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02 Nov 2022
by David Bernard

How to make onboarding a truly welcoming experience

New recruits need more than just the essentials during their their introduction to a company

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Many people will be able to relate to poor onboarding experiences which are more like tick-box exercises. Managers zipping through the company history, orientation and IT log-ins are all too common. In fact, less than half (43%) of employees report that their onboarding took more than a day.

With the onboarding experience providing new recruits with their introduction to the company, its culture and their colleagues, it’s crucial that it doesn’t just cover the essentials, but is maximised to ensure the person feels a valued and appreciated addition to the workplace community.

By incorporating recognition from the beginning of an employee’s career, engagement is 135% more likely, and there’s a 91% greater chance of the organisation having a thriving culture.

How to incorporate recognition

Here’s the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of recognition during onboarding – an experience still fresh to me as I’m just four weeks into my role as a business development manager at O.C. Tanner.

I’m grateful to still be embarking on my onboarding journey rather than the experience taking place across a whirlwind few days. The induction into the company hasn’t been hurried. I have a training and development programme in place as well as a mentor, and I’ve had the opportunity to sit with all departments to understand how each team contributes to the company’s success.

And, importantly, I’ve felt welcomed and appreciated from day one. This has been achieved, in part, thanks to O.C. Tanner’s warm and friendly culture, but my onboarding experience was not left to chance. It has been carefully designed with recognition playing an important role.

Start as you mean to go on

O.C. Tanner’s 2023 Global Culture Report identifies the positive impact of memorable recognition moments on the onboarding experience, with it improving inclusion by 89% and great work by 114%. What’s clear is that organisations must recognise early and start as they mean to go on, with recognition during onboarding key to connecting new hires to both the organisational culture and their peers.

It also helps to overturn negative preconceptions about employee recognition – all too common when individuals were rarely thanked or poorly recognised in their previous roles.

Ultimately, there must be an integrated-recognition experience as part of onboarding. Being gifted a bag of “goodies” is a good start, but if this is the only standalone gesture of appreciation, it’ll get lost and forgotten.

As well as the company ‘swag bag’, the basic or ‘foundational’ recognition experience from day one, must include a personalised note to the new hire from their leader, a welcome card signed by peers, and a custom or personalised symbolic award to celebrate the employee joining the company.

Food, cards – going one step further

However, organisations should also be encouraged to go one step further in their recognition experience and provide the new hire with food catered for by the organisation, time for them to socialise with other new hires so they can develop social connections and an opportunity to thank others for their support during the onboarding process.

The latter creates an ideal onboarding experience, but only 19% of new hires have experienced this level of recognition during their first few weeks of joining a company.

Unfortunately, many onboarding experiences are ineffectual and sub-standard, with moments of recognition not traditionally part of the onboarding journey. As I’ve found first-hand, onboarding properly means incorporating moments of appreciation so that the new recruit is made to feel valued and a sense of belonging rather than an awkward outsider on the margins.

By ensuring recognition is properly integrated into the onboarding journey, a number of key elements are improved, from engagement and great work through to inclusion and wellbeing.

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