How to Ensure a Positive Employer Brand Experience through Induction and Orientation

By Richard Mosley

Once you’ve made an offer and it’s been accepted, you may think that you can take your foot off the employer brand marketing pedal. Nothing could be further from the truth. Onboarding talent in the right way is just as important as recruiting the right talent. If you succeed, high expectations will fast-forward into high engagement and high performance. Get it wrong, and disappointment will lead to disengagement and early attrition.

Focus on the fundamentals for a positive employer branding experience

As you launch your efforts to deliver a positive brand experience through induction and orientation, focus on mastering the fundamentals first. Here are the five onboarding practices that are essential to effective employer brand engagement and identification as well as to hastening the new hire’s time to performance (the time required for a new employee to begin paying dividends):

  • Set global standards while allowing for local tailoring. Set up a consistent global onboarding process across your organization to ensure close alignment with the EVP, effective application of technology, and consistent feedback and metrics. As with other employer brand management processes, give other divisions in your organization the freedom, within certain constraints, to localize the standards and practices to meet the needs and preferences of regional cultures, local business units, and specific talent segments.
  • Start orientation early and stretch it out. Successfully onboarding new employees requires a great deal more than a day-long induction session. As soon as the selected candidate accepts the offer, start some form of preboarding process. Extend your orientation to a period lasting 3 to 12 months.
  • Establish clear ownership and ensure seamless teamwork. HR generally owns the onboarding function, but it’s definitely a team sport. The reason a formalized process is required is because effective onboarding requires the close coordination of many different functions within the business. Prior to onboarding new employees, make sure the following departments are onboard:
    • Recruitment team: Responsible for ensuring a smooth handoff of the new employee to the department that person is assigned to and to other members of the onboarding team.
    • HR management: In charge of the overall delivery of onboarding, providing support to hiring managers and updating the process to meet the changing needs of the business.
    • IT and facilities: Tasked with ensuring new employees are appropriately equipped and enabled from day one.
    • Learning and development: Responsible for evaluating the learning and development needs of new employees and providing the educational and training resources required. Responsibilities include the provision of e-learning support through induction and orientation.
    • Line management: Takes the leading role in welcoming new employees and orienting them to their new roles and to colleagues and bringing them up to speed on performance objectives.
  • Leverage technology. Technology can play a highly effective role in guiding both new joiners and hiring managers through the onboarding process, as well as providing a more consistent on-brand experience. Technology support may include task flow management, socialization, and cultural orientation. A number of these services can be built onto an existing human resource management system (HRMS) or ATS, but the best in breed according to benchmarking research conducted by the Aberdeen Group are custom-built portals that are fully integrated into the wider talent management system, such as Workday Recruiting.
  • Leverage the power of data to optimize performance. Onboarding provides an important data set that that enables you to measure key performance indicators (KPIs) such as quality of hire. IT links the data collected during the hiring process, data collected during subsequent performance management, and data gathered during development processes to provide full-stream visibility into the employee life cycle. Linking these three data sets enables organizations to better understand the kind of interventions required during onboarding to ensure people feel fully engaged and accelerate to full performance in the shortest possible time.

Preboarding new hires

Recruiting a candidate shouldn’t stop the moment he accepts an offer, and neither should your employer branding efforts. Because most recruiting structures are transactional, they stop as soon as the selected candidate accepts the offer. This is a real risk for recruiting, particularly considering the competition for top talent in today’s markets. You can be assured your competitors aren’t slowing down in their efforts to woo your new hire.

Make your offer more “sticky” by developing a plan to have the hiring managers, team, peers, and others involved in recruiting your new hire maintain communication during those vulnerable weeks between offer acceptance and start date. Here are a few things to consider in order to create a “white glove” onboarding experience:

  • Create an onboarding checklist for everyone who has a stake in the new hire, including your hiring manager/team, recruiting, HR, facilities, and IT. Establish clear expectation of who will do what and when, in order to ensure a smooth onboarding experience.
  • If the recruiter is making the offer, have the hiring manager follow up within 24 hours. Your hiring manager should congratulate the new hire, answer any questions, and make herself available for anything that comes up.
  • Assign a contact person to each new hire. Make sure the person has a point of contact at all times for any questions.
  • Have someone check in with the new hire every week. Don’t let the new hire fall off the radar.
  • Help new hires make a graceful exit from their current employers. Prep them for the exit/notice meeting, potential counteroffers, work transition, and so on. Understand that this is an emotional experience for some employees, and let them know you’re there to support them.
  • Send the new hire any resources, documents, links, and so on that help with understanding the company, team, role, and so on. Be sure to let them know that this “research” is entirely optional. They may be buried with transition work for their current employers, so don’t add to that stress or pull focus by adding mandatory preboarding reading.

Providing a warm welcome

Starting a new job is as stressful as it is exhilarating. By making your new hire feel welcome and attending to her creature comforts, you can mitigate the stress and ease the transition while initiating your retention efforts.

Consider adding one or more of the following steps to your onboarding process to create a pleasant and memorable onboarding experience:

  • Send a welcome letter signed by the hiring manager and members of the department or team that will be working closely with the new hire.
  • Prepare and send the person a detailed itinerary of her first week, including any and all orientation sessions.
  • Prepare the person’s workspace to provide everything he’ll need — desk, chair, computer hardware and software, sticky notes, and so on. Be sure that IT sets him up with a network username and password. Nothing sucks the wind out of day one more than waiting hours to get a computer set up.
  • Schedule a team lunch or happy hour near the end of the person’s first week.
  • Assign an onboarding ambassador to answer questions and shepherd the new hire through the first couple of weeks.
  • Provide a tour of the building.
  • Schedule meetings with senior leaders.
  • Introduce your new hire to others new/recent hires.
  • Check in at the end of week one.
  • Schedule regular (weekly at least) check-ins during the first 90 days.
  • Establish clear goals, deliverables, and priorities for the onboarding period.

Designing an extensive orientation process

Many organizations allocate only a day or a few days to orienting new employees, but for best results, extend your orientation period to three months at the minimum and up to a year. Create a three-column table with the scheduled time periods in the left column, the onboarding phases in the center column, and objectives for each onboarding phase in the right column.

Phases of Onboarding at the LEGO Group
Time Period Onboarding Phase Objective
Acceptance to arrival Preboarding Setting expectations
Day 1 to Week 1 Induction Welcoming and equipping
Week 1 to Month 1 Orientation Connecting the dots
Month 1 to Month 3 Integration Building a network
Month 3 to Year 1 Acceleration Getting up to full speed

Consider adding a fourth column for assigning each onboarding phase/objective to the department(s) or individual(s) responsible for that phase/objective.