Transforming onboarding for HEIs - a #UHR23 blog from People Insight

25 April 2023      Martin Higgs, AUDE Communications and Campaigns Manager

We all know the importance of helping new employees feel engaged and included from Day One. Yet in a world of interactive content, videos, and gamification, most onboarding programmes rely on 'un-sticky' reading and paperwork with the average new joiner expected to complete 54 onboarding tasks.

On top of that, only 40% of businesses set goals for new employees and more than half of businesses have no way of measuring their onboarding programmes.

Below we look at how HEIs can design a positive onboarding experience, with clear metrics in place.

What gets in the way of effective onboarding?

Without role clarity, onboarding can slip through the cracks with everyone assuming it’s something HR will take care of.

HR departments are key to designing and facilitating the onboarding experience but line managers must be ultimately accountable for its success. After all, this is the start of the employee experience and a vital time for engaging new employees.

Clarify roles and responsibilities for an effective onboarding programme:

HR departments usually oversee the process to ensure that onboarding is consistent, that all the necessary paperwork is completed on time, and that new employees are made aware of company-wide policies, benefits, and processes.

Line managers are responsible for organising the first few weeks for new employees, setting tasks, providing role-specific training, and communicating expectations. Managers should also use onboarding to get to know their new starters and help them understand the culture and values of the organisation.

Team members can make or break an onboarding experience by how willing they are to welcome, support, and involve new colleagues. Managers should facilitate team introductions and may wish to assign a ‘buddy’ to help newcomers get to know the team better and answer non-technical questions.

Leaders and senior executives must help newcomers understand the direction and goals of the University. We know that employees are more engaged and motivated when they feel clear about the purpose of their work so help new colleagues understand their influence on the University’s future from the very start.

How can you use onboarding data?

Clear onboarding metrics enable your University to invest in the right areas, improve the onboarding experience, and celebrate teams who create a great first impression. You can also connect onboarding survey insights with other performance indicators to show the impact of investing at the start of the employee experience.

We know that nowadays there is data everywhere and adding more can feel overwhelming. At People Insight, we champion an outcome-focused approach to ensure that every bit of data captured will lead to action.

Before measuring onboarding, ask yourself the following questions about how the data will be used:

  1. What will we do with it?
  2. How is it adding value to our business and people strategy?
  3. How can this information be used to make better decisions about our people’s experience?

What to ask in an onboarding survey

Onboarding surveys are usually sent to new recruits within the first 3 months to get a sense of how they are feeling, how they perceive your employer brand, and whether their expectations of the role match reality.

To get the most from your onboarding surveys, ask questions that can measure the moment and help your organisation improve. Include open-text questions so staff can expand on their responses and suggest improvements.

Onboarding survey questionnaires will vary by organisation, but the following questions are useful to include:

  • “I felt welcomed when I first arrived at my workplace”
  • “The vision and mission of the organisation were clearly communicated to me”
  • "So far my new role has lived up to my expectations”
  • “I am proud to say I work for [organisation name]”
  • Open-text: How do you feel your experience to date could be improved?"

By Jane Tidswell, HE Sector Lead at People Insight

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