Did you know that the number one predictor of length of employment is the quality (or lack thereof) of the onboarding experience?
That’s right: research tells us that the better the onboarding, the greater term of employment. Of course, the converse is also in place. When someone has an onboarding experience that’s meh at best and shoddy at worst, they won’t be hanging around the organisation for very long. The recruitment merry-go-round continues, costing big in both time and effort, not to mention that line item on the Profit and Loss statement.
Good onboarding is just one part of the picture in attracting and retaining people in an employment environment where staying in a role for 10-20 years is now almost unheard of. While the world of work has changed, what I’ve noticed in my 25+ years of Human Resources is that the way this vital role is viewed or treated hasn’t changed. In some organisations, HR is seen almost as an afterthought, brought in when the you-know-what hits the fan. Yes, we’re all aware of the stereotypical view of HR as the fun police (thanks The Office!) but what’s missing is an acknowledgement that with a solid, stable scaffolding in workplaces people are enabled to perform. When people work in a company with great HR practices they simply feel valued. It’s as basic as that. In terms of recruitment and retention, this means that when someone is approached on LinkedIn they don’t even really consider having a chat with a recruiter or referral. Their response is a resounding ‘thanks but no thanks, I really love my role and the company I work for.’
The interesting thing here is it’s rarely about the dollars and cents. It’s the small things that make a difference. We know that competitive pay and incentives are expected and should really come as standard.
So, what are some strategies and initiatives that fall into the realm of attracting and retaining wonderful talent?
Obviously, the power of a good onboard can’t be underestimated. As I said at the top of this piece, studies tell us this is a significant factor in longevity of employment. However, there’s a step before this which is a smidge less tangible but equally important in attracting and retaining people, and that’s a super-clear vision, both in terms of clarity of a role but also the vision of the organisation. It’s this overarching vision that the new starter is going to be working towards within their role, after all. For this reason, it’s critically important to keep existing employees up to speed with movement across the organisation. Despite the proliferation of surprise parties and gender reveals across social media, on the whole, but especially at work, people rarely like a surprise or feeling like they’re the last to know. Communicate when people are starting and when people are leaving as a baseline.
Good onboarding is multifaceted but is basically about communication. As a HR practitioner I’m actually a fan of over-communicating. Welcome people via email, share their photo so their new colleagues know who they are. Buddy systems are a great way to get someone feeling like they’re ‘home’ at the organisation. I set up a strategy for a client where we created open Slack channels that were basically the water cooler of days gone by, where new people could be made to feel welcome in a more casual format. It’s also important to set expectations and clarify preferences from the beginning. What’s the best way for someone to let the company know that they’re sick or need some flexibility? Who in the company do they let know? Is it their direct manager?