When does an employee’s onboarding begin and end?

The onboarding is a key moment for an employee. These are his first real moments in the company, the moment when, after having often only seen the show apartment, listened to the promises of the recruiters and his future manager, he will confront all this with reality.

But before being thrown in the operational phase, there is a welcoming phase that we have already talked about a little while ago.

Onboarding goes far beyond welcoming people

For some people, onboarding and welcoming are two names of the same thing. In my opinion adopting this approach is a mistake.

Yes, there must be a welcome phase, it is the least polite thing to do. And beyond politeness, it is a way to avoid making the employee want to leave as soon as he arrives, to show him that he is expected (or even desired) and to allow him to get down to business, if not with a light heart, at least with a free and reassured mind.

But it takes more than one or two days to onboard someone. Welcoming means managing the transition between a before (I’m not in the company) and an after (I’m an active collaborator). It’s not enough to be a guarantee of success.

Success is based on various factors, including integration. Integration requires an effort on the part of others but also on the part of the newcomer. Learning the company’s codes, its culture, its “general” rules and then its “operational” rules. Among others.

Yes the manager must participate in this transmission over time. But often he doesn’t have the time or doesn’t see the point of taking it. Yes, colleagues have a role but not always the availability or not at the right time. And in a company that for a time at least or irreversibly will operate more and more at a distance, the moments of informal transmission will shrink like a skin of sorrow.

This means three things: it has to happen over time, people have to be available, and it doesn’t happen by chance ( and even less in the future) . In my experience, one can consider that a person is well “onboarded” in all aspects after a period of 6 months to a year.

Afterwards, it should not be forgotten that at each change of position or project a “mini onboarding” is necessary, which is often forgotten or neglected.

So much for the end of onboarding, which goes far beyond pure welcoming.

Now it remains to be seen when onboarding begins.

An onboarding that starts when the employee arrives is a failed onboarding.

For some “the question is quickly answered”: we start onboarding the day the employee arrives.

I see two limits to this approach.

1°) The employee will be overwhelmed with information during the first few days. Can’t we smooth out the load by broadcasting part of it upstream?

2°) When it is said that the employee must feel expected and desired, not talking to him (outside of administrative and contractual matters) between the day he decides to join the company and the moment he actually joins it is not the best proof of attention.

To put it another way, admit that you are proposing and he/she accepts. Would you consider not speaking to him/her until the date of the ceremony? Of course not.

But still take the time to imagine what would happen, the risks you would be exposing yourself to if you did.

Let’s get back to onboarding. You agree with a candidate. Tomorrow he will join your company, your teams. Well, tomorrow… that’s quick.

Depending on the context and the flexibility of local labor law tomorrow may be quite far away. In France for an executive it will be 3 months unless he manages to negotiate with his current employer a reduction of his notice period and hopefully he doesn’t feel like having some breathing space for 1 week or 1 month between the two jobs.

3 months. A lot can happen in three months. He can question his choice, wonder if he made the right decision. He can be hunted by other companies who will make him a better offer. The excitement of the moment when he communicates his decision to his new employer will be followed by a period when the subject will gradually leave his mind, when daily life will take over again. At the end of two weeks, or a month, he will no longer say every morning “great, I have a new life waiting for me”, he will just have a date of employment in his diary.

When he thinks about it he will say to himself that he is not there yet. As paradoxical as it may seem, the more time passes, the closer he will get to the D-day, the further it will seem to him and the more he will distance himself from his future company. The day he says “yes” he sees himself there, he projects himself there, and then his former life regains all the more power as his future life disappears from his life.

There is no love, there are only proofs of love.

For weeks or even months he interacted with his future employer. He was ” sold ” the job, he was talked to, he was convinced that he was the right person for the job. And suddenly blacked out. Nothing. Once the deal is done, many recruiters/managers are ghosting pros and find it totally normal.

They take the arrival of the employee for granted while he has time to procrastinate, to be solicited, to question himself. His employer may also attempt a final manoeuvre to retain him. Those around him may also question his choice, instilling a certain amount of doubt.

And even if he would be present at the office on the day of his official arrival (which is the case in general) we will not prevent him from being disappointed not to have had any news for 3 months. There is nothing more disappointing than to see the tension fall back when it has been at its peak and a peak of adrenaline has been reached.

In short, how to maintain tension (and attention) in the 3 months that separate the agreement from the actual arrival of the employee?

I have observed various practices in this area, here is a non-exhaustive list.

Inviting the future collaborator in moments of socialization is risky.

Some decide to invite the future collaborator to meet his future colleagues during moments of socialization. This can be an initiative of the company that has generalized the practice or of the manager at his own level.

This approach leaves me circumspect. Several cases may arise.

1°) Breakfast with the team. Frustrating. Not the best time to break the ice, everyone thinks about what awaits him after, people leave each other before even having been able to really create a link and share something.

2°) A lunch with the team. Why not. It is rather neutral while being convivial. The future employee can open up without putting himself in danger.

3°) An afterwork. Danger ! There is a team that knows each other, has its codes, and decompresses after work. On the other side we have a person who wants to make a good impression without doing any mistake. Difficult for him to find the right tone and the right posture. If he doesn’t fit into the atmosphere he will seem distant and others will question his ability to fit in. If he enters “too much” in the atmosphere, his credibility may suffer with an image that will remain stuck to him like chewing gum under his sole. Between the two, the margin is very fine, especially since each of his colleagues will judge him according to their own personality.

I am quite cautious about this practice and, even if I have to choose, I recommend the lunch option.

Sometimes I have invited employees who will be joining us in 2 months time to our annual “kick off” weekend to speed up their integration. “Do what I say not what I do”? Not exactly … I’m talking about people who were “known” in the sense that they were not new faces but people who had a very good network in the company, were going to take up positions of responsibility and were considered to present no risk. A real success but it only happened once.

Socialize virtually with your new colleagues…as long as you stay in a bubble…

I’ve seen companies give their newcomers access to certain internal tools such as a enterprise social network to begin to make them feel that they are already part of the company and the collective.

Why not, but this raises a number of questions.

Of course, they cannot be given access to all information and communication tools. They have to stay in a confined digital environment where they can socialize with selected employees, with their future colleagues or with anyone else. They will have access to learning content presenting the company to them. But, and this is not without asking questions because they will not be able to use a company email address that they can only have on the day they arrive.

To solve the problem and avoid any legal or security issues, I have seen companies create onboarding environments outside the company’s IS with employees volunteering to welcome newcomers and specific e-learning content.

Apply CRM approach to your future employees

You may have noticed that I often talk about the consumerization of the company, a strange word to say that all the approaches implemented on the client side will be implemented on the employee side. And typically here we’re going to talk about relationship marketing.

What is relationship marketing ? Well it’s very simple, you are its target every day. You receive ads or information by email. This is the basis. But you also notice that sometimes the level of refinement goes further.

First your emails are personalized. At least with your name. And more and more these emails take into account your tastes, your recent purchases, your demographic characteristics to send you more and more relevant messages. And in some cases you won’t receive a single email but a series of emails that tell a story. And in the more advanced ones, depending on your actions on an email (don’t open, open, read, click on a link) you will be told a different story.

These mailings can be part of a marketing campaign (someone knows you and is either trying to sell you something or just talking to you to stay in your mind) or they can be triggered by an action such as making a purchase, subscribing to a newsletter or contacting customer service. In the context of a purchase for example a first email to thank you, a second to ask you to evaluate your experience, a third to sell you additional services such as insurance, not to mention, in parallel, information about the delivery.

When I say that an employee is a client like any other and that a recruitment site is an e-commerce site that sells jobs…

You have a purchasing act that is your decision to join the company. You have an arrival date which may be the following week or in 3 months. What to do in the meantime? A basic course of action would be to keep in touch with the employee by sending him/her emails according to the following course of action.

  1. Thank you email that specifies that we will keep in touch and that a series of information about joining the company will arrive progressively. The idea is not to bury the ex-candidate/future employee under tons of information, but to give him things that will be easy to nibble over time, things he will find useful, that will make him think we are thinking about him.
  2. A word or a video from the CEO/MD thanking the candidate for his confidence, talking about the company, its values…
  3. An organization chart of the company: how are we organized, who does what?
  4. The people/services to know absolutely
  5. Future colleagues. You will work with Rodolphe, Sophie, Régis and Arthur. For each of them his photo, link to his linkedin profile and 1 paragraph to present it in a formal or offbeat way, depending on the tone you want to give to things.
  6. Your arrival: what day, what time, how it’s going to happen, who’s going to take care of you, what onboarding and/or mentoring arrangements are in place.
  7. Form sent by the HRIS to fill in certain administrative formalities before arrival, it will be as many tedious things avoided on the day of arrival: civil status, bank details etc…

As you can see you have enough to last almost two months at the rate of one email per week without any effort. Then your only limit is your creativity.

Personally it is the solution that I retained so I have a little feedback.

  1. The employees love it, they are pleasantly surprised.
  2. They like it a lot more than just receiving promotional emails.
  3. Everything is automated…just enter the person’s name and personal email, choose the ” journey ” that corresponds to his job and the team he joins and it’ s done.

I’d like to take this opportunity to give you a very appreciated tip.

In general when you receive marketing emails they are sent from a generic address and you are told “do not reply”. The fact that someone comes to my email inbox to do unsolicited prospecting, that someone “steals” my attention and that I am forbidden to reply has always annoyed me to the highest degree. There I used a specific address but whose answer I consulted and I specified “if you have a question do not hesitate to answer this email“. The perception is excellent.

So you’re going to ask me “what am I doing this with”.

First of all, there are plenty of solutions on the HR Tech market that do this. Yes, but you don’t have a budget? No problem! Your marketing team certainly has a marketing automation solution that they use for your customers. All you have to do is use it for candidates by creating specific content and paths. So if you do it right, it won’t cost you anything. If your marketing department sees this as a good opportunity to share the costs pro rata to the number of emails sent it’s not a problem: you will represent at most 0.01% or even 0.001% of the platform usage.

I add that the same thing exists for candidates ” in nurturing “. You know, all the people whose emails you have but who are for some in active search, others in passive search, others not yet in search but curious, good profiles who would like to come but for whom you did not have an open position at a given time…. All of them are a potential target one day but do not expect the same communication from you. You can of course assume that you don’t have to talk to them but it’s still a shame to have a qualified pool of people and not talk to them and maintain the link while waiting for the day when… Two years ago I interviewed the people from Candidate.ID, a multiple award-winning solution that does this extremely well.

I have given you 3 frequent approaches, but there are others and you can of course cumulate several of them.

In short…onboarding ends months after the employee’s arrival but also starts weeks before.

Image : beginning of the onboarding by iQoncept via Shutterstock

Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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