When you dive into the data, it doesn’t take long to realise that startups need to quickly rethink their onboarding processes:
- Up to 20% of turnover happens within the first 45 days of employment
- 69% of employees are more likely to stay with their employer for at least three years after a great onboarding experience.
In order to shape the way founders think about onboarding a new employee, I break it down into two clear processes:
- Pre-boarding is the period from when a candidate signs up until their first day.
- Onboarding is the period between the candidate’s first day, typically until the end of their probation period.
The pre-boarding experience begins as soon as the candidate sees an employment contract - you want them to say yes, so this is where you do as much as you can to help them to feel part of the team and visualise themselves as part of it. However, once you get the ‘yes’ you’ve been hoping for, all too often, that focus and attention on the candidate dwindles, and they’re put to one side until they join.
Often founders or hiring teams quickly move on to the next priority with the intention of focusing on the upcoming onboarding experience without considering the significance of the pre-boarding experience.
You could argue that the pre-boarding experience is more crucial than the onboarding experience. Why? The market has never been hotter, and while your perfect match has said yes right now, other companies could be putting very interesting offers in front of them before their start date, which could lead them to go elsewhere. Plus, you want your new joiners to be as excited about their new role as they were when they first signed the contract when they eventually join your team. This ‘period of anticipation’ is an opportunity to create genuine excitement and enthusiasm for the role and your company.
From the day the contract is signed you have a chance to proudly display your company culture and give your new joiner a taste of what it’s like to join your business.
Here are some practical tips that can help to transform a new joiner’s experience and make it consistent so that every new hire has a great experience from the moment they say yes to the moment they no longer feel like the newbie.
- Select and delegate key milestones when you or your team will reach out to new joiners before they start
- Define what success looks like in this role at different stages e.g.: on their first day, in their first two weeks, first month, first two months and first three months and create OKRs or goals for your new joiner to aim for within these periods
- How does your approach need to be tailored to allow for a fully remote onboarding experience or a hybrid approach?
Make it personal
- When carrying out reference checks, provide your new hire with contacts from your company so they can complete their own reference checks on you, too - hiring is a two-way street after all!
- Ask your new hires what their favourite food or holiday destination is and design new joiner gifts around them, in addition to sending out company swag
- Communicate to your team that there will be a new joiner and when and include their interests so the existing team can get to know them in advance
- Create a bespoke video or take a team photo (all you need is your phone!) to celebrate them saying yes
- Create a countdown to them joining which can be shared on both sides
- Invite them to any team or company socials and events in the run-up to them joining
- Take them for breakfast/lunch/dinner or even a coffee before they join
- Ask if they’d like any optional upfront reading before they join - some people like to feel prepared in advance of their big, first day
Anticipate up-skilling opportunities
- Your new joiner’s areas for development are at your fingertips - in their interview feedback! What courses or training can you book them into in advance of them joining or what useful reading can you suggest to help them? Perhaps there is someone you can buddy them up with that can help mentor them?
- Hold other Managers to account to ensure all new joiners, regardless of what team they join, are getting a consistent experience.
- Empower your Hiring Managers to understand your culture and the emphasis on retention so you can trust them to own the onboarding experiences for their teams.
- Regular check-ins during the onboarding period are just as vital as during the pre-boarding period. They’re crucial in catching any challenges as early as possible. This approach also ensures you’re creating an open and honest environment.
- Regardless of your company size, automation can free up time on admin tasks related to pre-boarding and onboarding and ensure everyone has a consistent experience while providing a personalised approach. Tools can help to create new joiner workflows and ensure the right people are nudged at the right time to engage in a new joiner’s pre-boarding and onboarding journey.
- For instance, Enboarder helps to professionalise the process and make it feel integrated and seamless from a candidate's perspective.
Some companies are really excelling in the world of pre-boarding and onboarding like Google and Netflix, and let’s be honest, they should, given their size! But in the world of scaling start-ups, there is one company which I most admire for their commitment to onboarding - and that’s AND Digital. You can read more about their approach here. When I joined as their Head of Recruitment, they weren’t much bigger than 60 people but their focus and investment in onboarding was significant.
Some of what they do and what is suggested above can be implemented as quick wins whilst others points may take more planning and commitment.
However, as businesses scale, a consistent and engaging pre-boarding and onboarding strategy becomes ever more significant in this competitive market.