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Onboarding - Where do you start?

Onboarding - Where do you start?

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There's the obvious stuff such as the company introduction, policies, and ice breakers with other new starters - but I think onboarding is one of the most significant things that HR and L&D can get involved in, yet it doesn't seem to get much of a mention in articles & blogs, and I often think it's an area which is not invested in as heavily as it could be.

What do you think is important to include in an induction or first few weeks of an employee joining a company, and do you have any good examples from particular companies or personal experiences?

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Paul Matthews MD People Alchemy L&D expert
By Paul Matthews
06th Apr 2016 10:23

Hi Shonette, a huge question!
So here is just one thought…
Inductions should focus more on the what the new starter wants/needs rather than what the organisation wants/needs, especially in the early stages of the induction. That is a subtle distinction, and one way to understand the difference it makes is to ask yourself what you want that new hire to answer when they get the inevitable questions as they arrive home after their first day at work in their new job. And after their second day and so on.
Here is a blog I wrote last year that people rather liked. The tale of the Three Little Starters.
https://www.learnevents.com/blog/2015/06/23/the-tale-of-three-little-sta...

Cheers, Paul

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Replying to Paul Matthews:
Shonette Laffy
By Shonette Laffy
06th Apr 2016 11:27

Thanks Paul - indeed it is a huge question; one we could break out into a few posts I reckon, but figured I'd get the ball rolling by getting people's overall views about the onboarding process and where we can learn & improve.
I agree that whenever I've been involved in an induction it has very much involved me being 'told' about a company, rather than being asked what I need, what I'd like to know etc.
I think it depends on how onboarding & inductions are seen within a company - often it's just a process to do a basic introduction to the company, whereas it has the potential to be a much more collaborative and fun experience not just for the new employee, but for their team members and the rest of the org. I've seen some great examples of companies using apps to onboard new team members weeks before they even join the company - great way to get them feeling involved and excited ahead of time!

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By suebeatt
06th Apr 2016 15:21

Hi Shonette
Firstly - when did induction become onboarding? Is it some fancy Americanism? - sorry - pet hate of mine :)

In answer to your question - previous experience has shown that the things that are most often missed are the little, seemingly insignificant things such as do people have their own mugs, what are the unwritten rules/customs etc. These are things that are really important when you're new as the last thing you want to do is start on the wrong foot with colleagues. It's also important to make sure they have someone to take breaks/lunch with on the first few days so they don't feel isolated. A welcome card from the team on their desk when they arrive is a great idea.

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Replying to suebeatt:
Shonette Laffy
By Shonette Laffy
06th Apr 2016 15:49

Hi Sue - I wasn't familiar with this term until fairly recently, but I tend to think that induction refers to the session/introduction when someone first starts, whereas onboarding is a longer process of introducing them to the company, making them feel at home and generally getting a sense of what they expect & need from the company as well as vice versa.

You list some good examples about office etiquette too - that could be a whole session in itself, particularly the rules around mugs and tea rounds ;)

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Replying to Shonette:
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By suebeatt
06th Apr 2016 15:52

I think of induction as at least the first 90 days so a rose by any other name!

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Replying to Shonette:
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By jjones
06th Apr 2016 16:26

I like the distinction you offer about induction versus onboarding.

I've been set the challenge recently of creating a program for a combined group of existing and new employees as they transition to a new department in the organization, and I'm trying to decide what to call it. It isn't exactly onboarding, or induction, and whilst one person referred to it as a change management program, it needs to have all the elements of an onboarding program from a cultural standpoint, but without the practical elements of starting in a new office. I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts/ experiences about how they would approach this, as I'm a big believer in learning from others.

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Replying to jjones:
Shonette Laffy
By Shonette Laffy
06th Apr 2016 16:34

Interesting - think that deserves a Discuss post of its own (would be interested to hear how the process goes if you decide to write a blog on it - am keen to see more day-to-day posts on here from members!)

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By jjones
06th Apr 2016 15:22

Having delivered induction programs in the past, the sessions that were best received were those that involved interaction from the participants, or which provided information that wasn't readily available/ easily understood (e.g. corporate policies). One good example I remember from my own induction some years ago was a session on the company dress code. The company in question was very conservative and wanted to ensure that people joining understood the corporate culture as well as the dress code itself. Nowadays the business world is usually more relaxed about office attire, and I imagine that session might seem out of touch, but it fitted both the environment and the needs of the new joiners, and always resulted in the best feedback of the day's program.

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Replying to jjones:
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By Rus Slater
07th Apr 2016 14:19

slightly worrying that corporate policies were either not readily available or not easily understood- sounds like a job that needs doing as well as sorting out the induction/onboarding!
:-)

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Replying to russlater:
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By jjones
07th Apr 2016 15:53

Writing policies is hard, given the corporate fear of litigation from employee non-compliance, so I understand why they are difficult to understand. It just makes induction and onboarding on a personal level so much more important.

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By clive boorman
07th Apr 2016 11:39

Hi there - so a few things on-boarding is the process right from recruitment until the end of the probation or when someone is deemed effective. So, it starts even before the individual walks through the door. The idea is that they have a level of familiarity with the business before day 1. That could include welcome calls from the line manager. A full tour of the office before they start (I attended a team meeting with my current employer before my first day). It could also include access to a knowledge hub that lets them know something about travel routes, parking etiquette, dress code; company hierachy, company history, virtual tours around the offices etc.
In the 'induction' part of on-boarding, we have moved away from Chalk & Talk to make the initial education more of a 'discovery' experience where people explore the key things they need to know and come back with info and questions themselves. There's digital content to explore and discover and it's done in a very engaging way - it's written from the point of view of the employee rather than the company 'telling' the new person what's what.
I think it's about making the induction content accessible on-demand and reviewable as and when required. We also use things like tablets and personal mi-fi's so that the new starter doesn't have to sit in front of a PC or be in a training room, they can go out and about and find a space they feel comfortable in. We have actually reduced the time it takes to induct a new person by adopting these practices.

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Replying to clive boorman:
Shonette Laffy
By Shonette Laffy
07th Apr 2016 13:38

Thanks Clive - lots of great ideas in here; I particularly agree that content needs to be on-demand and done from the perspective of an employee - is there much feedback given regarding the process and where new starters get the most value?

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Replying to Shonette:
By clive boorman
11th Apr 2016 09:18

No problem Shonette, I'm not that close to it but my colleague who manages it says that the new starters really appreciate the modern approach i.e. they don't have to be stuck in a classroom; they take their tablet and mi-fi; find somewhere comfortable and consume the content in their own time. It is a blended approach so they come back and discuss in groups so they get a good mixture and I think that's what people like.
From the business point of view the new approach has reduced classroom induction by 50% so they get their people quicker.

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