The onboarding process is one of the most important parts of an employee’s experience and it sets a precedent for what they can expect from their new employer. You only get one chance to make a great first impression and for new employees the first few weeks are critical.
“40% of people that leave a job in the first three months leave because of a lack of onboarding. That’s costly to a small business, especially if you’re paying recruitment fees. You've gone to all the hard work of getting someone through the door and they leave in the first three months. And for a small business that can leave a gaping hole."
In Angie’s experience, onboarding is often overlooked by small businesses. New employees get put in front of a desk, and are not clear on what they’re doing, what their role is, or whether they’re doing their job correctly.
Critically, a structured onboarding process not only improves the chances of new employees staying but can also help them to get established and performing faster.
For Angie, it all comes down to inclusion and planning.
“People want to feel part of something. They want to know where the business is headed, to feel like they are part of the journey, and understand what their role is within that.”
Angie shared with us some top tips for small business owners wanting to successfully integrate new employees into their business.
Onboarding shouldn’t start on day 1
Notice periods often mean a long gap between accepting an offer and actually starting the new job. Angie explains that it’s important to bridge this gap so that new employees show up feeling welcomed.
“There’s a lot of mileage in the MD or owner of a small business reaching out to a new employee before they arrive for their first day. An email or phone call to say how glad they are for them to be joining gets them into that culture before they join and means it’s not so stark and nerve wracking when they arrive.”
Create a roadmap
When starting a new job, having the first few weeks planned and diarised can help provide a clear roadmap of what needs to be done and how individuals will be supported. It also reinforces that they have a valuable role to play within the business. Regular catch-ups with the line manager will be important during this settling in period too.
“It’s about saying, this is what week one, month one, quarter one looks like for you. These are the key meetings, this is the training you’ll need to undertake. All this keeps people motivated and engaged. New starters can often feel uncomfortable asking questions and if unsure of their role and expectations, there's a risk they may become disengaged, their performance slips and ultimately, they move on.”
Nobody likes being the ‘newbie’. When people first join a company they want to make a good impression and do a good job, but they also want to feel connected to the rest of the team. You can make this easier for your new employees by ensuring they have time scheduled with key internal stakeholders. Even if it’s just a five-minute phone call or a quick stop by their desk for colleagues to introduce themselves and what they do.
“Again, it’s about inclusion. Simple connections will be invaluable in helping new starters understand how the business works and their role within it.”
Shout about it
There’s nothing worse than turning up to your first day in a new job and no one knowing who you are or what you’re doing there. It sounds obvious but it’s so important everyone in the team knows about the new starter before they arrive. In a small business, there shouldn’t be any excuse. Use your internal newsletter or intranet, or simply send out an email with a picture and brief profile introducing the new starter.
“Make an announcement. Tell people James is starting today so please say hi to him and make him feel welcome. Tell people where he’s come from, what his skills are and how they can support him to feel part of the business. Make a fuss of people when they join, and they’ll feel valued.”
Don’t forget the small things
The first day in a new job can feel like a whirlwind of names, passwords and to-do lists. But it’s important not to forget the small but important things, such as where to get lunch or coffee.
“Onboarding isn’t just about getting people to read a health and safety manual. On day one, buddy them up with someone who can tell them the important little things like where to get a decent sandwich and coffee from.”
As Angie puts it, "In a small business, there's no slack. Everybody has a really important role to play and if everyone is working together, especially those that have only just joined, you can't go far wrong.”