Onboarding – why the basics matter

Just recently I was reading some posts in a LinkedIn group, one, in particular, caught my eye. The poster had left his new job (he wasn’t working in HR) after what he called two miserable days!

On his first day, he was left alone to read through the company handbook, and his second began with being rushed round the company site saying hello to over a 100 employees! The rest of the day he was pretty much ignored and left to find something to do.

This to me is absolutely shocking and shows that no thought had been shown towards a new starter. OK so there may some companies/organisations that have the sink or swim culture but they are very much in the minority.

When you start looking and researching “Onboarding” you soon find horror stories abound.

When you get a new starter you are at risk of losing then over the first so many days (I use markers at 30 – 60 – 90 – 120 days), it’s madness not to onboard new employees, after all, they will have cost the company a great deal of money by the time they walk through the front door on their first day.

What does a good onboarding process look like?

Implement basics prior to the first day on the job
Make the first day on the job special
Design and implement formal orientation programs
Create and use written onboarding plans
Be participatory in nature
Consistently implement onboarding
Monitor progress over time
Utilise technology to facilitate the process
Recognise onboarding takes place over time- use milestones- 30 – 60 – 90 – 120 days on the job up to 1-year post-organizational entry
Engage key stakeholders in planning
Include key stakeholder meetings
Be clear in terms of the who, what, when, where of onboarding
Onboarding isn’t making the new employee spend a day ploughing through a company handbook nor is it sink or swim.

It’s the little things like making sure they have a door pass, computer password (many companies break the law (Data Protection Act/Misuse of Computers Act) by expecting new employees to either use a former employee’s password or borrow one from another employee (perhaps on leave)),

Orientation is important, spending a day in a different department to see what goes on. I know one company that makes all new starters (including if they will be working in an office) complete a week on the factory floor so they understand how the companies products are made.

The Aberdeen Group published a report called Onboarding 2013: A look at New Hires. In this report eBay was used as a case study and the following was discovered. Customer Retention Improved by 15 %; Revenue per Full-Time Employee 17% Higher for Best-in-Class Onboarding Organisations

Challenge: With nearly 30,000 employees in 28 countries around the world and minimal HR resources, eBay recognised their need to improve the new hire experience and create efficiencies through a comprehensive technology solution.
Solution: By using technology, the company has begun to improve the new-hire experience by automating both tasks and socialisation aspects of onboarding.
Results: eBay quickly reduced the administrative cost of onboarding by 25% and saved significant operational costs and improved productivity by reducing its onboarding process steps by 60%.
The report made the link that better onboarding produced better performance. In organisations with best in class onboarding, 91% of first-year employees were retained and 62% met their first performance milestones on time, compared with only 29% in industry average organisations and a poor 17% in the rest.

Aberdeen also found that the best in class organisations using technology to automate payroll forms, benefits enrollment, new employee forms, workflow, tasks management and provision tools to manage permissions/systems access. They also say that there is a strong correlation between onboarding and learning integration as they share similar productivity objectives, as 26% of best in class organisations enrol new starters in L&D programs compared to 11% of others.

In my next post, I will be looking at Strategic Onboarding and how it links to ‘Business Social‘

The report Onboarding 2013: A look at New Hires was sponsored by the Aberdeen Group and may now require a fee to view, please see: http://aberdeen.com/

The item was originally posted in the Numbers Game blog on 17 September 2013

Strategic Onboarding

In my previous blog posting, we had a look at some onboarding basics and found that horror stories abound, with stories of having to read the company handbook (see War & Peace) and being subjected to death by PowerPoint. We can add to this the story of one employee giving the induction who didn’t know how to log onto the company portal or the urls!

Onboarding is still the most immature area of Talent Management

The expectation is to hit the ground running on your first day and start adding value yet nobody knows who you are or why you are there and probably doesn’t care!

Onboarding should be about connecting company growth objectives and retaining top talent. Companies often try to do the right thing but more often than not choose the wrong mentor.

Top Pressures for Onboarding

Need to engage better employees 50%
Pressure to meet companies growth objectives 49%
Shortages of required skill 44%
Know what works and what to measure

Attract talent directly to you
Engage and capture talent inside and out
Select the best
80% of new employees make the decision whether to stay with the company (or not) within the first six months, some make that decision on the first day!

The majority of new hires fail to make their first milestone on time.
50% of senior new hires fail within 18 months
66% of companies estimate that a bad hire in the past year cost them between £25 and 50k

Reasons being can be –

Those expectations are not being met, that there is a difference with reality. What we often see with during the recruitment process is a picture is painted of company as an amazing place to work, that is team orientated, where the people happy, a place of opportunity, if that picture doesn’t hold up on the first day or subsequent days then it will hinder the new employee to ramp up quickly.

Key reasons could be that no milestones have been set or not communicated or even the new hire got bogged down in the paperwork, no systems log-in, passwords, door pass and so on, Assumption that hiring managers understand the process, and expect the new employee to be up to speed, and sink or swim is very much order of the day.

What we need to understand is that bad onboarding can set up the new employee to fail and this is the tragedy, people are failing because of the onboarding process or lack of one and they would have probably succeeded.

What’s the problem?

It’s an immature process that’s not been focussed on because there is not one clear owner. We have disorientated employees facing a new culture. Onboarding is like climbing a mountain, it’s the companies responsibility to get the new employee to the top. It’s obvious saying “but we have given the employee some tools” but are they the right ones? Who is guiding them? Which is the best/Quick way up?

What does good onboarding look like?

Similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, if you don’t meet the basics then nothing will happen. For example, if someone isn’t sure they will get paid then they will be distracted and not do their best work.

If you give the foundation for a successful employee then in the long term this can have strategic impact.

The best companies in onboarding have to –

Align objectives: Deep commitment to aligning onboarding to overall company objectives
Get strategic, Combination of both technical and strategic initiatives to drive productivity and engagement
World Class Technology, investment needed to make the process happen
Integrate talent Processes, Integration between onboarding and other areas of talent management, not just recruitment but performance, and learning and Development (L&D) functions
Have Employee Networks
Access to content

Further benefits include that paperwork can be reduced, cost savings made by better processes

Here are three interesting facts:

42% of millennials want mentors
51% use social media and texting during the hiring process, can you afford to go viral for all the wrong reasons?
The buddy system can improve retention by 25%

So who owns onboarding? It sits in the middle and the end result is by guiding and connecting our new employees, we develop socialisation and collaboration and the end result is that we have connected people who start to gel as a team.


Legal compliance
Completion of forms and documents
Corporate compliance, benefits and enrollments
Provisioning (equipment, access)

Information about organisation and its culture
Asking stupid questions
What to expect on the first day

Formal and Informal Network
Develop personal connections
Access to relevant content

Employee engagement and organisation goals are aligned
Individual development plan is in place
Employer and Employee feel that new hire is a contributor


This item was originally posted in The Numbers Game blog on 21st October 2013 http://wp.me/p3MIOJ-f

The differences between Metrics and Analytics

Recently it seems to be getting more common for people to be confused over what exactly HR Metrics and HR Analytics are! Some people seem to use the terms interchangeably, so in this post, I will try and explain the difference and give some examples.

A simple definition is Talent Metrics looks at Tangible Data (Easy to measure, Low Value) whilst Talent  Analytics looks mainly at Intangible Data (Hard to measure, High Value).

Metrics are Informational

Metrics focus on counting, tracking and presenting past data derived from (for example): web visits, the volume of candidate applications, how many (and what kind of) recruitment campaigns were done in a year and other “low value” data gathering.

Metrics give an inside perspective on a business because they use (tangible) data from in-house sources, such as aggregated HR data. Whilst useful it should be remembered that this type of data can only give basic insights (over functional/operational/systemic areas).

Analytics are strategic

In complete contrast, Analytics looks at both past and present data (using both tangible and intangible information) giving powerful insights, optimisations and predictions. Data can be collected by a diverse range of systems and software which can be worked on, and analysed to find data which is transformational and equally high value. Because Analytics use both external and internal sources they give an “outside-in perspective” on a business.

Here are some examples from Metrics and Analytics which should highlight the differences .

Talent Metrics (HR): How many top sales reps left last quarter?

Talent Analytics (Business): Why do my top performing employees keep leaving?

Talent Metrics (HR): What is the average compensation for engineers across the organization?

Talent Analytics (Business): Why are our top software engineers dissatisfied even after we’ve given everyone a department-wide raise?

Talent Metrics (HR): Who is next in line to become our CEO?

Talent Analytics (Business): Will the CEO candidate align or conflict with the rest of the executive team?

Talent Metrics (HR): How many customer service reps do we have?

Talent Analytics (Business): Is our customer service staff optimized to meet this quarter’s customer service improvement goal?

This was originally posted on 5th March 2014 in the Numbers Game blog  http://wp.me/p3MIOJ-s

Would you hire an ex offender?

This topic came up about a year or so ago in one of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) LinkedIn groups, most said it depended on what they had done, some said they really didn’t want a potential new employee who had previous for violence as they may pose a risk to existing employees.

This year Business In The Community (BITC) has launched a campaign called “Ban the box!”. The campaign is about removing the box that you see on most application forms where a criminal conviction can be declared. More about the campaign can be found by following the link below.

A bit of hidden personal history about me, when I was 20 I joined my local police force as a volunteer police officer (Special Constable), I spent three and half brilliant years working with some of the most amazing people, in that time I saw a lot of unpleasant stuff, dealing with fatalities to hardcore violent criminals, in May 1991 I was awarded a commendation and I was soon moving to pastures new. I’ve never had trouble with arresting someone who had done wrong and I have no sympathy for those sent to prison, Do the crime then be prepared to do the time.

A few years ago I landed a temporary job working for HM Prison Service working at a Young Offenders Institute (HMYOI) this wasn’t an HR role but was working within the Estates Management Team, once I had gained security clearance I was allowed more access not only to site but also to two adult prisons that the team looked after.

Young Offenders are classed as being between the ages of 18 and 20 (they can be kept there until they are 22), although two YOI’s can accept young offenders as young as 15. Below this age, young people are the responsibility of local authority secure accommodation. Young Offenders Institutes in some ways follow the same regime as adult prisons but the differences being that Young Offenders have their own rooms which are locked in the same manner as adult prisons, they are also required to have a set number of hours a week set aside to education, one important feature of YOI’s is that they have sports facilities which has often led to criticism from the national tabloid press that YOI’s are too soft.

Adult Prisons are a totally different ball game, overcrowding, being locked up for hours during the day, limited exercise, danger of being assaulted by another inmate, in my mind these places are pretty grim but those that have been sentenced to serve their time in prison deserve punishment, this is the way society works.

A few years later I was interviewing candidates for roles working on a production line in a factory, one person, I remember well, he had declared criminal convictions and admitted to me that he had been in trouble with the police since he was 10, but now 10 years later and having had a  short custodial sentence he wanted a fresh start and keep out of trouble. A regular paid job would help him move with his life and leave crime and trouble well behind. You could actually see the desperation in his eyes.

Unfortunately, the decision to hire was taken out of my hands but it suddenly made me realise that a simple thing like having a job can dramatically change a person’s life for the better and take them away from committing more crime.

Recently I saw a post by Jason on a website belonging to Site Visibility, where he joined ten other leaders from Business in the Community (BITC) member companies on the Prince of Wales’ “Seeing is Believing” visit organized by BITC to HMP Brixton (category C prison). He learned how employment holds the key to reducing the £11bn annual cost of re-offending in the UK .

In Jasons post he quotes BITC figures which make you stop and think:

Consider these facts from BITC:

There are 85,000 people in prison in the UK today. Only 43 of these people will never be released, meaning that 99.95% of the prison population will need to resettle back into the community.
17% of the UK population between the ages of 18 and 52 has a criminal conviction more serious than a driving offence.
Currently, more than one in five employment benefits claimants have a criminal conviction.
60% of short-term prisoners re-offend within a year of release.
Re-offending costs UK approximately £11bn per year
Employment reduces the likelihood of re-offending by up to 50%.

So it is in all our interests to see re-offending reduced so there is less burden on public/taxpayer money, money which could be spent better elsewhere. Obviously, there are some jobs that require Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS – replaced CRB) vetting, but this post isn’t about such job roles.

What’s more, is there a business case for employers to consider?

Well, there is much talk about how many businesses are finding it more difficult to recruit talented and enthusiastic people to help drive their growth. Again as Jason says in his post, there is no average prisoner/ex-offender, they can look and blend in with any of us, Maybe just maybe that person may be a unique talent that your company/organisation needs. Anybody who is not working is a strain on the UK economy, anyone taken off the dole queue is better for this country because they will be contributing to tax and National Insurance and to their local economy, which is good for you and good for me.

Remember an ex-offender has already been punished, it is no one else’s job to add to this, if an ex-offender does owe society anything then it is to get into the working population and start contributing.

What do you think?

You can read Jason’s blog here: http://www.sitevisibility.co.uk/blog/2014/04/02/ive-prison-ive-changed-honest-hire-ex-offender-work-business/

Business In The Community’s “Ban the Box” campaign can be found here: http://www.bitc.org.uk/programmes/ban-box/why-should-we-ban-box

You may also be interested in the blog by Dianah Worman OBE, CIPD Diversity Adviser,  Pride and prejudice in the workplace: recruiting ex-offenders http://www.cipd.co.uk/blogs/cipdbloggers/b/public_policy_blog1/archive/2013/12/19/pride-and-prejudice-in-the-workplace-recruiting-ex-offenders.aspx

Footnote: November 2016

Virgin Trains to recruit from prisons

Virgin Trains who have the West Coast Mainline (WCML) franchise for running trains between London and Scotland has doubled the number of ex-offenders it employs. The company has actively been recruiting from this source since 2013.

The train operator has held a recruitment fair at HMP Addiewell in Scotland at the beginning of November 2016 and has more planned across the UK every three months.

They said they wanted to end the “revolving door syndrome” of re-offending (60% of short-term prisoners re-offend within a year of release). Virgin Trains said it was encouraging other companies to take part.

Kathryn Wildman, who leads recruitment on the West Coast line, said going into prisons had proved a successful way of finding “talented candidates” for jobs in the company.
She said: “This isn’t just about helping society and giving people a chance to turn their lives around. It’s hiring the best people no matter what their background is.
“We’d urge other employers who might be thinking about this to give it a go.”
Virgin Trains has established partnerships with HM Prison Service, the Scottish Prison Service and private prison operators to work with inmates who are nearing the end of their sentences.

Scotland’s Justice Secretary, Michael Matheson, said: “Supporting people into work when they come out of custody is an essential part of their reintegration, and helps to reduce the chances of them offending again.

“We are working with the public sector, including the Scottish Prison Service, and private businesses to make it easier for people with convictions to find employment.
“Virgin Trains are very supportive of this work and I am delighted to hear of this latest partnership with HMP Addiewell to tackle the barriers which prevent people from turning their lives around.”