Starting Right

Nadia Alaee, Senior Director of HR Business Partners at Deel on combatting on boarding challenges

Official ONS monthly labour market statistics uncover frequent peaks and troughs in UK hiring. Statistics show that despite some recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic, while the UK employment level is up on the year, it’s down on the quarter.

These ups and downs are inevitable in line with economic changes, so I encourage recruitment teams to remember that it’s normal to see fluctuation in the job market. It’s how these fluctuations are managed – from forecasting the need for potential new hires to the need for a possible slowdown. This means that how recruitment teams engage with their talent should remain a priority if they continue to attract top talent and retain existing talent in an unpredictable economy.

Remember, in your employees’ eyes, you’re only as good as how you treated them through the hard times. So when the job market is more attractive, nothing stops them from going elsewhere if they don’t feel like you have their back.

This is why a successful onboarding strategy is critical all year round. Get it right, and you can reduce attrition and increase employee engagement. However, businesses and recruitment leaders must be mindful of many challenges along the way.

Common challenges to be aware of (and avoid)

Research shows that nearly one in ten employees left a company due to a poor onboarding experience. New hire onboarding is an employee’s official impression of their new company, role, management, and peers, and failing at this means some businesses are falling at the first hurdle. Therefore, to effectively navigate the most common onboarding challenges, it’s crucial to recognise the most likely pitfalls that hinder the seamless integration of new hires.

One common pitfall is failing to define the responsibilities expected from new team members. This includes providing ambiguous job descriptions, leading to uncertainty about an employee’s roles and responsibilities. Clear communication is needed from the get-go to help form the bedrock of successful onboarding, fostering mutual understanding and goal alignment. So, take the time to talk through your expectations of your new employee. Writing a roles and responsibilities document can be a great way to ensure alignment and give the recruit time to read, digest, and respond with any questions.

Equally, it’s essential to ensure new employees have enough information immediately. We all know how it feels to start a new job; there’s much to learn. Remember that while providing necessary information is essential, bombarding newcomers can lead to confusion and disengagement. Ensure your resources and knowledge hubs are organized so the new employee can digest easily. Also, set realistic expectations for what you expect from your recruit in the first three or so months. Reassuring them that it takes time to settle and that you want them to use the first few months to learn and understand information – is a sure way to prevent undue pressure while nurturing a supportive culture.

However, the most complex onboarding challenge is knowing how and when to address a potential mis-hire, and no one wants to find themselves in this dilemma. What’s important is your commitment to creating a supportive and nurturing environment that sets every employee up with the potential and opportunity to succeed. For example, providing additional coaching tailored to an individual can be a great way to help them thrive. But, if they’re still struggling, it’ll be important to empathetically revisit their responsibilities and realign them before deciding what next steps to take. Taking swift action is vital.

Top tips for implementing a successful onboarding strategy

It is crucial to stay connected with new employees at every step of their journey in the organisation, not just at the beginning. This will help maintain long-term success in keeping employees motivated and committed once onboard.

A positive onboarding experience leads to nearly 70% of employees staying with a company for at least three years. This underlines the need for companies to remain engaged with employees throughout their journey with the business.

Organisations can connect with prospective employees during the recruitment stages through personalised communication. This involves sharing insights into the company culture and values, providing regular updates on the recruitment process, offering virtual workplace tours, or even sending personalised messages from team members welcoming them as they prepare for their first day.

As employees navigate the onboarding process, continuous engagement ensures that new hires feel supported and integrated into the company culture from day one. This can include assigning mentors or buddies to provide guidance, scheduling regular check-ins with managers to address concerns or questions, and providing access to comprehensive onboarding resources and training materials. As you set up an employee, you must consider new working methods.

Not all employees will be able to attend onboarding sessions in person. Hybrid is the new norm; according to Deel’s recent Mobility Report,  Brits are working abroad more than ever. This means businesses must cater to a virtual integration process that works for anyone, anywhere. However, onboarding international employees presents unique challenges, including managing cultural differences, language barriers, and logistical challenges related to relocation, all of which can complicate the onboarding process.

Managing employees in different locations can be done by embracing both synchronous and asynchronous communication forms, allowing teams to collaborate in their own time and in real-time. Real-time communication tools, like Slack, fuse both communication types. Slack calls itself a real-time communication tool because people use Slack messages to chat back and forth on the app. But Slack doesn’t require an immediate response, so it functions well as an async tool.

The key to success here will be understanding the challenges that could be encountered along the way and implementing processes and initiatives that can help overcome them. Many tactics can be deployed by HR teams, including conducting sentiment-led surveys and closely monitoring trends in employee turnover to continually gauge and improve satisfaction levels throughout an employee’s time with the company. Ultimately, it’s all about promoting a healthy work-life balance, constantly striving for the best working conditions, and encouraging open communication channels with ample opportunity for growth and development.

Companies have a unique opportunity to distinguish themselves from their competitors by being mindful of how they welcome new employees – and engage with them throughout their careers. Organisations that actively invest in these areas can create an environment in which employees feel genuinely motivated, fully engaged, and fulfilled in their roles for the long term. Remember, being new is hard, so it’s vital to ensure new hires feel welcome, supported, and valued to establish an early sense of belonging in their new role.

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