Get on board with on-boarding

Familiar with the concept of on-boarding new staff? If not, perhaps you should be...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Only a third of employers provide some kind of 'on-boarding' programme for new staff, according to new research by (of all people) Enterprise Rent-a-Car. And no, that isn't some kind of US Army interrogation method; they're actually referring to the process by which you make new starters feel at home, and familiarise them with the values and culture of your company. The idea is this is good for retention, because your new people are more likely to feel they've made the right choice. And given that 71% of us now expect it, the sizeable proportion who miss out are not exactly getting off to a great start in their new job...

It's worth clarifying exactly what on-boarding means, in this context. We're not talking about a quick chat with HR on that first Monday morning, when they talk about pension contributions and show you the fire exits. We're talking about ways to really engage your new people from the moment they accept the job: mentoring and buddy schemes, pre-start events, even virtual online communities they can join. Respondents to the Enterprise survey said this helped them identify with their new company, put them at ease, got them up to speed faster, made them feel valued, and, in a third of cases, actually reinforced their decision to join. So there's an obvious upside.

As Sir (or should that be Lord?) Alan Sugar will tell you, recruitment is a tough and time-consuming business. So it makes sense to avoid doing it more than necessary. If you've gone through the rigmarole of hiring someone, the last thing you want is for them to quit after a fortnight, leaving you right back at square one. So thinking hard about retention strategies, and allocating some time to give new people some TLC, should be a wise investment. (Ask Sir Alan - his new recruits tend to clear off so quickly that he has to keep having a new TV series every 12 months).

Of course, the caveat to all this is that it's a lot easier to retain staff when they don't have much hope of getting a job elsewhere. So in the current situation, with redundancies rife and unemployment rising, we can't help feeling the next year is unlikely to be a golden age for HR best practice.

However, the best-run firms can surely steal a march here: get your on-boarding right, and your staff may be less likely to jump ship when the tide turns.

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