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Recruiters Can Create 'Unboxing' Experience for New Hires

Commitment to brand keeps onboarding programs on message

Would your new hires be as excited about their first day on the job as they would be to open a new smartphone?

Dane Hurtubise, vice president of new initiatives at Greenhouse, a New York City recruiting software company, compares onboarding to “unboxing,” a YouTube phenomenon in which enthusiasts unwrap products and examine their packaging in obsessive detail.

“Consumer brands have long recognized how powerful the unboxing experience is for customers,” he said. “Imagine getting that iPhone, and you’re opening up the box for the first time and it kind of has that magical feeling to it. We think onboarding can provide a similar opportunity for employers to create excitement around the company and the new hire’s role.”

Continuing with the analogy, Hurtubise said that there’s something fundamentally satisfying and hopeful about unwrapping an object. “With a product, you think about how you will use it or how it will make an impact on your life. That holds true for a company too. If a new hire’s first experience with an organization is disorganized and not carefully designed and packaged, then maybe other parts of the work experience will be disorganized.”

Get Started Right Away

Keeping candidates engaged through the hiring process and into the onboarding phase is especially critical during the break between when the job offer has been signed but before the new hire begins work at the company.

“The candidate is really excited after signing, but then if he or she doesn’t start for another month, the anticipation can wane and anxiety can creep in,” Hurtubise said. This is a perfect time for the future employee to not only begin processing with HR but also to get introduced to the team and the company’s culture.

Hiring managers can reach out and welcome the new hire to the team during this time before Day One, said Robin Schooling, vice president of HR for Hollywood Casino, based in Baton Rouge, La.

“Give them a call, or send a welcome card signed by the team. Not anything formal, but something personal. Take them out to lunch. Do what you can to make the excited new hire feel like a part of the team sooner rather than later,” she said.

Recruiters: Stay Involved

Companies generally partition onboarding responsibilities among recruiters, HR and hiring managers. But onboarding should happen with a shared purpose, experts say.

“When a candidate accepts a job offer, their main point of contact has most likely been a recruiter, so they’re the ones that candidates have the most trust in,” said Rachel Bitte, chief people officer at Jobvite, a recruiting software company based in the San Francisco area. “As a result, recruiters have a huge opportunity to help new hires efficiently and effectively settle into their roles.”

In-house recruiters can make a point to visit new employees they brought on, and stay in touch with them, “almost like a hiring concierge since they are often [new workers’] first contact and they feel a personal connection with them,” Schooling said.

Bitte also advised that recruiters greet their acquisitions on their first day. “If recruiters give new hires an office tour, introduce them to the team and maybe even sit in on a few of their onboarding sessions, they’ll help set the stage for a smooth transition from candidate to employee,” she said. Eventually, the recruiter’s role can be diminished, but it shouldn’t disappear entirely.

“Because of their established rapport, new hires often feel comfortable sharing things with recruiters that they wouldn’t yet with HR or hiring managers,” Bitte said. “A great way to get a sense of how things are actually going is to have recruiters schedule a coffee meeting or grab lunch with new hires a couple weeks and even months after their start date to check in with them.” That way, if the employee has a concern, the recruiter can share that concern with HR and the hiring manager so they can work to remedy it.

But recruiters should be sure to have the employee’s explicit permission to discuss the issue with colleagues first, otherwise, “they’ll likely feel betrayed by their biggest allies,” Bitte said.

Staying on Message

Now that they’ve been working a while, are your new hires receiving the same message they got as candidates? Employee satisfaction demands that the hiring and onboarding experience match up with the reality of the work experience.

“Recruiters have an obligation to make sure that the first experience new employees have is consistent with recruiting messages,” Bitte said. “During the onboarding process, they should check in with new hires to make sure that the company culture, as well as their role and responsibilities, are all more or less in line with what they expected based on the interview process. If not, it’s time to either speak with HR and the hiring manager to figure out how to make the new hire experience live up to expectations, or reframe messaging in the future.”

If these steps aren’t taken, employers are more likely to find themselves the target for negative Glassdoor reviews, high turnover and a damaged employment brand, she said.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy


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