“Era of Strategic HR” Third installment: Importance of mid-career employee onboarding
Why is onboarding important?
Onboarding is a way to quickly assimilate new hires into an organization, help companies retain them, and turn the new hires into capable employees. Though this mechanism is common in the US and Europe, it has become more popular among Japanese companies over the past few years. Foreign capital companies in Japan began implementing onboarding programs in earnest about 20 years ago when the number of major foreign capital recruiting firms entering Japan increased. According to our survey of HR/recruitment personnel from foreign capital companies and global Japanese companies that we conducted in March 2021 (*1), 80% knew of onboarding, and 70% responded that they implemented onboarding programs. The percentage of foreign capital companies that implemented onboarding programs was higher than Japanese companies.
One of the reasons that the idea of onboarding has become popular is that changing jobs has become more common in Japan. In a recruitment system where companies hire new graduates at the same time each year based on Japan’s traditional lifelong employment system, introductory programs for new employees are implemented for several weeks to a month to educate them on corporate history and culture and how to do their jobs. However, mid-career hires enter a company at different times; therefore, companies need to welcome new employees multiple times a year. In addition, there is a big difference since mid-career hires have much more work experience than new graduates. Years of experience, background, and expertise vary from person to person. Onboarding is becoming more important to enable mid-career hires with different attributes to familiarize themselves with their companies and perform well.
The original purpose of recruitment was to hire good workers who would contribute to company profits. Onboarding plays a major role in achieving that purpose. Companies doing well with onboarding can improve employee retention rates. On the other hand, companies that do not do well with onboarding have a higher turnover rate and must recruit again. If candidates decline job offers or new employees resign early, the money, time, and energy spent on recruitment goes to waste. Onboarding is not just for new employees. It is necessary for companies to enable new hires to create greater value by quickly turning them into capable employees and retaining them for the long term.
The onboarding process starts when a worker accepts an informal job offer
Many companies consider onboarding a way to welcome new hires. However, the onboarding process starts when the person accepts an informal job offer. How new hires spend their time until they start work affects how they will do in future.
HR/recruitment personnel should not be complacent simply because workers accepted informal job offers. Those who are looking for a new job while still employed have a lot of time until they start the new positions. During that time, they are sometimes unsure as to whether they should change jobs and whether they made the right choice. Because online interviews have become common, job seekers often feel lonely when not knowing anything about the people and the company where they will work if all recruitment processes are implemented online.
An effective way to alleviate any concerns is to show the office atmosphere by sharing video messages and letting them interact with employees. Companies can let their new hires know that they are welcome by introducing them to team members. And it will boost the morale of new hires and increase the motivation to work for the new company. Because Covid-19 crisis has made it difficult for new hires to interact with team members, it is better to let them interact online or share video messages. Some companies use chat tools to communicate with new hires. Companies should share messages multiple times on a continuous basis rather than just once. You cannot work too hard to alleviate concerns. The most important point is to make new hires feel welcome.
When new hires negotiate their resignations, the current companies may try to stop them. If a company hires workers through recruiting firms, those firms will take care of them until they join the new company. However, if a company hire workers directly, HR/recruitment personnel should take care of them. Onboarding is helpful in preventing new hires from being stopped by their current companies. I would like companies to not only maintain business communication with the new hires, such as informing them of the procedures for submitting new employee documents and sharing their schedules, but also place importance on human contact during every interaction in order to alleviate any concerns.
How to welcome new employees and basic preparations
Foreign capital companies often issue welcome kits to new hires on the first day of work. The welcome kit can include business cards, stationery with the company logo, miscellaneous goods like a neck strap and mug, and messages from team members, as well as the necessary devices, such as a computer. New hires feel like they are offered a warm welcome and their expectations and attachment to the company will grow. New items for new hires are hard to prepare and costs money. However, sharing messages from team members costs nothing. In a remote environment, companies can use message cards or message boards created online. The hiring departments and teams should work to develop an environment where new hires find it is easier to fit in by announcing who will join them and what tasks they will be in charge of in advance and asking team members to talk with them on the day they start work.
Even if companies cannot do very much, I would like them to prepare at least some items that new hires need, such as a computer, new stationery, a security card to enter the office, and business cards for the day new hires start work. Even highly motivated new hires can be disappointed and unhappy if they are not given a computer on the day they start work. If a company does not prepare security cards and business cards, they may wonder whether they made the right choice. Though it may be natural for major companies to prepare something for new hires, many companies cannot spend enough time or do not have the personnel to prepare properly. Companies should be careful not to disappoint new hires on the first day because their expectations are the highest on that day.
Be sure to set goals during the probation period
Though onboarding policies and whether the training system is in place or not may vary depending on the company, department, job type, and position, companies should always set goals regardless. It is important to set numerical targets and action plans so that new hires know what to achieve to pass their probation and make clear to them what to do. Companies are obligated to show new hires where to find and use the training materials to achieve their goals. Even if you are going to evaluate and review whether the new hires have achieved their goals in three to six months, you should put that date on the calendar. It is impossible to develop an action plan if new hires cannot determine when they should achieve their goals. In addition, if you set a deadline, it boosts the sense of purpose, enables new hires to focus on their goals, and makes it easier to work towards those goals. You should document the details of the set goals and the deadline. This is important in order to minimize gaps in understanding between the company and new hires and prevent problems. Foreign capital companies are especially strict about goal achievement, and whether new hires can pass their probation or not is determined by whether they can achieve their goals. As every day counts, it is necessary to set goals right after the new hires start work.
It is better to incorporate catch-up meetings with superiors to follow up with new hires on their tasks towards goal achievement and take care of them mentally in an unfamiliar environment. In those meetings, superiors check both the quantitative and qualitative results and discuss with new hires what they did well, how they should build on their performance, and identify any problems and how to solve them and improve. You should be careful not to give new hires feedback only from superiors by letting them interview with HR personnel. Those interviews can help to alleviate any concerns. If no one cares about them right after they start work or during the probation period, new hires can feel lonely and alienated and become demotivated. It is better for HR to hold interviews once a week for a while after they start work. After three months of interviews, you can consider making adjustments and holding interviews about once every two weeks depending on the situation and job.
If you make new hires’ superiors do everything themselves, it imposes a burden on them and the outcome may vary depending on their skills. Thus, we advise systematizing these procedures as an onboarding package and putting HR in charge of the program. If a series of events and documents are systematized as a package, it can save HR the trouble of explaining to superiors what to do every time. If there are documents that specify the goals and the deadline for new hires, you will avoid arguments. It will not only maintain the accuracy of onboarding but also seriously help you handle mid-hire onboarding as a company. Though not many companies have such onboarding packages, it is beneficial to create such a package.
What HR should do in the onboarding process
The most important point for HR to remember about onboarding is to check whether they have all the devices and environments necessary for new hires to do their jobs and to take care of them mentally. Because some new hires may not be good at sharing opinions directly, it is helpful for companies to talk to their new hires face-to-face and use online questionnaire tools to share their honest opinions and feelings on a non-face-to-face basis.
I hope companies that do not focus on or implement onboarding will understand its importance. Companies have no excuse not to make sufficient preparations for mid-career employees just because they are mid-career hires or they made a career change because they wanted to. By implementing onboarding programs, companies can make their mid-career hires contribute more, increase their engagement, and improve their retention, which will lead to improvements in organizational power.
*1 Survey on the implementation of onboarding programs for mid-career hires (Surveyed by en world Japan in April 2020)
Author: Takeshi Kitsunezaki, Vice president
After working in overseas sales and other positions, started his recruiting career in a British recruiting firm in 2006. He managed a team specialized in recruitment and career changes for internal IT positions in the financial, pharmaceutical and healthcare, retail/manufacturing/logistics industry, and Internet industry. He joined en world Japan as director of the sales division and specialized in IT companies/human resources in 2018. Assumed the position of executive director of all sales divisions that support foreign capital companies and global Japanese companies in recruiting regular employees in 2019
Posted on IT Media Business Online on April 16, 2021 Click here for the article in Japanese
About en world Japan (https://www.enworld.com/)
en world Japan is a recruiting firm established in 1999 specializing in global human resources with offices in four countries in the Asia-Pacific region. We specialize in supporting Foreign Capital Companies and global Japanese companies in recruiting human resources for middle to high level positions. We help companies with recruitment and job seekers with career changes from every angle by staffing full-time workers, contract professionals, and executive human resources and providing recruitment process outsourcing solutions.