Working Transitions

How effective onboarding can attract and retain talent

The Office for National Statistics September Bulletin revealed that in the first half of 2017 unemployment rates fell yet further. The employment rate (the proportion of people aged between 16-64 in work) currently sits at 75.3% - the highest since comparable records began in 1971.

Typically, low unemployment rates result in less job-seekers – and more choice for those actively looking for a new role. As the talent pool is reduced, for an organisation looking to recruit, both attracting and, just as importantly, retaining the right talent to fill a role can become a huge challenge.

According to a CIPD survey, almost 80% of employers experience challenges in retaining staff. The most commonly used method of address is to improve the onboarding process. The report goes onto say “This method [onboarding] clearly targets the retention of new employees…it can be a low cost way of preventing new employees leaving within the first few months and is likely to have additional benefits in terms of early productivity”.

When a new employee joins there is much at stake – both for them as an individual and for the recruiting organisation. Starting a new role is an important time of personal transition. Usually, focus is heavily placed on practical support – system training, health and safety etc – but little regard is paid to the emotional support that may be required at this time.

During an employee’s early months, they may feel uncharacteristically vulnerable – they lack the trusted working relationships that they are used to and could feel overwhelmed as they juggle getting to grips with the new organisation, along with the pressures of their new role. Often too, a new joiner is reluctant to express their concerns as they fear damaging their early credibility with their boss. Particularly in the case of individuals whose new role is a ‘step up’ or outside of their comfort zone, ‘throwing in the towel’ may feel like an easier option than struggling to integrate themselves into a new environment. With the average cost of recruiting estimated at around £30k per hire this can be a costly and time consuming experience for an organisation.

It is also important to remember that new joiners will have a past – regardless of whether they joined your organisation as part of a progressive career move or as part of a forced transition, there can often be complex underlying issues that are undisclosed. Many interviewers do not have the skills or experience to probe effectively for evidence of difficult workplace related issues such
as harassment, bullying, resentment or long term negative effects on confidence as a result of previous experiences. Of course, most candidates work hard not to disclose such issues and the recruitment process is frequently focused on “selling” their positive attributes – but psychological issues can run deep and their resurfacing during the early stages of a new role can have a real impact on future performance. Offering tailored transition support during the onboarding process can help individuals come to terms with the past and ensure that they are energised, engaged and focused on delivering the results for which they have been hired.

The business environment continues to be ever more challenging and competitive, so ensuring that all employees perform at the highest levels, both as individual and team contributors - and that they are fully committed and aligned with organisational goals and values – is even more critical in the case of new hires. The majority of companies expect the new employee to ‘hit the ground running’ and begin making an effective contribution quickly. Although common in the US, in the UK only the most forward thinking organisations provide onboarding support as standard and yet a well-structured support programme delivers tangible ROI. It helps new hires transition effectively and begin to add value rapidly, enables full understanding and integration into the organisations culture and sets a strong foundation for the development and retention of a productive workforce.


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Working Transitions
09 November 2017
Supporting effective and successful organisational change


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