Top 5 tips for more efficient onboarding
One of the biggest challenges facing HR professionals is ensuring new employees fit into a company as seamlessly as possible.
The battle for talent has intensified, with some businesses finding it hard to discover skilled team members who can add instant value to their organisation. It has never been more important for firms to keep hold of the very best workers and this has put even more pressure on HR departments.
Companies need to ensure their onboarding processes are fit for purpose, which can be difficult. Here are five tips that could help businesses retain their most talented workers in the long term.
1) Cut out any unnecessary administration and plan ahead
A recent study conducted by HR software solutions provider SilkRoad found just three per cent of HR professionals believe that cutting lengthy administrative procedures and costs would benefit their onboarding strategy. This is a surprising outcome given that 35 per cent of the 250 survey respondents said time constraints were the biggest barrier to successful onboarding.
Nicholas Roi, Managing Director of SilkRoad UK, warned that companies cannot afford to underestimate the importance of onboarding, as high staff turnover can have a negative impact on their bottom line. Employee retention is key, as it can cost twice an existing worker's salary to find and train a new candidate.
"Onboarding is vital for integrating a new employee into the workforce and for bringing them in line with company processes and culture, as well as reducing the time it takes for an employee to reach 100 per cent productivity," he commented.
Many firms are also failing to plan in advance when integrating new people into their organisation. The report found that 43 per cent of HR professionals do not begin the onboarding process until the person's first day with the company, while some leave it even later than this. Mr Roi believes this is a big mistake.
"For the process to be effective it must start before the new hire's first day on the job," he added.
"Existing staff need to be prepared for the arrival of their new colleague and the employee in question should already have some understanding of their role and of the company culture. Without this it will take a lot longer for them to settle in, to feel engaged and be fully productive."
2) Make the most of big data
Big data can be hugely beneficial to HR professionals - but only if it is used correctly. Firms that have a number of HR specialists with strong analytical skills could hold an advantage over their rivals.
In a recent interview with HR Magazine, Thomas Otter, Vice-President of Product Management at software provider Success Factors, said that HR departments are "sitting on a goldmine of data". By combining HR and social information, Mr Otter thinks businesses can better understand their employees' behaviour and motivations.
Speaking at the HR Tech Euro event in Amsterdam in October 2013, he commented: "HR is at a point where marketing was 20 years ago. Marketing is now deeply numerate and they know how to use analytics to make a point."
In the past, it was difficult for HR departments to assess exactly how effective their onboarding procedures were, but big data has changed this. It is imperative that companies do not use big data for the sake of it, though, and they must have a clear strategy in place if they are to extract the maximum value from it.
3) If you have onboarding technology, use it
Many firms are failing to use big data effectively and it seems a lot of organisations are also neglecting modern technology that can make their life much easier. The onus to bring new systems into a business no longer falls entirely with the IT department - other divisions of a company, including HR, have to share some of the responsibility.
Some firms have started using software packages offered by the likes of Onboardia, which was recently successful in the Top HR Products awards held by Human Resource Executive Magazine. The "virtual boot camp" allows new employees to gain access to all of the vital information they need on their first day at work and omits anything that could be taught further down the line.
This means staff are not being overawed with data that they do not require immediately. Such packages can be tailored to suit permanent new hires, temporary staff, contractors and even existing employees.
Certain information can be prioritised and this can range from company ethics and what is expected of new employees to basic things such as what everybody does for lunch.
This sounds simple, but small details can help a new worker to integrate themselves into a business much more quickly. Founder of Onboardia Cathy Reilly said online training programmes are like having "a friend showing you the ropes". The use of social networks, whether internal, custom-made portals, or large, widely-available platforms like Twitter and Facebook can also help matters.
Online training and induction portals allow workers to learn about their new employer at their own pace and in their own way, which takes some of the strain off HR professionals.
4) Help foreign workers to adapt
Skills shortages have emerged in some sectors of the economy and companies now have to look further afield to find the most talented individuals. This is a common issue in Europe at the moment, especially within the IT and engineering industries.
The European Commission has introduced a multitude of legal reforms to make it easier for businesses to employ non-EU workers. In November 2013, the European Parliament voted in favour of draft rules that are aimed at providing foreign students and researchers with more favourable working and living conditions throughout the EU.
Rapporteur for the European Parliament Cecilia Wikstrom said: "We need these people and we have to be more competitive in the global market."
With more non-EU residents expected to take positions within European companies in the coming years, cultural differences are something that HR departments need to be wary of when developing an onboarding strategy. Processes that work well for employees who already live in a particular country may not be effective for foreign staff. For example, an experienced engineer from Southeast Asia may not be familiar with the onboarding techniques used by a German business.
Moving to a new country can be extremely daunting and it is not uncommon for people to become homesick. It is crucial that HR specialists do all they can to ensure skilled professionals have all the help they need to adapt to a new lifestyle and culture.
5) Focus on employees' work/life balance
Some HR departments can become too narrow minded and focus solely on getting new employees up to speed without giving a second thought to their personal circumstances. Highly-skilled professionals are now seeking measures that improve their work/life balance, such as flexible working arrangements.
It can be difficult for HR specialists to train and educate a new hire in the early stages of their employment, while at the same time keeping them happy by offering remote working opportunities.
Research conducted by Canon Europe earlier this year showed the demand for flexible working has risen sharply across the continent.
Sean Suematsu, the company's European Document Scanning Solutions Director, said: "According to our Office Insights Report, European workers want to be mobile with a third now working remotely more often compared to a few years ago and consider mobile technology like laptops, tablets and smartphones as crucial in enabling them to do their job."
With talented professionals so hard to come by, it is important that HR departments find a way to onboard new staff without keeping them tied to the office at all times. Those that fail to adopt more flexible ways of working could lose out to more accommodating businesses in the long run.