Transcript: Onboarding – The Missing Link

Hello, and welcome to this week’s HR Uprising Podcast.

This is Lucinda Carney. I’m your Host. And this week’s topic is all about onboarding, everything you needed to know, and maybe, some stuff you didn’t think you needed to know.

So, onboarding, is it the missing link?

The reason we thought this was a relevant topic to discuss was all down to a LinkedIn discussion that came up about 3 weeks ago. I had a conversation with a colleague about HR terminology. And we sort of said, oh well, onboarding, is this just the new word for induction? I wonder, whether it was, or whether it wasn’t, and posted that question out on LinkedIn. The response was amazing.

I think there were 9,000 views of the post and 45 odd comments. It was fascinating. There were lots of themes coming through. You can find the link to that LinkedIn thread here if you are interested because I thought there was some excellent content.

Thank you to everybody who contributed it. I don’t want to read out individual names, because there were too many good ones, and that will just make it a podcast about reading out people’s names, something which would really dull, wouldn’t it?

So, this is where it stemmed from. There’s clearly something to talk about here. On top of that, not only is there something to talk about to do with onboarding, it’s a huge cost that as businesses we’re overlooking. As you know the HR Uprising is about us aiming to rise up and add value in our organisation. It strikes me, that this would not be a bad place to start for many of us.

The success of The HR Uprising Podcast so far

So, this is the topic for this week. Now, before I go into that, however, I want to say a huge and most sincere thank you to everybody, who supported us last week. Many of you know that we officially launched last week although by the time you hear this, it will be 2 weeks ago. We’ve had some initial people listening and giving feedback. But we pushed out all of our content, and launched on Apple iTunes last week.

To such an extent, that I was able to say thank you at the start of my interview with David James, to everybody, because we actually made it into the Top 10 Apple Podcast Business Charts, which was so, so amazingly humbling. And really, really fantastic. I appreciate so much all the comments that we had from people and support.

Saying that I said that last week, and this week, I need to say an even BIGGER THANK YOU, because not only did you put us into No. 7 on the Business Podcast last week, we then went up to No. 1 and held that No. 1 spot all over the weekend. It was amazing to just feel like that. I’ve never had a No. 1 top figure. Sorry about that. It was just really great because it’s great validation that maybe, what we’re doing is of value, and of interest to people. And it’s encouraging because that just means that we’re going to try even harder to carry on, giving you quality content.

Not only did we reach No. 1 and stay there, but we also were mentioned in the new and noteworthy section in the Apple Podcast as well. So, that’s pretty impressive when you think you’re up there with Love Island! So, there you go. I’ve clearly made it.

Anyway, I jest, but the other reason I wanted to talk about the topic of onboarding, was because of one of the things that came through in the conversations and some of the feedback from our initial podcast, was that, many people who listened to it, were like people who just knew me. They said that a lot of the content was more broadly relevant than just the HR. So, I’ve figured that having done a little bit of homework on onboarding, this is definitely a topic that is relevant to, both HR and managers. So, it was a really good one to look at this week.

So, I’m going to give you a heads-up on the quick structure we’re going to look at here.

  • We’re going to briefly explain what onboarding is by the consensus of the social media and the type too.
  • We’ll also look at why is it so important?
  • We’ll also ask- why is it even worth us bothering about?

So, the structure of this podcast, the idea here, is, I thought I’ll just chat briefly through,

What this podcast covers

  • Why is onboarding even a thing?
  • Why is it something we need to consider?
  • What is it?
  • What’s the social media consensus of it?
  1. And some thoughts that we had by going out and talking to people. We came up with 5 different types of onboarding.
  • Let’s say, 3 different types of people that require onboarding.

So, it became a really broad topic. And let’s see, whether this is your experience.

So, first of all, why is onboarding important?

Well, largely, we want to add business value, because of the cost of losing people. It’s so scary. I looked at figures, and there’s a range of figures out there. But two stood out. One was at SHRM, The Society of Human Resource Management. And the other was Harvard Business Review. But there were plenty of other similar information, including meta-analysis.

The figures that you’re seeing, are that something like, or up to a third of people were actually choosing to leave the business within their first 6 months. Well, how scary is that? Particularly, when you consider that figures I’ve seen, were that, the cost of bringing someone on board, is equivalent of 6 to 9 months’ worth of the previous incumbent salary.

So, you’re bringing someone on board, to get them up to speed, it’s costing you. Let’s say, you’ve got a £30k person. Let’s say, it’s costing you £20k to get them up to speed, and then they leave. We then have to go over that all over again. So, it really does again bring home this fact that we spend loads of money on recruitment, and then it stops in many cases.

Certainly, in my experience, hopefully, not in your organisation. And that’s what I think onboarding needs to be, because we need to consider, why are we operating a process or we’re part of a process as custodians of the people’s stuff, we’re operating a process that’s broken, and there are gaps in it throughout the talent journey, let’s say, where money is haemorrhaged.

Going back to the point of The HR Uprising, we want to bring value. We want to support each other. And this is in bringing value. I think some of these ideas, or I hope some of these ideas that have come out, I’m going to show in this podcast, might be helpful to you in your organisations.

So why do we want to carry out onboard? Because we want to avoid the haemorrhaging of talent and cash, and add more value to the business.

So, in what time period does onboarding take place?

But what sort of period of time, are we talking about when we’re saying onboarding? Or, in my question, was, oh, is it like the old days? You know, good old induction, where you enter and sat on the training course for 3 days. Or actually, as a pharmaceutical sales representative, which is an early job I did, it’s a 6-week training course. Imagine the cost of that. Even then I’m not sure, if you arrive, you’re ready to go. There’s still plenty of learning that you need to do on-the-job.

So, the consensus from what onboarding was, or maybe, the duration of time that it related, tended to be, that it was, the point in time, from when an interested candidate has accepted your offer, and it goes through to the point, at which they are a performing and an engaged member of your organisation.

So, I guess you could find that, it’s actually, some people never make it. And that let’s say, it’s probably a 6 to 9-month period. I’d say there might be a month to 3 months, in between leaving their old job and joining you. Then perhaps, 6 months would be the onboarding phase. Certainly, that would seem like common sense. Because very often, a probationary review period is 6 months, isn’t it? So, that might fit.

So, we know why it’s important. We know what period of time we’re talking about. And essentially, we’re saying that it’s not the same as induction.

What, therefore, are we talking about when we’re saying onboarding?

Operational Onboarding

Well, definitely, there are bits which are induction, in my view. The terminology I’m probably using here, this isn’t induction. This is more operational onboarding. So, I’m old enough to remember people actually joining a business, and sometimes, not even having a laptop ready when they turn up. Maybe, even not having a desk.

Now, that was going back a bit. But even then, there was a big no, no. I mean, how to make someone feel wanted or not, if they don’t even have the tools to do their job. So, really, there’s no excuse, if we don’t do that anymore. And clients I’ve worked with, I’ve seen they’ve often got this sort of operational onboarding process set up as a tick list. Do you know what? That’s absolutely fine as long as it happens in good time, and you’ve got it down to a fine art. That’s the minimum, which you should do, really, isn’t it?

So, what else you might want to do?

Well, of course, this is where I sense it’s more like induction. This is about the transferring of knowledge. Now, there are loads and loads of comments on the LinkedIn Group about this, and how you might do it. And it’s quite broad.

Knowledge Onboarding

So, some of it is about transferring knowledge in terms of the knowledge to do your job, the knowledge that you need to do to access the specific information that you need. And how can we give that to people in a way that is digestible?

Because sitting on a training course, that might give you an insight into the company’s culture. It’s pretty inspiring if you get Senior Managers or the CEO to come to talk to new recruits. But lots of it could be done in smaller chunks, and probably more effectively. Not only that, how much do we really remember from an induction programme?

So, how do we give people the knowledge to get the answers that they want when they want them. How can we make it more accessible to them?

And this is where it might come into things like, it’s people too, because more and more the knowledge is in people’s heads in organisations. So, should we be thinking about inducting people by helping them to understand who has the answers, and allowing them to get introductions to those people, and have those relationships from day one so they can go and help themselves, and get those answers?

So, I think that’s quite an important way of thinking about the knowledge one, is, really nebulous. How do we give people the knowledge that they need when they want it in digestible chunks so they can be really, really effective in terms of achieving what is it that they need to do, and they get up to speed faster?

Performance Onboarding

And that moves through to the next point, which I’m calling performance induction or onboarding. Scarily, some of the same research showed that only 40 percent of organisations or businesses, this was about 5 years ago, when they called it, actually set people short-term objectives and milestones, achievable ones.

So, I’m not talking about your full annual objectives. Actually, those are a little bit dated, anyway, aren’t they? We want short-term objectives even for people who are fully established. Actually, this is about allowing people to know what the focus of their job role is, in giving them some tangible achievements that they can do from day one. So, they feel like, they are getting sucked in.

So, if you’ve got someone joining a customer services team, it’s not you just sit there, listen to calls, and read through the User Manual. Because I don’t know about you, that I would lose the will to live, if I had to do that. It’s about maybe, you are going to go through the User Manual, but why don’t you update the screenshots, or listening to the customer calls. Perhaps, you can give feedback to those customer calls.

How can you get that person involved in doing practical things?

Let’s say, I was updating the User Manual, one of my deliverables might be to update the User Manual, or to refresh the feedback, or to write the Frequently Ask Questions, update the Frequently Ask Questions. Again, none of these are particularly smart, because we shouldn’t use the word update.

But hopefully, you’re getting the idea of what I’m saying, is, can we come up with tangible small chunks of useful productivity for that person, that they can do as part of their induction so that adding value, and they’re learning at the same time.

Now, that is an area, where HR and Managers ideally need to work hand in hand. Because in my experience, Managers are pretty poor at setting objectives on a larger scale. So, they may need a bit of help, thinking about what would be a good small chunk induction objective.

But undoubtedly this feels like an area for competitive advantage and value add. Because some of the same research said, why people leave businesses, and in that first 6 months period? One of them was 23 per cent, in fact, of that particular piece of research. It was down to them not having clear guidelines about what was expected in those early days.

So, we should be setting objectives. We should be using our performance management from day one, setting people’s goals, milestones, and giving them feedback against it. If you think about it, how on earth can we pass someone’s probationary review, if we haven’t set them something tangible to achieve.

Now, I know I’ve heard HR colleagues in the past saying, why on earth did they pass their probationary review, and then now, they’re telling me what they want to get rid of them. Well, probably, because they didn’t give them a structured induction, a set of objectives to achieve in the first place. So, they didn’t know what the person was capable of. And maybe, had we done that, there wouldn’t be a performance management problem later.

So, it sounds obvious. But clearly, from the results, very few people are doing it. So, it’s definitely worth thinking about, are we setting short-term meaningful objectives?

And this also could be clever in terms of gathering knowledge. So, you could set people objectives to go and sit down with a key stakeholder, and gather information on how this department is supporting them, and to feed it back to the team meeting.

So, they’re getting a relation with the stakeholder, and they’re bringing that information back to the team meeting, is, adding value. It’s part of that real job, how can we make that job as real as soon as possible? So, that was my performance.

Then we move on to two new ones. I think these ones potentially fit into that pre-boarding phase, which I’m saying, is, that point from which we give people a contract, and then before they actually join the business. It’s great if we can do it. You know, if we can do the pre-boarding, we might go onto the phase, when they’re actually in the organisation.

But it may well take place, and will be a great way of glueing someone into the organisation, getting them to feel part of it, before they’ve even done day one. I mean, actually, could we do even some of the knowledge onboarding, before they join in day one. Yeah, can we provide some of the boring stuff for us to read through at home, without putting them off? I do remember receiving, I think, about 30 policies when I first joined a particular company. I’m not trying to advocate that.

So, let’s think now about two other types of onboarding, which we’re going to call, social onboarding and talent onboarding.

Social Onboarding

As we said, it’s something that can happen in advance of people joining an organisation. Well, I think, this is really about values and culture. That was the theme that came through really strongly in the LinkedIn thread. And people were saying that, people need to feel part of the values and culture of an organisation.

How can you do that? And also, how can you make them feel welcome?

Because going back to the reasons that people leave, other themes, were, not getting enough support for managers, not feeling part of things from day one. And you know, before you properly join somewhere, where you felt that there is a bit of a click, and how do you actually feel part of it.

So, social onboarding is about people feeling included, and perhaps, feeling understood and known as a person. We can use things like buddies, which I think, is a very helpful tool. Definitely, there’s a theme there that’s very useful thing to do. Because people don’t want to admit to their manager, that they don’t know things. So, actually having someone like, a buddy is really, really helpful, because they can ask them the silly questions, without feeling like they’ve lost face.

But in terms of the social onboarding, there are systems that might do this, where people collaborate as a collaboration tool. That I think, is great, if you’ve got something like that. So, you can collaborate with your team, before you even join. I do question, given the fact that, on social media, you have quite a high proportion of people who are actually lurkers, whether that would work for everyone. But it’s definitely a great thought.

One simple idea that any of us could do, I heard from Adrian McDonagh at EasyWeb.

So, onto social and talent onboarding, what do we mean by social onboarding?

And this is an interesting one, because it can absolutely fit with when we are pre-boarding, which is the term, of course.

  • In terms of how we help people feel part of the values and culture of an organisation?
  • How we make sure they don’t feel they’re on the outside of a click?

There are some collaboration technologies out there, where you could in principle, help someone feels part of that team, before they even join.

Now, of course, that’s not going to work for everybody, because I’ve got a feel the world is divided into a third of people who join in on social media. A third of people who lurk. And a third who have nothing to do with it. So, that still means that two-thirds of people, in terms of social onboarding, technology is not going to be the only answer.

Now, I had a conversation with a gentleman called, Adrian McDonagh. Sorry, let me get his name right. Apologies, I’ll get there with your name in the end, Adrian. He’s from EasyWeb Group. So, I’ll give them a shout-out, because what they were doing was particularly good, I felt. They are growing strongly. There are being new people in there, all the time. They have started inviting people. In fact, I hope I’m not giving away their secrets. I hope to carry on doing this.

But basically, they would ask people before they join, just a few really simple questions. So, it might be what’s your favourite colour? What’s your favourite food? Do you support any football teams, et cetera? But questions getting to know them as a person. They get that data back from these people. They would also have the information on people in their immediate team. They would able to share with them.

But then on their first day, let’s say, my favourite colour is purple. My favourite food is chocolate or specific chocolate. I’m a supporter of a specific football team. They had a purple balloon on that person’s desk. They had their favourite chocolate. And the person next to them said, you know, how did Portsmouth get on at the weekend?

So, I just thought that was really lovely way of helping people feel part of something, and having that personal touch. Now, I realise that managers are busy. We are all really busy.

How could you do that in your organisation?

I wonder, is there someone who could take responsibility? Not necessarily HR. I feel there’s probably does sit with the Line Manager. But is there someone who could take responsibility for that personal touch? It’s worth thinking about it, isn’t it?

Certainly, if you give people those clear goals and objectives from day one, they’ve got all the systems they need. They give them the knowledge they need. Plus, they are made to feel a part of the team. Well, wouldn’t you want to stay in that business? You would think so, wouldn’t you?

Talent Onboarding

So, that’s 4 areas of it. Then the fifth one, which I think was a relatively new one. I’m not sure it’s happening yet. It came about through a conversation with the Recruitment Specialist. They were explaining how much fabulous information they have about people, in order to determine that they’re the right person for the job.

So, of course, they look at their CV, and you know what qualifications people have got. You know what industries they’ve worked in. You know, if they can speak any languages. All of that fabulous information on the CV. What happens when they join the organisation? Pretty much nothing. So, it just sits in the recruitment software, or on a piece of paper, doesn’t it?

Now, one of our key aspects in many ways, is, we want to help talent move around the business. We want to keep talent in the business. And if we know what people skills, and knowledge, and experience is from day one, by potentially sucking that information in, I guess the person could complete an online CV. But, if you could pull it through the recruitment technology, even better into your talent search system. Well, wouldn’t that be powerful?

So, that I’ve only been here a week, but someone can see that the skills that I have may be able to help them. Maybe, I’ve got a project management qualification. Or, I’ve got experience in a specific sector. And I can speak a certain language. If people know that from day one, then again, the individual, they can get out there, and they can actually perform from day one. It’s got to be worth thinking about, don’t you think? It’ll be a different way of doing things. It would be really great to have that functionality and that information to your fingertips.

So, there it is, 5 different types of onboarding, if you like, or ways in which people require onboarding. This question I asked at the Festival of Work, because I presented on this last week. On average, people were doing 2 out of the 5.

I wonder, whether you’re doing more than that? Are you doing all 5? Well done! I’d love to hear from you if you are. Or, are you doing a different combination? Is there something else that works in your organisation about onboarding that you’d like to share? We would absolutely love to hear from you, because this is all about collaboration, showing best practice, and sharing ideas that can help us deliver better value.

So, I also said that there are 3 audiences that perhaps, we need to think about with onboarding. And you might think, well, why 3? Ultimately, it’s just people who are starters. And again, I must admit that that was my perception until I sat down, and chatted with Mervyn Dinnen. And he pointed out to me, that there are two other areas.

One, is, something called, ‘cross boarding’. And what he’s talking about there, is, about people moving from one area of a business to another. Well, have you ever thought about things like that? I certainly haven’t.

I realised that, that makes total sense in different sectors or business units. Very often, the whole culture is entirely different. So, you can imagine that someone moving, even almost moving on to a different management style, can make a big difference to how they feel, and how quickly they become effective. Again, this is where buddying, I think, it’s a really useful tool.

Then finally, the other area, where I’m a bit of a cheat, maybe, is, about new manager onboarding. But I say, it’s a cheat, but actually, isn’t it really important? All too often, people who are promoted, let’s say, your best engineer is promoted to be the Line Manager. On Monday, they rock up, and they’re going to be the Line Manager. Well, it is an entirely different job, people management from being an engineer. Yet, we might expect them to be an engineer on Friday, and to rock up and be an excellent people manager on Monday.

Often, we promise them development, but does that happen? Often, it’s not until years later that, that actually takes place. So, how can we ensure that these people know what they need to do, in order to deliver a great experience. Now, there are many things that a manager needs to learn in terms of their onboarding. Maybe, it’s about development. But it is about knowledge, skills, dealing with difficult situations.

However, if we just going full circle, and think, this manager may never have had a good onboarding experience themselves, they’ve probably not seen it a role model, because generally, we tend to do the absolute bare minimum. So, their management might not have done it. They’ve never seen any processes that have demonstrated it doing well.

We know that in the UK specifically, we’re particularly poor at management development. And our management skills are not as good as they should be. Well, isn’t that a risk waiting to have them when we go right back full circle to why we need to do this? Because we need to give those managers the skills to onboard others effectively, if we’re not going to waste money on recruitment.

So, where I see that we can add huge value in an HR or a learning and development role, is, by helping the Line Manager to realise how important onboarding is as a process, and working to support them in delivering value, and doing a good job with it. Now, it doesn’t necessarily have to be them. Maybe, they can delegate this to someone in their team, particularly, something like, social onboarding.

But it just needs to happen, doesn’t it? And maybe, the reason it doesn’t, is,

  • We’ve never thought of it, or
  • We’re so busy with our head down doing task. That applies to, both the people manager and to someone in HR, L&D role. We’re all hugely busy and perhaps, we don’t have the opportunity to step back and think about, obvious though it is, spending the time doing something like this, could actually, be a way of adding tremendous value to our organisation. And it could be really tangible.

So, the questions I’m going to ask you, is,

  • What types of onboarding are you doing in your organisation?
  • Is it a consistent onboarding experience for people?
  • What could you do differently?
  • How many people? What are the percentages in your organisation of people who leave within 6 months?
  • And if there is something that you wanted to do, from what we’ve discussed here, or different ideas you have on onboarding, how could you measure that impact?
  • Wouldn’t it be amazing, if you can make a tangible difference to the length of time that people stay with the business? Because that would be a demonstrable value-add. Get those figures out.
  • Think what is that you need to do? Maybe, it’s something you can use to make a business case for tech, or training, or support in this area.

Food for thoughts. So, I really hope you’ve found this of interest. Certainly, it’s a much bigger topic than I would have thought it was.

In summary, we’ve covered:

  • Why do onboarding?
  • What are we defining as onboarding, the duration of time?
  • We’ve covered 5 different types of onboarding. So, operational, knowledge, performance, social and talent.
  • And we’ve discussed the fact that onboarding is for more than people who are just new to your business. It’s also relevant for people who are moving within the business, or upwards in the business.

Hopefully, you’ve found that of interest. If you did, perhaps you could share the podcast with colleagues, friends, other people who might find it relevant and helpful. As ever, I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to make contact on any of our social media channels.

You can see all of them on, which is, a really easy way to get all the links. We try to put relevant links in the show notes so it’s easy for you to get. We also transcribe the show notes. So, if there was something that you felt you’d like to refer back to, and you didn’t quite catch it, then there are transcriptions on those web pages as well.

All that remains for me to say, is, thank you very much. I’ve been your Host, Lucinda Carney. I appreciate your time having a listen to our podcast. I hope you’ll tune in again next week, where we will be having a conversation with. And the ‘conversation with’ is going to be with a gentleman called, Steve Graham. He is an NHS Professional Interim. So, we’re going to have a conversation about, what does it take to be a successful interim? So, if there’s anyone out there who’s considering being an interim, that is the topic we’re going to look at.

So, please tune in next Monday. And if you haven’t already subscribed, subscribe. It will already deliver. It will automatically deliver to your phone. Thanks so much for listening to The HR Uprising Podcast.