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Have you been to Disneyland, Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Europa Park or Six Flags in the past few years? As the car or train approaches, magical signs appear and transport you to the world of the theme park, the car parks are named after fantastical elements or the most famous rides, nearby hotels are miniature versions of the actual parks, and the monorails or tourist trains that deliver you to the park entrances pipe in music that subconsciously seems to say “here lies fun!”
By the time you arrive at the turnstiles, the kids - and rollercoaster junkies like me! - are at a fever pitch and can’t wait to step inside the gates and be in those enchanted lands beyond…
This, in case you couldn’t tell, is a bloated analogy of the onboarding process. Most people approach a new job with nerves, excitement and full of motivation yet, at the majority of companies, we still wait til new colleagues start on their first day to welcome them into our magical business kingdoms.
What theme parks understand more than most is that this is the age of experience, and a great onboarding experience is all about pre-boarding. Pre-boarding starts the moment a contract is signed.
Don’t believe us? A 2014 study revealed that 80% of best-in-class organisations with the highest profits and returns began their onboarding process before day one. In spite of this, only 20% of companies have a dedicated onboarding budget and one-in-three companies still spend nothing at all on onboarding. Talk about making a HR business case.
So what does a good pre-boarding look like? We like to split it into two parts:
- Practical information
- Tone of voice
This is the baseline nuts and bolts, table stakes, building the monorail to ship the customers in. In the period between signing a contract and the first day or work, there should be regular contact covering matters such as where new recruits can find relevant information like rosters, their starting date and time, and who their main contact should be. You can also cover points like guidelines around workwear.
Tone of voice
This is where it gets really interesting, this is the themed signage, the piped-in music and the costumed characters welcoming you to the gates. A high quality onboarding manager will use the period between contract signing and first day to proactively engage with the employee, anticipate questions, and to let them know that the company and the team is excited by their arrival.
You should provide new recruits with access to the enterprise social media platform or employee app immediately so they can start to get a handle on the issues being discussed, the way communications take place, and their onboarding manager can even post a short introduction so that the new employee is engaged in the business long before their starting date.
Meanwhile, providing access to any relevant reading materials, company presentations or guidelines at this point means that employees will hit the ground running on their first few days.
For the company itself, some attention being paid to this part of the process pays off several fold. It’s ironic that most organisations will dedicate sizeable chunks to recruitment (on average, around £4,500 per new recruit) but little to nothing on pre-boarding and onboarding.
This shortsighted approach to management is made even crazier when onboarding research reveals that employees who undergo a successful pre-boarding and onboarding experience are typically 100% productive at just 4 months, compared to 8-12 months for those who receive poor onboarding. Not to mention the fact that they’re much more likely to be brand ambassadors and stay with the company for years more.
While providing a magical experience is a clear benefit, theme parks of course do it because it encourages visitors to return time and again, to spend more money in the restaurants and gift shops, and then to go and tell their friends all about it.
One way to ensure you provide a faultless onboarding flow is to create an onboarding checklist. If your company doesn’t have one already, fortunately we do - download it now. It’ll make your employees happier than a kid on a rollercoaster.