Induction, Orientation and ‘Onboarding’ Skills
Induction and ‘onboarding’ are the processes that should happen when someone first starts a new job.
These processes are largely the responsibility of the line manager of the new recruit, and ensure that new starters are able to settle in quickly and become productive in their job.
These processes are vital in ensuring that you get value for money from your recruitment process. Poor induction and onboarding processes lead to high employee turnover within the first year after recruitment.
This page explains more about what is involved and provides some suggestions for making the process both better and easier for all involved.
Induction/Orientation vs. Onboarding
Induction, orientation, and onboarding are terms that are often used interchangeably. However, some commentators suggest that there are some distinctions between them that should not be ignored.
Induction, or orientation is a process which introduces the new recruit to the team, the office and the organisation. It might include, for example, meetings with the line manager, any direct reports, being shown around the building, and being given information about any health and safety issues that are relevant.
Onboarding is the process that introduces the new recruit to the business, and gets them ready to perform in the job. It should, for example, provide information about:
- The business environment, including challenges facing the organisation;
- The people, such as culture and values of the team and organisation, and information about stakeholders, including their level of current engagement;
- The recruit’s own plans for learning more about the job, and information about possible resources that might be useful.
Some might argue that these are minor distinctions. Importantly, you need a process that ensures that your new recruit understands the business and the job, feels valued, and is able to perform well and meet their potential.
A Successful Induction and Onboarding Programme
Successful induction and onboarding is probably best thought of in several stages: before the new recruit starts, on the first day, in the first week, and in the first month and beyond.
Before they arrive
A successful induction programme will first ensure that the new recruit knows where they should be: they have a desk, and/or suitable equipment, and are ready to start work physically, at least.
This will take significant work before they arrive, to make sure that computer accounts are set up, identity cards sorted, and all the necessary forms completed. This ‘housekeeping’ may be dull, but it is vital to ensure that the new recruit feels wanted on Day 1.
It is therefore best to start thinking about induction the moment your new recruit has accepted the job.
You should also start to set up meetings with other team members, senior managers and any important external and internal stakeholders that you feel they should meet.
Corporate Induction Sessions
Some big employers and organisations run periodic ‘corporate induction days’, where they introduce a batch of new employees to various systems and rules, all in one go.
If this is the situation in your organisation, you will need to book your new recruit onto the first available session.
These sessions tend to run periodically, however. This is fine if your new recruit starts at the right time, but if not, you may find that you need to do a bit more to explain the computer system, or provide health and safety information. You will need to build this in to your thinking and planning about induction.
It is no good saying ‘You need to know about this, but that’s included in corporate induction’ if the corporate induction is not for another month or six weeks.
On the First Day
It is important to welcome your new recruit on the first day, and introduce them to the building and the team.
They will need to know where they are going to be working, who is around them—though it is probably best not to try to introduce everyone all in one go—and the location of some important things like the tea and coffee, canteen, and toilets.
It is also helpful to introduce them to the computer system, if necessary, as well as any other office systems like the photocopier, printers and stationery ordering.
As their new line manager, you should build in an hour or so early on in the morning to discuss the job. They need to know what you will expect from them, and a bit more about the job. You will need to know more about how they like to work, and what they want to get out of the job, as well as their own plans to develop their skills further.
This is the time to start conversations about stakeholders, the business challenges, and the environment, although this will be an ongoing discussion.
You can also tell them about the meetings you have scheduled with other people, and any meetings that they should attend with you or others, perhaps as an observer.
It can be helpful to ask someone else to act as ‘buddy’. Their main functions are to show the new recruit round, answer any questions that they may have on an ongoing basis, and perhaps to take them out at lunchtime on the first day.
The ‘buddy’ does not have to be someone in the team. It can also work well to ask someone with a similar role but from another team, as this will help your new recruit to build their network within the organisation.
It should, however, be someone who is going to be enthusiastic about taking on the role, and prepared to do it properly.
The First Week
The first week is very much an extension of the first day: you should be around as much as possible to answer questions, and keep an eye out to make sure that your new recruit is settling in, and not left out of office or team activities. It may be helpful for them to spend much of the first week shadowing you in meetings.
During this week, they will start their meetings with stakeholders and team members. They will also start to do some work although the level of this will depend on their experience and position—more experienced recruits will start for themselves, but those newer to the workplace may take longer, and need more support and guidance, to realise what they are supposed to do.
You should, therefore, start to assign meaningful work this week, and keep checking in to make sure that they are managing it.
Beyond the first week
Induction and onboarding do not stop after a week, but they do, perhaps, become more a part of standard management arrangements.
Just as you would with any other direct report, you need to schedule regular one-to-ones. These may need to be slightly more often with your new recruit, especially for the first few months. These discussions will need to explore how they are getting on in the job, providing feedback as necessary. They should also continue to explore more about the culture of the organisation and of stakeholders.
While you will need to provide the benefit of your experience, their fresh eyes may also add a new perspective to your thinking, so this is very much a two-way exchange.
It may also be helpful to build in some more informal chats (perhaps by timing your visits to the coffee point strategically), to make sure that they are settling in, and you get to know a bit more about them.
During the first month or so, you also need to make sure that they have had any necessary training, and are able to access all the systems that they need. Think of yourself as a facilitator during this period.
Perhaps most importantly…
Induction and onboarding processes work best when you remember the person involved, and tailor them accordingly.
Nobody wants to have to spend all day by themselves reading, or meeting endless strings of people without any understanding of who they are or how they fit in. Even though some reading and meetings are necessary, make sure that you explain what is going on, and mix activities to provide some variety.