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Welcome aboard! Why helping new employees find their feet and fit in has never been more important

  • Written by Sandie Overtveld, Vice President and General Manage – APAC, WalkMe

Australian businesses need to make onboarding, engaging with, and incentivising new hires a priority in 2022.

‘Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes’, as Billy Joel famously put it and never more so than now, as the Covid-triggered Great Resignation rolls into town. Not heard much about the phenomenon yet? You will, and soon.

Here in Australia and around the world, 40 per cent of employees are on the move or hoping to be soon, according to Microsoft’s The Work Trend Index: The Next Great Disruption is Hybrid Work – Are We Ready report published in March 2021.

Many of these would-be and will-be ‘resigners’ are drawn from the ranks of junior and middle management. For some, extended stretches of home-based working during 2020 and 2021 provided unexpected opportunities for introspection, resulting in the conclusion that they were in the wrong role or organisation.

Others feel burnt out, unsupported and under-appreciated by employers who’ve expected them to go the extra mile and do whatever it’s taken to help their organisations navigate the many challenges Covid has thrown up.

With vaccination rates rising and the Australian economy continuing to reopen, this sizeable cohort of workers may be up and out, as soon as suitable opportunities present.

Rebuilding your workforce

Recruiting their replacements promises to keep HR departments humming along in the new year. Finding and securing top talent may remain tricky in some over-subscribed sectors – closed borders and a fierce battle for bodies saw ICT salaries surge by a third between 2020 and 2021, according to the Australian Financial Review – but the challenge won’t be over when rookie recruits sign on the dotted line and show up for work.

An effective onboarding program is critical, if new hires are to become familiar with the organisation, their colleagues and their role, and get up to speed quickly. It’s the key to minimising the productivity lag that comes standard when an individual starts somewhere new and can have an indelible effect on their perceptions about the organisation and their attitude towards the role they’ve taken on.

Getting off to a great start

So, what should the onboarding process comprise, for businesses that hope to turn new recruits into engaged, invested and highly productive contributors who’ll stick around for the long haul?

Make them feel valued, supported and empowered from the get-go, is the short answer.

And how best to do so is the question.

The pandemic has forced HR departments to embrace alternative ways and means of inducting employees – whoever would have dreamt two years ago that completely virtual onboarding could become a real and workable thing? And some of those tools and processes are likely to remain, even as normal service resumes.

That’s not a bad thing. An intuitive, user-friendly digital solution, for example, can be deployed to take care of the ‘bread and butter’ topics – how the organisation operates, the tools employees need to perform their roles, commonly used forms and apps and the like. Benefits include employees being able to access and digest information at their own pace and the ability to ensure every joiner receives the same consistent, high quality experience.

Having said that, there’s no substitute for human connection – the buddy whose job it is to ensure first day questions are answered and that a new hire isn’t lost in the system or left to eat lunch on their own.

In our experience, it’s all about balance and getting it right. In practice, that means offering a blend of carefully curated, need to know information and plenty of personal contact, assistance and empathy, via a well-run HR department and colleagues from all levels of the organisation.

Best foot forward in 2022 and beyond

Intelligent onboarding doesn’t just make for a better experience for employees at an individual level. It can have a material impact on engagement and productivity. Both will be critical for Australian enterprises that hope to survive and thrive through the volatile and uncertain times to come. For that reason, it’s vital to ensure your organisation does everything it can to help each and every new employee put their best foot forward.

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