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Diversity and Inclusion

The ultimate guide to inclusive onboarding

⏰ Think about the last time you had a first day at work.

How did you feel? You might remember feeling anxious, excited, or filled with trepidation on your first day. Will people like me? Will I remember everyone’s names?

Belonging and inclusion start on Day 1, and showing empathy as a manager and onboarding with inclusiveness in mind can really help make a new member feel seen. This is especially true for those who are underrepresented in your business.

We all want to make new joiners feel at home as soon as possible. This is more than just making a good first impression: it will have a significant impact on their engagement levels and happiness.

💼 Onboarding inclusively has tangible benefits for business.

Making your new hire feel heardwelcome, and included isn’t only the right thing to do from a moral perspective – it has important repercussions for their time on the job.

📈 Datapoint

👇 Here’s what the data says about the importance of inclusive onboarding:

  • ☑️ 69% of employees are more likely to stay with their company for 3 years if they experienced great onboarding (Source)
  • ☑️ New hires who went through a structured onboarding program were 58% more likely to be with the organization after 3 years (Source)
  • ☑️ 31% of new hires quit their jobs within the first six months (Source)

Let’s look at four key action steps you can do to create a structured and memorable onboarding experience for your new hires.

So they’ve accepted your job offer – now what?

You have a great opportunity here to build a strong sense of belonging before they set foot through the door on their first day.

Here are five simple steps to take before your new hire joins to help them feel part of the team and build cohesion early.

For you:

📝 Notify your team: When everything’s been dotted and signed, introduce your new teammate. Send a company-wide email with a short bio or fun fact, and encourage colleagues to say hello on their first day. 

🎉 Invite them to team drinks or socials: Particularly if they’re not starting for a while, ask your new colleague out to any team drinks or socials you’ll be having. Equally, don’t pressure them – it can be an intimidating first meeting environment for those who are less extroverted.

For your HR rep:

🌀 Get them signed up for the onboarding portal: From an administrative perspective, if you have an official onboarding portal or procedure, make sure all the technical prep like login details and security issues are cleared before their first day.

💡 Send them useful info: Email or call your new colleague and ask if they’d like to start on a Wednesday to make the week less overwhelming. Also discuss basic info on what to expect, like typical working hours, dress code, or any company updates.

🤝 Inquire about inclusivity at the outset: Ask in advance if there are any accessibility needs (physical, such as private spaces or special equipment, as well as ways of working) so you can have these ready for the first day.

Preparing for your new teammate’s first day is easy to do and will illustrate to them that making them feel included and heard is a top priority.

Now’s your chance to make their first day memorable.

Try out the four recommendations below to give your new starter a warm welcome, and help them feel like part of the team from day one.

🍔 Take them out for lunch: This helps moderate the chaos of the day. Use this as an opportunity to casually and informally tell your new teammate about how everything works and what they can expect on their first day at the office.

🎉 Decorate their desk: Sit them next to someone who will show them the ropes, and decorate their desk with welcome messages or a balloon that says “Say hi! I’m [new person’s name].” Encourage the rest of the team to approach new starters to introduce themselves and break the ice.

And don’t forget to gift some swag – who doesn’t love free stuff?

💻 Make sure tech is working: Nothing is more annoying than being shut out of your device or platforms on your first day. Before showing them around the office, make sure their tech is working and they can access email and everything else they need so they can get to work when the intro meetings are over.

🗣️ Ask about facilities and accessibility: Ask them on their first day if the space is serving them – can they reach the crockery? Do they need a private space for prayer? Is their workspace set up and the environment more broadly working for them? Ask again in a week’s time in case they notice anything new to relay to you.

You can communicate to your teammate that you’re excited to embrace them as a valued new member of the business by personalizing their welcome and guiding them through their first day.

After their first day, continue to make your new colleague feel like they belong throughout the week by incorporating them into activities across the wider business and providing tasks that will give them a sense of purpose.

Here are four top tips to assure your new colleagues have an amazing first week:

👯 Buddy up: To help your new teammate get a more holistic view of the company, arrange intro meetings with people they’ll work with regularly, as well as a ‘buddy’.

An ideal buddy is highly-engaged and experienced in the business, and someone they probably won’t work with day-to-day who can offer a fresh perspective and connections within the business. Encourage your new starter to meet up weekly with their buddy for at least the first month.

🚀 Give them space: Let them explore heftier documents like the employee handbook at their own pace. Block time off for them to do so and make sure they feel confident finding all the right resources on their own.

👩‍💻 Set out *real* tasks for them to achieve in their first week, first month and first three months: Show your new teammate they’re valuable by giving them chunky yet achievable projects that they can aim to complete in their first week, first month and first three months on the job for quick wins.

💼 Introduce them in wider meetings: At bigger team huddles, introduce your new colleague and explain their role in the business. Ask them in advance if there’s a fun fact or anything special they’d like to share about themselves to break the ice and help them connect with the broader team.

📄 Set clear guidelines

A whopping 23% of new hires reported that they would have stayed at a job they quit if they’d been given clear guidelines on what their responsibilities were and the steps necessary to fulfill them.

New hires also want to be explicitly told how their performance will be measured. It will also be important to explain to them how regularly their performance will be evaluated.

Introduce them to key players on your team as well as those they’ll be collaborating with cross-functionally so they know who to reach out to complete their projects.

☝️ Don’t forget to recognize and celebrate your teammate’s contributions early on.

Here’s how to ask for feedback to make your onboarding the best it can be:

🙋 First ask your new teammate how they’d like to give feedback: Some are shy or reticent to provide even positive feedback in person. Before you assume, simply ask your new colleague in what format they’d like to give their feedback.

📌 Formal & informal check-ins: Ask for feedback both formally at specific junctures (e.g., at three and six months) and informally in in-person catch-ups with you and possibly also a member of the talent team.

.      .      .

The bottom line?

With the right tweaks and adjustments, your onboarding process can be optimized to be more welcome and inclusive, which will help you build an authentic and cohesive experience for the amazing talent you worked so hard to find.

🥊 Here’s a recap of your key action steps:

☑️ Prep for the first day in advance by sending them the right information, notifying your team about any new hires, and being thoughtful and extending invitations to social events before they join.

☑️ Nail the first day by personalizing their experience and putting in face time: take your new teammate out to lunch, decorate their desk, and ask about any inclusivity needs that they might have. Make sure their tech works, too!

☑️ Set them up for success in their first week by giving them meaningful tasks, a buddy to help them along the way, and giving them space to go at a pace that’s right for them.

☑️ Define expectations and get early feedback by letting them know what their role entails and how their performance will be measured. Don’t forget to ask for feedback on the onboarding process and how things are going.

The ultimate guide to inclusive onboarding

Have anything else to add? We’re always keen to hear your feedback! Drop your comments, suggestions, or whatever else you’d like to talk about here.

💬 Speak your mind

Fiona Young (she/her)

Having previously led Learning and Development for 3,000 people at Europe’s leading venture builder, Blenheim Chalcot, Fiona knows a thing or two about how to build high performance culture. As Content Director at Hive Learning, Fiona pioneered the organisation's leading guided content programmes which are designed to turn learning into action. Most recently, Fiona led the inception, development and delivery of Inclusion Works by Hive Learning - the world’s first diversity and inclusion programme focused on turning unconscious bias into conscious action - created from over 1,000 leading sources.

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