how these elements relate to your role).
As a rule the first two pillars, social and operational, are focused on one-way communication. Sometimes they operate more from a marketing perspective than actually focusing on onboarding. In more cynical terms: look at how great our organisation is and how well we’re taking care of you. This may sound a bit silly, but in many cases that about sums up what happens.
The third pillar, the strategic one, serves another purpose: To what extent is the new employee aware of how and why the organisation does what it does? And even more importantly: does the culture of the organisation align with the employee’s motivations, values and goals?
Make no mistake: the first two pillars are important and certainly not something the organisation should ignore. But in the end, it’s the third pillar that accomplishes the real onboarding, especially in the post-pandemic workplace.
From candidate experience to employee experience
Strategic onboarding starts in the recruitment phase: are the applicant and organisation a good fit for one another? Not only in terms of the role requirements, but also in terms of culture-fit and values-fit. This type of information can be gathered via the selection assessments and interviews. The final moment of truth is when the employee is hired: is he or she the right fit for the organisation? And how do we sustain this, even if circumstances or expectations change? The onboarding process begins…
Onboarding: the natural link between recruitment and development
Instead of putting the information gathered during the selection assessments and interviews to one side after the employee starts, here’s how you can strategically integrate it into the onboarding process.
Within an initial meeting between the employee and his/her line manager, the discussion can centre around what this employee is doing and how he’s experiencing the job and the organisation. This shouldn’t be one of those run-of-the-mill meetings. Instead, it should focus on performance and development specific to that employee, the opportunities offered by the organisation, and the organisation’s long-term objectives. After all, you already know (thanks to the selection assessment) the employee’s strengths and areas where they may need development. Everybody has areas they need to develop. That highly sought-after employee who ticks all the boxes is very rare. So this type of discussion is the ideal starting point for development.
Continuous performance management – a component of onboarding
Many organisations have already abandoned the performance management interview held with the employee once or twice a year. Where change is the order of the day, it makes more sense and it can be more productive to maintain a continuous dialogue regarding performance and development. Shaping a new performance management system is complicated, especially in large organisations or for managers of large departments. Where are you supposed to find the time for the meetings, what exactly will you discuss, and how do you keep the whole thing clear and structured? In the end, the benefits are obvious: increased agility, the ability to quickly make adjustments, more attention to individual qualities, and a stronger focus on development.
Starting with performance management during the onboarding process not only sounds logical, it is logical. Both the organisation and the employee immediately know where they stand and what’s expected of them. It also helps the employee to know where they stand, with a clearly defined structure to explore the direction chosen, the employee’s efforts and the organisation’s objectives.
Development: a process of give and take for the employee and the organisation
By quickly initiating and maintaining a development dialogue, you create clear expectations (on both sides). And by doing so, you create scope for targeted development right from the start. What does an employee need or want to improve, and what are the needs of the organisation – now and in the future? As an employee you can quickly figure out how the organisation works and your role expectations. You can gain insight into what the organisation can teach you and what you can contribute to the organisation’s objectives.
An added incentive is that modern employees see attention to personal development as something very positive, and for many, opportunities for development can be a key motivator.
Conclusion: Onboarding is the starting point for development and performance management
Together, recruitment and development are responsible for the ideal onboarding of new employees. And your onboarding process should seek to create a natural pathway from recruitment to development, maximising value for the organisation and value for the individual.
Recruitment finds the ideal candidate for the role and the organisation. The new employee immediately gets to work in order to get the most out of their collaboration with the organisation by immediately investing in development and through give and take. This is explored, discussed and managed through straightforward and open communication with the manager and/or HR. To put it another way: by investing in development at the outset of the onboarding process and creating clear expectations about the performance expected from the employee, you create a win-win situation for everyone.