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Seven steps to better inductions

Sue Weekes

Induction handshake

Employers still fall down in a number of areas when it comes to induction. Sue Weekes has found seven ways to improve your induction programmes

1. Don’t overlook the basics

Although organisations have been running induction courses for many years, the importance of a strong induction experience is under-estimated by some employers. The new employee has passed all of your selection and recruitment tests but now the focus is on you to create the right impression and demonstrate you are an employer of choice. Ensure the individual feels comfortable and valued from day one and give them every indication that promises and claims made in the recruitment process relating to their career progression and/or employer brand will be fulfilled. “Do respect that after the recruitment process this is an organisation’s first chance at engaging an employee,” says Danny Hodgson, head of sourcing and innovation EMEA at the recruitment process outsourcing provider (RPO), Hudson. “Do have the induction planned well in advance, right down to meet-and-greets pre-planned in the new arrivals diary.” And he adds that attention to the basics is vital such as ensuring IT, hardware and systems are ready to be accessed from “minute one”. 

2. Establish ownership

The ownership of the induction process can be a grey area in some organisations. A number of parties -- recruitment, HR and line management -- should be involved behind the scenes in devising the induction and ensuring it is customised for different roles and individuals but one party needs to be the face of induction to the new recruit. In most organisations it falls to HR but ensure the function is joined up with the organisation as a whole and that each induction programme conforms to best practice. “Sometimes there is no consistency from department to department on what a good induction looks like,” says Hodgson, adding that this sends out an ambiguous and unprofessional message to new employees.

3. The importance of personalisation

Make the person feel like they are being treated as an individual rather than one of several being inducted that week. Lisa Forrest, global head of talent acquisition at RPO, Alexander Mann Solutions (AMS), says too much emphasis is placed on the logistics behind the induction and there is not enough personalisation or focus on immersing the new recruit into the culture of the organisation. “We’ll see a classroom-style induction take priority,” she says, adding that while this has its place, she adds: “Learning the nuances of the organisation immediately when a colleague joins is also pertinent to a thorough induction. Walking the new joiner around, introducing them to a range of colleagues, letting them experience the culture before they’re bogged down in the day-to-day job is also important.” If you haven’t already done so, employ the use of a buddy or mentor to help ease the person into the organisation.

4. Make the most of technology

Some employers have overlooked that induction has moved on considerably over the past few years and technology has an important part to play. Onboarding portals can be used to get much of the administration associated with joining a company out of the way as well as providing a joiner with further insight into the culture, structure and generally what it is like to work at the organisation via, for instance, employee videos. Forrest believes induction’s evolution has been largely technology-driven and says it can begin much earlier these days. “Where it used to start on day one on the job, now it begins pre-onboarding through digital means such as a company website, or through social media,” she says. AMS operates across 85 countries and uses technology to connect new joiners at the same starting point regardless of location, department or role. “Technology is important to ensure we communicate with one voice and have one conversation with all colleagues,” she says. “We’ve looked to create ‘water cooler’ moments across geographies through video which has received fantastic feedback for being very engaging.”

5. Get the balance right

There can be a tendency to throw everything at an individual in week one, leaving them shell-shocked before they even start their proper job. That said, Forrest points out it is important not to wait too long to hold the induction as the early days are days “you never get back”. “The first few days are a really unique time for you to begin to understand that individual and for that individual to begin to understand you,” she says. Hodgson believes it is important to achieve the right balance of not giving new joiners “too much downtime” but also avoiding “information overload”. Ensure the induction is nicely paced and provide all relevant further information on an induction/onboarding portal or intranet so they can digest it properly. For instance, you may have a great flexible benefits programme or company pension scheme but the individual may not feel they have the time to immerse themselves in this in their first week. Highlight what it offers and flag up where they can find more. Enlist the help of marketing when producing online and offline induction material rather than simply producing a rather tired and staid staff handbook.

6. Use the knowledge gained

The assessment and selection processes should have gleaned a clear picture of an individual’s knowledge and skill levels in a number of areas. Often this information isn’t passed on as efficiently as it could be to line managers. Hodgson says the online environment should be used to more easily link into “pre-identified training and development areas” from the recruitment process. Line managers should make sure they are integrated with the recruitment team and have open and clear communication channels with them. If recruitment, HR and line management isn’t joined up there can be a danger that time and resources are wasted on re-testing individuals once in role or, conversely, too much knowledge is assumed. Indeed, there is nothing more isolating in today’s technology-centric workplaces than an individual struggling to use the software and systems. “Don’t assume knowledge – be open to starting from scratch – teaching the basics, including learned technology,” says Forrest.

7. Move with the times

If employers don’t continually review their induction processes they run the risk of looking out-of-step with modern practices to employees, especially the new generations coming into the workforce. Clearly Generation Y will expect social media to figure somewhere in the process and any online element should be extended to the mobile world. And, as Forrest advises, use the induction as a learning experience for yourself and find out what works and what doesn’t in the process: “Get their views. As an organisation, you can never stop learning what a great start to a company feels like.”

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