Induction and onboarding guidelines

What is induction?

Induction is the process of providing information, guidance and support to new employees to enable them to adjust to a new environment and begin productive, meaningful work as quickly as possible. Induction should be a structured program that is implemented consistently across an organisation to provide orientation, organisational knowledge and on-the-job training.

At USQ, induction is defined in HR Policy and Procedures as the process whereby an employee is provided with access to appropriate information and support required to operate effectively in their appointed position. This information may include general information related to appointment and the University, workplace health and safety, equal employment opportunity, learning and teaching and relevant policies, procedures and expectations of the University.

What is onboarding?

Onboarding is a broader term and has a more comprehensive goal and perspective. Whereas induction tends to normally have a ‘process focus’, onboarding encompasses the complete range of tasks and requirements involved with acclimating and engaging a new employee in the organisation – its goal is to accommodate, assimilate and accelerate new team members into their roles at USQ. It is a continuous process, both corporately and in the work area, that may extend for weeks or months rather than the usual few days for induction.

Onboarding does not begin and end on the new employee’s first day, week or month. It should be conducted in developmental stages and be followed up with regular progress evaluations. The period over which onboarding is conducted will vary depending on the role, but it should not be considered complete until the employee has been successfully integrated into the workplace and is achieving an acceptable level of productivity. This applies not only to new starters, but also to existing staff members embarking on new roles within USQ through recruitment or transfer.

Importance of effective induction and onboarding

Although there is a great deal of information to be disseminated during onboarding, neither the employee nor USQ will gain much from the experience if it is conducted as a lecture. People are more likely to retain information if they are engaged during the process. New starters should be encouraged to provide details about themselves, ask questions, and provide feedback on what they experience. This exchange of information will enable USQ to learn about the employee, identify their areas of need, and provide appropriate information and assistance.

By encouraging information from the new employee, USQ will be able to review and improve existing onboarding and induction procedures. It is an ideal opportunity for USQ to gain insight into its policies and procedures generally. Areas in need for improvement are likely to be more obvious to new staff. Showing consideration for, or adopting feedback, is an excellent way to demonstrate employee value to new employees early on.

A person’s decision to accept a job offer is based on all the information available to them at the time, however, it is not until they actually begin work that the realities of their decision become known. Even when a job offer has been accepted, an employer’s efforts to secure that person as an employee are far from over.

The probationary period is designed to assess an employee’s competence and professional behaviour before making a commitment to their ongoing employment, and induction and onboarding is the employee’s opportunity to assess the organisation’s suitability before committing themselves.

There is a direct correlation between induction and onboarding (or the lack of) and early employee turnover. Turnover in the early stages of employment is costly to the employer because of the following reasons:

  • Cost of recruitment – initial advertising expenditure and recruitment costs will not have been recouped and will be doubled by having to repeat the process.
  • Loss of return on investment – if an employee leaves within the first three months of employment, the company will receive little, if any, return on investment for the training and resources provided.
  • Loss of productivity – duties/priorities of other employees will need to be reorganised to cover the duties of early leavers.
  • Cost of temporary replacement – temporary staff may be hired to fill the gap, bearing an additional cost to the company. Temporary staff will need to undergo initial training and, depending on the nature of the work, may be unable to work on long-term projects, thus affecting productivity further.

Benefits of effective induction and onbarding

In addition to reducing early employee turnover, effective induction and onboarding offers the following benefits:

  • It reduces a new starter’s anxiety by assisting them to adapt to the new environment quickly
  • The level of productivity and efficiency is reached earlier
  • There is less reliance on the supervisor/manager for direction, and
  • Existing employees may be given the opportunity to mentor new employees as development activities.

Investment in an effective induction and onboarding process will ensure new employees are:

  • Made to feel welcome and valued
  • Committed and enthusiastic
  • Provided with adequate direction and support, and
  • Encouraged to provide feedback so that employee dissatisfaction can be addressed early on.

Who is responsible for induction and onboarding?

A common misconception about induction is that it is a one-off training event conducted solely by Human Resources. Ideally, onboarding should be carried out in stages and involve people from across USQ. Importantly, it requires major commitment from Managers and Supervisors.

Human Resources

Human Resources’ primary responsibilities are to design the corporate induction program and associated documentation (such as handbooks and checklists), and regularly evaluate the induction program to ensure it is meeting organisational objectives. It is also the responsibility of HR to ensure Managers have the necessary skills and training to identify new starter developmental needs and deliver induction effectively. Induction training may include communication skills, such as giving and receiving feedback.

Human Resources should also work in collaboration with Managers and Supervisors to ensure that adequate support and resources are provided to new starters who are from a diverse background.

Managers and Supervisors

Managers and supervisors “own” the onboarding process – they have a comprehensive understanding of the requirements and expectations of the new starter’s role and can identify training and development needs. Managers and supervisors are also best placed to offer ongoing feedback and support to new starters.

Managers and supervisors are responsible for conducting performance appraisals in conjunction with probation requirements. As part of induction, USQ’s performance management framework should be explained in order for new starters to understand the work outputs and behaviours expected of them. As well as conducting formal performance reviews, Managers should meet regularly with new starters for informal feedback sessions.

New employees are particularly receptive to the atmosphere in their new workplace. Whether consciously or not, personal attitudes may be conveyed when information is presented, and a negative attitude from supervisors or colleagues towards a new employee, or the workplace in general, will not go unnoticed.

Managers and supervisors are also formally accountable for ensuring each new employee completes the mandatory induction programs as outlined in USQ HR Policies and Procedures including: the Corporate Module; WHS Module, EO Online (equity module 1 and/or 2), Fraud and Corruption Module, and for academic employees, the mandatory Learning and Teaching modules.

Colleagues

The new starter’s colleagues also have an important role to play in onboarding. Team members should be notified in advance of new staff commencing and should be encouraged to be proactive in offering assistance when needed. Onboarding is also an ideal opportunity for existing staff members to gain valuable development experience by coaching/mentoring new employees.

It is a good idea to organise a small social gathering such as a morning tea or lunch, where the new starter can meet with their colleagues in an informal setting.

Specialists from other Departments

On-boarding should involve internal presentations or briefing sessions from specialists within other departments. Departmental representatives can provide specific information, such as advice on legal compliance, equity and diversity issues, workplace health and safety, IT, security, records management, etc. Linking a face with policies and procedures can assist new starter to better retain information and will encourage ownership. It will also provide new starters with a contact name if they need assistance in these areas.

Fitting in

Employees may feel nervous in the early stages of a new job. Standing out as “the new person” is just an added source of anxiety. Company culture, or “the way we do things around here” is an important concept for any new employee to grasp in order to feel comfortable in their new role.

A ‘buddy program’ can be an effective way to introduce new employees to the conventions and customs of their new workplace. Buddies can also assist with social integration by introducing new starters to other people in USQ on an informal level. The need for social interaction in the workplace should not be underestimated. Feelings of rejection and exclusion from private social groupings have a profound effect on an employee’s wellbeing and performance. Failure to integrate socially at work is not an uncommon reason for early resignation.

The first 90 days in any new role is a challenging and critical time for the new employee, their team and the University.

Tips for effective onboarding

While the formal induction program may start when the employee first arrives to begin work, the actual onboarding experience began well before the first day. An impression of USQ was beginning to develop back when the employee had initial contact with the organisation about the employment opportunity. To project a professional image, recruitment, induction and onboarding should be conducted as a cohesive effort. The aim should be to create, and maintain, a positive first impression.

Some basic tips for an effective induction and onboarding program are:

  • First-day jitters can be eased by providing the new starter with some basic instructions, such as:
    • How to get to work (maps, bus routes, etc)
    • What time to arrive
    • Where to park
    • How to dress
    • Where to go/who to ask for, and
    • What activities to expect on their first day.
    • Make time to talk – as the employees’ manager, ensure that you plan time in the calendar to meet the new employee ideally at the beginning and end of their first day. Have their calendar planned out for them in terms of meetings, but take the time to meet with them at the end of their first week to check-in with them as to their impressions on the role. This also provides you with the opportunity to provide them with feedback on your view of their performance in the first week.
    • People will feel welcome if their arrival is expected. Inform reception or other relevant staff when a new employee is starting so that they are not treated as an unknown intruder on their first day. Inform immediate team members so they are not taken by surprise when introduced to the new person but, rather, offer a warm welcome.
    • Ensure that the new employee’s position description is accurate and current. The manager should spend time discussing the position description with the new employee, explaining the work in the broader context and providing clarification where necessary. Provide an overview of how the new employee fits in with the rest of the team, how the team fits in with the department, and how the department contributes to the overall effectiveness of USQ. It may be useful for the new employee to spend some time with other members of their team to learn more about workflows.
    • Agreeing performance criteria up front will ensure that the new employee is clear about your expectations of them and sets a framework for what the success criteria are for the role.
    • Do not bombard a new employee with too much information at once. They will be overwhelmed and will be unlikely to retain very much. Instead, deliver information in stages, depending on priority and relevance. Try not to accomplish too much on the new starter’s first day.
    • Ensure that a workstation has been prepared – secure a telephone and computer prior to the employee starting work. Contact the Division of ICT Services so that the new employee can be set up on email, network and telephone systems prior to their arrival – this is imperative if employees are expected to begin work immediately.
    • Give the new employee a task to start working on that is relevant to their ongoing work. This will ensure the employee is being productive and feels useful from the start. The task should be easily achievable, yet meaningful.

    Evaluating an employee's induction and onboarding experience

    USQ has introduced two onboarding surveys which serve the following purpose:

    1. to evaluate the effectiveness of the new employee’s recruitment and induction experience and provide useful information to the HR Department and work area in terms of process improvement; and
    2. to foster employee engagement and encourage their involvement in the organisation and its culture, values and behaviours through an evaluation of policy, development and career needs.

    Surveys are conducted at intervals of 30 days post-commencement (for the purposes of recruitment effectiveness) and 90 days post-commencement for broader engagement and development purposes and should take around 5-10 minutes to complete.

    All new employees are surveyed online with results collated and analysed by HR in the first instance, for dissemination to work areas as appropriate. Results will be utilised to modify recruitment and induction processes as necessary, and contribute to the development of broader onboarding and development strategies and programs for USQ.

    Managers and supervisors should make sure new employees are provided with the opportunity to complete these surveys at the 30 and 90 day intervals.

    Further advice and assistance

    Please contact your relevant HR Client Services team.