Onboarding tips: how to help new employees settle in

Kai Feller from Bark.com offers up some tips on how to make the onboarding process better for new employees.

At the heart of every business are the people it employs – this is why onboarding is so important.

However, every entrepreneur knows that despite it being an extremely exciting time, recruitment can also be stressful and expensive. Finding someone that suits your culture and ethos is sometimes hard. That’s why when you do decide you’ve found the fight person, making sure they stay with the company and remain happy is crucial.

For me, the onboarding process starts at the interview stages. It’s from that point that you’ll be able to build a rapport with the candidate and gauge whether they’re the right fit for your business’ culture.

I think the biggest fear for new starters is that they’re on their own, in a completely new environment, surrounded by people they’ve never met. Having a couple of the day-to-day people involved at different stages of the interview process works well for this reason.

One of the most important things as a business is culture, and finding people that fit into that should be a main focus when recruiting. Although having an immaculate skillset and CV is key, making sure that they’ll get on with the rest of the team is just as important.

Look for candidates who show traits such as ambition and drive to make sure they’re a good fit. While having the right skillset is vital, it’s not the deciding factor when hiring. If someone’s personality or way of working isn’t compatible with your culture then you may want to choose another candidate.

How you can help

New starters should understand their target audience, regardless of what level or department they’re working at. So, to improve your employees’ understanding of your customer base, ask every newcomer to spend a couple of days on the support phones, talking to and helping customers. This is something I’d recommend to any business owner.

Not only does it make a huge difference having a workforce that is totally immersed in its customer base, it’s a great way to ease people into their new role.

Putting new staff on customer phones helps them to understand the customer base
Another point is to always have the new starter’s desk, laptop and first piece of work ready for when they arrive. It’s never nice to go to a new job and feel as if no one’s sure what you’re meant to be doing or why you’re there. Make sure that everything is set up for them when they get there.

This may seem like a trivial thing, but for a newcomer who knows practically no one, feeling needed and important can go a long way to helping them settle in.

Another effective tactic to touch on is social events. The best way to get to know people at work is through more relaxed social functions. So, finding an excuse to get the team out of the office for a lunch or an evening is great when it comes to ensuring new starters feel comfortable and welcome.

With that in mind, always try to plan social occasions and team building events for when a new person is starting. Even though you might think it’s not necessary, giving people a chance to socialise on a less official level can make a big difference to how the feel and behave at work.

The most important thing to get right is that transparent and open relationship between employer and employee.

Making sure there is an infrastructure for constant and consistent support and communication is the best way to engender new starters into the team. Whether this means catching up with them once a week for the first month or so, or just letting them know that you’re free to chat any time, being supportive and visible to them is vital. There also needs to be a level of patience and understanding in those early stages, as it might take newcomers a while to understand your processes and way of working.

“It doesn’t just apply to new starters though, but to all employees”

A happy workforce is a productive workforce, so any measures you can take to ensure they’re happy from the start will make a huge difference. This idea doesn’t just apply to new starters though, but to all employees.

Retaining staff is much more cost-effective than having to continually hire, so the longer employees stay with you the better. Recruiting can be a time-consuming, expensive and mentally draining process if you’re constantly having to repeat it.

Kai Feller is the co-founder of online local services marketplace, Bark.com.

When a new employee starts

What information does an employer have to give to an employee when they start and vice versa?

The Employment Rights Act sets out the rules relating to what should be in a statement of main particulars of employment. It has become referred to as “the contract of employment” – even by Tribunal Chairmen – but strictly it is a statement. As such it is not legally binding (employees sign for receipt of it, not that they agree to it) but it is excellent evidence as to what is the contract.

The contract of employment can be more than the statement, it can include offers made (and accepted) in the job advert, verbally at the interview and everything contained in a job offer letter.

The statement must be issued after one month’s employment and before two months. It can be issued in two parts, but for most employers it would be administratively simpler to issue in one. The statement can refer, for some issues, to information in an employee handbook. As you would expect it must state the name and address of the employer, name of employee, job title, salary/wage and interval paid, date of start (and any previous employment which counts as continuous), disciplinary rules, procedures and authority.

These last few: disciplinary rules, procedures etc. have to be explained in some detail, which is why they are normally contained in a staff handbook.

In a staff handbook policies for health & safety and equal opportunities etc. would also be included. The equal opportunities policy, particularly, has to be taught to all new staff (longer serving staff need to be reminded of it periodically); the policy must be enforced if there are any breaches and reviewed. While there is no statute that dictates such action should be taken by any employer, there are codes of practice in abundance to trip over if you do not.

It amply repays any employer to properly inform all employees of the terms and conditions of employment that apply to them – that way everyone knows where they stand; control is easier and, if followed correctly, success at any Employment Tribunal is almost guaranteed.

By “vice versa” I assume you mean what information an employee must provide to the employer. Employers have to assure themselves that someone has the right to work under the asylum and immigration rules. Therefore, if an individual wishes to work for you they will have to provide the necessary information.

That is a statutory requirement. Some roles require the possession of qualifications, doctors for example, the care and financial services industries are subject to “fitness to work” rules regarding children, vulnerable adults, financial propriety and the Criminal Records Bureau, plus other government department rules insist on strict compliance relating to suitability.

Apart from these the employer can ask for whatever information is proper relating to the role in their organisation. If the potential employee chooses not to answer obviously relevant questions – “why did you leave your last employer?” – for example, be suspicious, be very suspicious and don’t employ them.

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