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Please don’t go: How improved onboarding can encourage new hires to stick around for longer

Struggling to secure the personnel you need to keep your organisation ticking over? It’s a scenario that is common to just about every other Australian HR department and business leader.

It’s no secret that the unemployment queues we saw weaving around city blocks in 2020, following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, have been replaced by skills shortages across multiple sectors and industries.

A shrinking labour pool, courtesy of two years of closed borders and the resulting decline of skilled workers migrating to the region, backpackers and international students, has seen employers having to work much harder to attract quality candidates to fill their “Situations Vacant”.

Most senior executives don’t anticipate that changing any time soon. Seventy-three per cent of Australian businesses expect to experience difficulty finding and retaining skilled workers this year, according to the Australian Industry Group’s Australian CEO Survey 2022.

And their leaders are acutely aware that not having the talent they need onboard may hold them back, with skills shortages ranking as the third most commonly nominated inhibitor of business growth in 2022.

Starting out strong

Against that backdrop, retaining your top-performing people is no longer nice to have it is imperative for every organisation. Pay rises, more flexible working conditions and other benefits are being offered to both key personnel and workforces at large, in a bid to keep them engaged and motivated. 

While these measures can be effective, there is another way businesses can improve their attrition rates: ensuring each and every new hire gets off on the right foot, with an onboarding process that familiarises them with, and integrates them into, the organisation empathetically and effectively.

Does it really make a difference? Yes, it does. Workers who rated their onboarding experience as ‘highly effective’ were 18 times more likely to feel a sense of commitment towards their new employer, according to a survey by Glassdoor. An earlier study by the employer review site found that a successful onboarding process could improve new hire retention by 82 per cent, and productivity by more than 70 per cent. 

Lifting your game

If your onboarding experience is slowing puttering along rather than hitting it out of the park, you best do something about it right now.

Here are some tips for developing an onboarding experience that will reassure new hires they’ve made the right choice by joining your organisation:

Focus on first impressions

They count – a lot. A disastrous first day or week sends many people sprinting for the exit. That’s disruptive and expensive and can set your organisation back weeks, or even months if the recruitment process has to be restarted from scratch. Conversely, a warm welcome and a well-planned program of induction and immersion activities will have new starters feeling engaged and optimistic about what lies ahead.

Keep up the good work

It isn’t enough to put on a good show for the first week or two. A stand-out onboarding program is typically a long-term affair. By augmenting your initial induction activities with check-ins, training reviews and online courses during the early weeks and months you’ll get a good feel for how your new hires are travelling and whether they need additional support to get up to speed.

Start before they do 

If you really want to ensure those new hires are enthusiastic and engaged from the outset, you’ll extend your onboarding program – backwards, to the moment of hire. For many individuals, the limbo period between accepting a job offer and commencing the role can be a time of apprehension and uncertainty. Checking in, providing a personalised welcome email and some light training materials – think short surveys and quizzes, not full-blown workplace health and safety modules – can get new workers feeling like part of the team, even before their first day rolls around.

Automate the process

Making sure a new employee experiences a modern onboarding experience is one thing. Making sure it happens consistently with every new hire is key. That’s because onboarding is typically a complex exercise that involves multiple steps and multiple personnel; each of whom must be relied upon to play their part. 

Automating the onboarding process will allow your organisation to eliminate much of the legwork, and the opportunity for human error or omission. Each step, from issuing new starter forms to providing software licences, can be incorporated into a streamlined workflow that prompts team members to act when they need to and ensures no steps are overlooked or forgotten.

Retaining the people you need to succeed

Whatever the nature of your business, your people are your biggest assets. With one of 2022’s toughest challenges potentially being the attraction and retention of the personnel you need to operate effectively, doing all that you can to get new recruits off to a great start by automating critical elements of your onboarding process should be one of your top investments, as well as focusing on retaining your highest-performing talent with modern digital solutions and career advancement opportunities.

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Chris Ellis

Chris Ellis

Chris Ellis is Director Pre-Sales for Nintex, the global standard for process management and automation. He is responsible for advising customers with best practice process strategies in support of enabling their corporate strategy. Chris has more than 15 years of experience in software consulting and engineering.

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