How to make onboarding a stress-free experience

Research

People professionals will be well-aware of the value a good onboarding programme can bring to an organisation.

When done well, onboarding can act as a jumping-off point for a potentially successful and long-lasting career. Not only will the new hire benefit from a rewarding introduction, but their organisation will reap the rewards of having an engaged and motivated individual right from the get-go – it’s a win-win for everyone!

However, those crucial first few days and weeks can also be unsettling, tiring and stressful for new employees. And it appears that many organisations’ onboarding efforts are only adding to those more negative feelings, rather than helping to dispel them…

How can you make your onboarding programme a stress-free experience for new hires?

Our survey reveals nearly two-thirds of employees found their onboarding experience stressful

In June 2022, we conducted an in-depth survey into the state of onboarding here in the UK and Ireland. Our survey found that out of the 1,000 full-time employees we questioned, nearly two thirds (63%) were left feeling stressed or overwhelmed by their onboarding experience.

This is a very worrying statistic. Although feelings of nerves when starting a new role are completely normal, stress can be an extremely damaging emotion for new hires: especially when we consider that those first few days and weeks are a critical point in the career journey for a new employee.

For example, a 2009 study by the Aberdeen Group of senior executives and HR staffing and recruiting functions found that 86% of their respondents felt that a new hire’s decision to stay with a company long-term is made within the first six months of employment.

If the overriding emotion of new hires is a feeling of stress or being overwhelmed, it’s highly unlikely they’ll stick with a company for the long term. It makes sense, then, that HR make every effort to make their onboarding programmes easy and enjoyable for new hires.

What can HR do to make onboarding less stressful for new hires?

There are some simple – yet fundamental – things HR can do reduce the stress for new hires during onboarding. These include:

  • Ensure your business is ready for new arrivals

The first few days and weeks in a new role will be viewed as a time to shine by your new hires. They’ll be eager to get started, make a good impression, and prove they’re capable of doing the job they’ve been hired to do.

However, they won’t be able to do that if they don’t have the equipment, access or space they need! If they find themselves twiddling their thumbs or unable to complete their duties because they haven’t got the right kit, anxiety and stress may start settling in.

As an HR professional, you should be ensuring that before new employees arrive, their equipment, software or IT access and (where applicable) workspaces are setup and ready for them to use. While this may seem like a given when it comes to onboarding new staff, our survey revealed that less than half of all new employees were given everything they needed to do their job straight away.

Your HR software can do a lot to help with these types of tasks. If it comes with dedicated onboarding task management functionality, it’s a good idea to set up several different onboarding ‘task templates’, so you can pick the one that works for each new joiner: such as automatically notifying the relevant facilities manager so they can arrange access, desks and other equipment, your IT team when specialist software is required, or a local payroll manager if your business is global.

  • Keep open lines of communication

The period between accepting a new role and starting it can be an incredibly delicate and nervous time for a new hire. It was surprising then, to find that of the 1,000 employees we surveyed, 22% of them didn’t hear a thing from their new managers before starting their new role. This figure increased dramatically to 34% for workers aged 54 and over.

You should encourage your organisation’s hiring managers to contact their new starters to confirm their role, duties, and what their first week at work will look like. This will help them to fully prepare for their first day and know what is expected of them.

In addition, your HR team could:

  • Send new hires information about where they need to be on their first day, including the site address, time, department and person they’ll need to report to
  • Let them know who to contact if they are delayed on their first day
  • Offer advice on dress code
  • If the role is remote, make sure they know what kind of tech or equipment you’ll be providing, when it will be delivered, and who will be in contact with them to set it up.
  • Get all new starter paperwork sorted before they arrive

With new starters busy learning the finer points of their role, bogging them down in huge volumes of new starter forms or bombarding them with emails will only add to their nerves.

Aim to have all their new starter documentation done before they arrive. This will help them to focus on settling into their new role and the work they’ll be undertaking. You may want to consider using an HR software solution with onboarding functionality that can help make essential administration much more manageable and less stressful for both your HR team and your new hires.

  • Offer training or a ‘buddy’ to help them settle in

Having a well-designed onboarding programme that includes an element of training can help new hires feel more confident in their role. Our survey found that only 4% of respondents said they didn’t require any training when they started their jobs; indicating that on-the-job training (or some degree of it at the very least) is something the vast majority of employees want when they start a new role.

If you’re not able to offer specific training, perhaps consider implementing a mentor or ‘buddy’ system. This can also help reduce the stress levels of your new hires should they find something difficult or get stuck with certain aspects of their role. In addition, it can help your employees form a new professional relationship straight away and let them learn about how things are run at their new company much more efficiently.

  • Have regular check-ins

The pressures of probation can weigh heavily on the minds of new employees. If they don’t know how they’re performing during those first few weeks, they may become anxious about passing their probationary review.

Regular check-ins with managers can help avoid this. They can support new employees in clarifying initial short-term priorities and longer-term goals, as well helping to build a rapport with their new managers. It’s also a chance for them to raise any difficulties they may be experiencing or to ask for any support they’d like to help improve their work performances.

  • Make onboarding motivational, inspiring and enjoyable

Lastly, your company’s onboarding programme should be an inspiring and motivating journey for your new hires. After all, although the prospect of starting a new job can feel daunting, it can be exciting experience, too! So, why not capitalise on those more positive feelings of enthusiasm, excitement and motivation and keep them going as long as possible?

Little things you can do to make a more inspiring onboarding programme include:

  • Encourage managers to have welcome lunch or social event outside of work. This can help your new hires get to know and interact with their new colleagues in a more relaxed setting.
  • Using your HR software, create a customised onboarding portal tailored to them and their role. You could even include a personalised welcome video from their new team.
  • Highlight your company’s values, employee value proposition and culture. Not only will this help build vital engagement with new joiners, but also demonstrates that the employee experience is something your business takes seriously.
  • Create a welcome kit with some branded goodies. Even a box of cookies or greeting card with a warm message can pack a punch when it comes to building instant engagement!

Make the perfect first impression

The onboarding of new hires is a company’s best – and only chance – to make that dazzling first impression. Discover the fundamental issues affecting onboarding programmes in the UK and Ireland, and the actions HR can take to create stellar onboarding experiences – download the free report by following this link.

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