What is Onboarding?

1st April 2015

Many of us will have been onboarded without even knowing it. Some of us will have missed the onboarding opportunity altogether – and once you’ve missed it, you’ve missed it for good.

But what is this thing called onboarding?

When a new person joins an organisation, they are being brought “on board”. So onboarding is simply someone joining your company, right? Well, not quite. It’s more of a process, perhaps even a philosophy – a way of maximising the effectiveness of the new employee by getting them up to speed as soon as possible.

Everyone who has started a new job will be familiar with the disorientating effect it can have. If you’re joining a company with ten or more employees, you’re suddenly plunged into a whole new culture, where people know the rules and are comfortable in each other’s presence. You don’t even know where the toilets are or how to address the directors.

The process of onboarding aims to minimise this disruption and ease the new employee into the new working pattern. It’s a process that should involve everyone the employee will come into contact with, and it should be planned in advance. The worst thing you can do with a new employee is to assume they’ll find learn the ropes on their own; they will spend several hours a day working their job out and assessing the relationships they have with colleagues, and this could last several weeks.

Good onboarding practice

Anyone who has had a number of jobs will know that there’s a spectrum of experiences over the first hours and days of a job. At one end, you have to tell a receptionist who you are before you’re sent down a corridor to knock on door 101. At the other is the full meet, greet and guided tour. What employers often fail to grasp is that these initial impressions stay with the employees until proven otherwise.

If their welcome is curt and if colleagues seem unaware as to why the employee is here, there’s a good chance the employee will have one eye on the job ads from day one.

If they believe they’re a vital part of the team and are made to feel comfortable, they’ll probably be willing to commit themselves to your company.

We’ve written five onboarding tips to give you some starting points, but because every company’s structure and inter-personnel relationships are different, you should give some thought to how the tips can be applied to your own situation.

Good onboarding leads to better retention

Ultimately, onboarding isn’t just about reassuring a fellow human being on what could be quite a stressful day. It’s about retention of valuable employees who have shown that they’re willing to apply their talents to making your business a success. We all know that it’s much more cost-effective to hold on to and to develop good staff than it is to continually be chasing after them; so start as you mean to go on, by making them feel like part of your organisation from the second they walk through the door.