Welcome to the final part of our Small Business HR Masterclass. This last instalment will guide you through the best practice approach to onboarding new starters, which should get your new employee’s journey with your business off to a resounding success.

We’ve all been there. The newbie, plonked behind a desk and left to figure everything out. Sometimes we’re not even shown where the toilets are, or there’s some pathetic attempt to contact IT and get us a computer or an email address.

This just should not be happening in 2021. In fairness, it’s probably happening virtually in 2021, but you know what I mean.

There’s no excuse not to be prepared. To not have the essentials figured out before someone starts. To not know what the objectives and goals are in order for your new employee to be successful.

Because you planned all of that out previously, after you read the recruitment masterclass, didn’t you?!

Thought so.

Read on for tips on creating a world class onboarding process.

1. Have a structured induction programme

Onboarding and induction are often forgotten. From your perspective, you’ve been through the time-consuming process of advertising your vacancy. You’ve interviewed several candidates. And now your superstar new hire has signed on the dotted line.

But don’t think you can just sit back and relax just yet!

Onboard your new employees well and you significantly increase your ability to engage well with them. They will integrate quickly into your organisation’s culture and you will gain their commitment quickly.

Making new starters feel welcome and valued, with these five steps:

  1. Get started early – make sure everything is ready in advance of their first day. Examples include logins and passes that they will need.
  2. Make it personal – add a personal touch to help them feel valued.
  3. Sweat the small stuff – those details that you think aren’t important, are. Make sure your new employees know where the toilet is. How the coffee machine works. And all the weird and wonderful peculiarities of working in your organisation!
  4. Provide clarity – preferably in the form of a roadmap. That way, your new employee knows exactly what it means for them to be successful.
  5. Communication – make sure they have a direct route to you whilst they settle in. And take the time to check in with them, lend a hand or even just grab coffee.

It’s useful to structure the induction programme, day by day if you have to. This will ensure that the induction process provides all the information you require, e.g., right to work documentation, payroll info, etc.

2. Go above and beyond for your new starters

Make your induction a time to remember for your new employees. They won’t forget how it made them feel when they started. And you’d definitely rather they remember a positive experience rather than just being confused and bumbling around.

Here are some creative ideas that you could add into your induction process. These suggestions will support your goal of creating an exciting and value-adding onboarding experience.

  • Swag! Especially if it’s personalised, it will definitely go down a treat. And you could encourage the sharing of photos on your social media pages, so you’ll tick off a bit of employer branding on the way.
  • Get everyone involved – make sure new employees meet as many people as possible (even if they’ll forget most people’s names to start with) and provide a buddy – someone who is their professional peer – so they feel comfortable to ask any questions.
  • Stagger training. Particularly if you have a lot of mandatory training, try to stagger it across a couple of days so that it doesn’t become one long day of sitting in front of a computer.
  • Develop a presentation that reflects your organisation’s culture, values, people, and history. It’s really nice to give an overview of your business and as you grow (and others take over the induction process), you can still deliver this presentation to maintain a personal involvement.

These are just a few ideas, but don’t forget about the form-filling either. Make a joke of it if you have to, but make sure you efficiently get the data you need, e.g., bank details. It might be boring to you, it might also be boring to your new employee, but it demonstrates that you are a good employer if you show you care about managing the administration of their employment effectively.

3. Some of it can be done beforehand 

Don’t underestimate the value of making a new employee feel valued before they’ve even started. There’s likely to be a line in terms of how much you can ask someone to do before they are officially in your employment but creating regular touchpoints will maintain excitement and build trust whilst your new starter works their notice period.

It might just stop their current employer luring them back, too.

In an organisation I’ve worked for previously, we had branded postcards and the team the new employee was joining would write a brief welcome note. It would then get posted, so they started to feel welcome before their first day.

You can even include some of the ‘boring’ stuff here too. Because whilst some of the essentials are as interesting as watching mud dry, they need to be done. HR policies are a great example – trust us, we write them for a living, so we know they aren’t always full of glitter and sparkles! But they are still vital and it’s important that your new employees know how they are expected to behave on social media, what to do if they are sick, and what the process is if they are harassed at work.

4. Have a robust probation process

 Again, I have seen this process overlooked time and time again.

And then clients come to us when their employee is not performing adequately or something is going wrong, which just makes for a negative experience for everyone involved.

We would always recommend a probation period for new starters, for a period that is reasonable in line with the level of their role. When determining the length of a probation period, you also need to consider how long you feel is reasonable for the employee to be able to be fully capable in their role, and the goals they need to reach to demonstrate this.

Usually three months is reasonable, with six months for more senior roles. The important factor, more so than the timeframe, is the plan that fits into that. We would often advise an initial meeting as part of the new employee’s induction process, to set the objectives for the probation period. We would then recommend a mid-way review meeting, and a final review at the end of the probation period.

This means that you (or the employee’s manager) and the employee have an open line of communication when it comes to them settling into the organisation and their role. And you will be able to pick up on any issues – and resolve them – more quickly.

If you manage probation well, it’s easy for you to confirm an employee has passed their probation and conclude their onboarding. Conversely, if an employee isn’t a good fit or isn’t performing well, it’s usually pretty clear to both parties, and so that difficult conversation – whereby you might decide to extend probation or even terminate their employment – becomes slightly easier.

Are you now a small business Master?

I hope so!

To be honest, you probably already were. We hope that you have taken away a few nuggets of vital information that will give you food for thought or might make you stop and think before you act a bit further down the line.

If there is a topic you want us to expand on or provide more information on, please give us a shout – we are always about on LinkedIn, so get in touch! We’d love you to tell us what you enjoyed about the Masterclass blogs, and how we can continue to add value to you and your business.

And while you’re here, have a look around our website!