15 HR Experts Reveal Their Number One Tip to Make Employee Onboarding Productive & Increase Staff Retention

Onboarding new employees in a fun and productive way can help you increase retention and make sure new staff get up to speed fast.

We've all been the new kid on the block at some stage in our careers. Unfamiliar faces, routines and surroundings are enough to make any new member of staff feel unsettled, anxious or quite frankly overwhelmed on their 1st day. If it's your job to make sure the process runs as smooth as possible, get new starters up to speed asap and increase staff retention rates, then you're in luck.

We reached out to 15 leading HR Experts and asked them for their #1 tip on fun and productive ways to improve the employee onboarding process.

Whether you have a procedure in place or are looking for inspiration to start, then you’ll definitely want to check out the list in full. All that remains now is to get out there with your new-found knowledge and take the credit for making a real difference to your business or organisation.

Martine Robins
"The success of any hire is that it's a two way process - it has to work for the employer and the employee"

Firstly, many employers think once the recruitment decision has been made then ‘job done’! The person will turn up to work at the allotted time on the agreed date and slot into the role and company. It is important to regard this as a three-phased process – attraction of candidates, selection of candidates and successful onboarding of candidates. The onboarding is just as important as the first two phases not least because it validates the decision made from the employee’s perspective. Not forgetting that the success of any hire is that it’s a two-way process – it has to work for the employer and the employee.

  • On the first day, employers should have a planned onboarding approach properly scoped out, and it should include meeting as many colleagues as possible, meetings set up with different departments that are relevant to the role in addition to understanding more about the wider business and a ‘buddy’ assigned to that individual. Having someone that can answer questions on a peer level and can provide the informal support is really valuable and should not be underestimated.
  • Engagement is really important – the employer needs to ensure that the new employee is engaged as well as the other colleagues involved in onboarding. If the latter are not, it will show in the quality of how onboarding is actioned and the messages given. So it’s important that all those involved in it do regard it as being an ‘ambassador’ for the business. Also ensuring that the right information is communicated about the business along with the right attitude. As a new recruit, who is eager and enthusiastic, does not want someone who does not like their job/team/company to be onboarding them - the two do not go well together!
  • The culture of a business is paramount to onboarding being fun and productive – ensuring that the ethos is one of inclusivity and that employees do follow this. Being new, there is a steep learning curve and it's hard to feel accepted initially because you don’t know the people or the business. As a company it is important to ensure that there are opportunities to check that the new employee is settling in – meet with them after a month and ask for their open and honest feedback so far and more importantly can they suggest any improvements. By listening and engaging with new employees in this way, it increases their motivation and helps to settle them more effectively into their role and the business. Typically it is a sign of a progressive company too. Also after 3-6 months, when more new recruits come onboard, use the ‘fresh’ new employees in the onboarding process. They are still able to relate to the challenges of being new, and this can provide reassurance to the future new joiners.
  • Finally, some businesses put together a ‘welcome pack’ for the new joiner – it might be a T-shirt or some other items etc. – the point being it does not have to be expensive but thought about. There is nothing worse in feeling that you are not expected on the day you join a business or no one is really prepared. If this does happen, it can be a sign that the rest of your time working there may also be a challenge and you would probably be looking to leave soon afterwards. It is well known that to replace someone on an average salary costs in excess of £30K – at this current time, with scarcity of skills and high employment in many parts of the UK, the figure is probably higher. The most important intangible aspect is the effect of new employees leaving on the remaining staff, and the reputational damage to the employer – when having a good onboarding process is simple and makes good business sense.
  • As an aside now I am working primarily with SMEs, I encourage them to onboard new recruits in the same way that I did in ‘corporate world’. It’s just a question of scalability but still very relevant. Even as an HR professional, I have personally encountered joining a new business with no proper onboarding, and I left shortly after as it was indicative of how the whole business operated. I am a strong believer in ensuring that a new starter wants to feel it was the right decision to join a business and having a solid onboarding process are aligned, and when I have measured this information and reviewed it, it has been borne out accordingly.
Matt Charney
"Make sure to fill a new hire’s schedule with as many 1:1 meetings with their colleagues and stakeholders as possible"

The best way to make the employee onboarding process more productive is to emphasize less self-service and more interpersonal interactions. High touch beats high tech when it comes to joining a company; rather than the trend towards self-directed training, dense online training courses and primarily online communication, make sure to fill a new hire's schedule with as many 1:1 meetings with their colleagues and stakeholders as possible before they come onboard. That way, they can not only put a face to what's often just an anonymous name (and vice versa) but can start building relationships - and getting all their questions answered - from Day One. In short, focus less on the process, more on people. Relationships are, after all, what makes work work.

Suzanne Lucas
"Don't ever think you're just going to wing it"

Good onboarding requires planning before the new employees show up. All the paperwork should be ready to go. All the equipment the employee needs should be waiting at her desk. Lunch should be planned. But, most importantly, a plan should be in place to help the new employee to feel comfortable and get up to speed with her work. Don't ever think you're just going to wing it. It makes for a miserable first week for your new employee.

Todd Raphael
"Be unique and create a welcome video that everybody can be involved in"

Be unique and create a welcome video that everybody can be involved in. One approach is to get a certain number of employees — say, 10 — filmed one by one giving the employee a tip as to how to have a fun and successful tenure. Once completed put this together into one montage. The tips can be both serious and light-hearted, e.g... (“Don’t eat the leftover crumb cake Danny brings in," etc.)

J.T O Donnell
"Give them a roadmap with milestones of what they should know and be capable of doing in the first 30, 60, and 90 days"

The secret to successful onboarding is to put a step-by-step guide or checklist in the hands of the new hire. Give them a roadmap with milestones of what they should know and be capable of doing in the first 30, 60, and 90 days. Provide a list of exercises for them to complete. This will help them feel organized and a sense of purpose. It also teaches them to self-on board, so they take ownership of the process. An example of this can be found here.

Caroline Wood
"It’s all about the admin housekeeping"

In our experience, it isn’t so much the fun aspect of onboarding that is important to new employees but instead all the information they need to make the commencement of their employment run as smoothly as possible.

So as an example, they’ve already had their job offer pack before they start, so they are clear on the important T&C’s. Then once they have started they are in a timely fashion provided with their contract of employment, data is collated, such as bank details (let’s face it, we all work to get paid!) and they are taken through a thorough induction – it’s all about the admin housekeeping initially, so everyone knows where they stand right from the beginning!

Whether the business is a start-up or an SME, employees will appreciate onboarding efficiency as this goes a long way in ensuring from the beginning a reputation for the business where they are known for being organised and care about their employees.

Andrew MacAskill
"It is also important to make sure all technology is set up and in place from 9am on day 1 (first impressions last!)"

Employee onboarding works best when the new hire has a mentor/coach assigned to them who is not their direct Line Manager as it fosters less guarded, open conversation during the tricky first month. It is also important to make sure all technology is set up and in place from 9am on day 1 (first impressions last!), there has been clear communications on the incoming arrival internally and a clear expectation of what good looks like in the first 90 days is documented between the hiring Manager and new employee.

8.	Paula Clapon
"We planned a treasure hunt to discover our company values and our culture"

We ran an interesting activity for our last onboarding session. We planned a treasure hunt to discover our company values and our culture. We asked our new hire to discover the answers to some questions, and they could only get only one answer from a team member. It was a fun activity that made it easier for our new colleague to connect with the rest of the team and get a feel for our culture. We concluded the exercise with an informal get together that proved to be a great way to welcome them to the company.

Suresh Parakoti
"New hires have one point of contact in our company that will work closely with them for any help or guidance should they need it"

It's always exciting when new people join your team. There's a sense of hopefulness of your business flourishing with the contribution of the new additions. That's why we make sure that we get off on the right foot by providing our new hires information on all the required onboarding processes and personal documents we may need. New hires have one point of contact in our company that will work closely with them for any help or guidance should they need it, rather than direct them to different departments. Newly onboarded employees are explained the purpose of our organization, and how their experience and expertise would impact the overall vision of the company, thus making them feel valued and empowered from day one.

Sue Green
"It is an opportunity to provide motivation, support and leadership"

It's really easy to make assumptions that because a new employee may have the skillset that you are looking for to jump to conclusions, hoping that it will all work out fine. It’s almost guaranteed that they’ll have superficial knowledge of who you are and how you do things. Getting this crucial, first few days wrong, could see an employee switch off, become demotivated and leave, ultimately creating big costs for you as you seek a replacement. First impressions work both ways, each time a new person joins a team, and is introduced to colleagues, it is an opportunity to provide motivation support and leadership. You may have seen photos online of a pristine desk with brand new laptop, pens, t-shirts all sorts of things supporting the assertion that your new person joined a progressive, future thinking and high delivery organisation.

Jay Bhayani
"I always try to spend some dedicated time with a new starter in their first week including lunch out of the office"

I feel that it is imperative to future employee engagement to ensure that the onboarding process when an employee starts with my company has impact. It is not only about giving them the necessary information regarding their role and the running of our business, but also getting to know them better in order to get the most out of them.

I always try to spend some dedicated time with a new starter in their first week including lunch out of the office, and follow it up with regular 1-2-1’s in order to check that they are both comfortable and confident in whatever they are doing.

Ali Hackett
"Having a proper keep warm strategy in place is crucial, otherwise all the hard work during the process goes to waste"

It’s so important to get on-boarding right. Connecting new starters with peers, buddies and mentors gives them a head start into the business and their role, creates a ready-made network and continues to foster engagement – often at a time when candidates can get cold feet. Having a proper keep warm strategy in place is crucial, otherwise, all the hard work during the process goes to waste. Creating a plan with different touch-points; a handwritten note from a hiring manager, an email from a peer, an online chat session with a new team are thoughtful and fun ways of maintaining a connection.

Lexie Newnham
"A great way to make sure day one is a breeze is to call the employee the week before they start and make sure they know what their first day will look like, what to bring and what to expect"

The most important thing about onboarding is to make sure new team members get a planned, structured introduction to the company and their roles so they feel part of the organisation and in touch with how they can contribute to its success from day one. Spreading this process across several teams also takes the pressure off the one line manager to explain absolutely everything about the business, making the process more productive and enjoyable for everyone.

Once you have that part locked away, you can make it fun through simple things that encourage team bonding, like giving teams budgets to take their new starters out for lunch on their first day or holding a social so everyone can get to know each other in a less formal setting. A great way to make sure day one is a breeze is to call the employee the week before they start and make sure they know what their first day will look like, what to bring and what to expect.

Chris Berry
"Sharing a fun fact about themselves is a great icebreaker"

Here at CIPHR part of our onboarding process includes introductions from new employees at our regular company meetings. Sharing a fun fact about themselves not only breaks the ice but also provides an 'icebreaker' and talking point to enable new staff members to engage with their colleagues.

Jerome Forde
"Proper onboarding is key to retaining, and engaging talent"

Proper onboarding is key to retaining, and engaging talent. Making it fun and productive requires planned person-to-person engagement coupled with the effective and efficient management of the contractual, policy and administrative requirements.

Make someone responsible!

A new employee wants:

  • Their choice of employer to be validated
  • The tools to be successful in their new role

Help them understand policies, processes and workflows while integrating with culture.

  1. Manage the contractual, policy and other briefings in advance as much as possible. Allow the new employee to sign, review documents, organisation charts, videos et cetera before they begin. Get badges, computers, desks et cetera before they walk in the door.
  2. Make “day one” one of anticipation to meet people, learn the practicalities of their role and get started.
  3. Plan time and space among management, peer group (reports) for engagement about the work, goals, structure and ‘ways we do things around here’
  4. Onboarding needs a plan fitted to the seniority, role and purpose of the new employee. Make the new employee confident in their ability to be successful in their new role. Protect them from modes of working, behaviours and misunderstandings which would impede their ability to make progress.
    If, for example, employees joining mid-career will have significant demands for delivery almost immediately. They need to appreciate any differences in culture (from their previous employers) and how to leverage those differences using their managers, mentors and staff to achieve the goals for which they were hired.

Get an instant quote online today for RFID Wristbands, Personalised Lanyards and Printed Plastic Cards.