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31 July 2019

Keeping onboarding simple.


Most onboarding programmes are needlessly complicated.

I say this as someone who has recently become a new starter. After 11 years in a job I knew inside out, I left to take up the exciting role of Director of Communication and Engagement at Diocese of Llandaff, part of the Church in Wales. I was craving a new challenge and the opportunity to shape their brand new engagement programme was too good an opportunity to ignore.

Most companies have an onboarding plan. This often includes a pre-onboard check-list, your first 30 or 90 days timetable, the obligatory corporate onboarding day, one-to-one check-ins with your manager, stakeholder lists to work through, probation meetings and – hopefully – the sign off. A nice smooth transition. Ease ‘em in gently. All seems perfectly reasonable… but for me there’s one thing missing…

A nice juicy project to get stuck into.

Sure, you need to cover the basics like finance and HR stuff — and getting the right tech working from day one is essential. But everything else should be focused on utilising your new starter’s skills straight away. You employed them because on paper and face to face you felt they were exactly what your organisation needs. So don’t wait too long to put their skills to good use.

A hands-on experience

I was fortunate to have a juicy project ready and waiting for me on week two. Ordinations. Next to Christmas and Easter, ordinations are an important part of the church calendar as we celebrate the official recognition of an individuals sense of calling to be a deacon or priest.

With three weeks until the ordination service it was time to roll my sleeves up and start making an impact. First up, identify my stakeholders. Who has information I need and what can I do to help them?

Next, what have we done before, what worked well and what didn’t go so well? The classic SWOT analysis never goes out of fashion! The findings also doubled as my initial comms review,  because here I realised we completely underuse social media and don’t actively promote employee advocacy.

Then I needed to review our existing comms channels and scope out our audience. Armed with all the data I needed I identified the key messages and feelings we wanted to evoke. Plus, in my conversations I discovered a clear call to action: if you are exploring your calling then we can help. Message. Channels. Feelings. Call to action. Brilliant. Now let’s deliver the comms plan.

And what a thrill that was! Leading this project was exactly the hands-on experience I needed. I felt enthused and truly part of the team, and I got to know the diocese along the way. Feedback from my peers was great, and more and more people were coming to me for comms advice and support. Our digital engagement stats were soaring and in three short weeks I had a delivered a successful comms plan! Wasn’t that what I was employed to do?

Get your new starter doing their job asap

Not all employees want hand holding. Some of us want to show our worth and make an immediate impact. My line manager made herself available for all my questions and that was all the support I needed.

A slower approach to onboarding may work for some, but for others it can be a source of frustration. If you’re looking to freshen up your onboarding process think about framing the new starter experience around a project. This gives your new starter the opportunity to showcase their skills and make a strong contribution to your organisation.

Most of all, keep it simple. Keep it focused on deliverables. And don’t forget the basics.

About Matt Batten

Matt Batten is Director of Communications and Engagement at The Diocese of Llandaff. He can be found tweeting far too much over at @ICMattBatten. Whether you agree or disagree with his thoughts about onboarding he’d love to hear from you.

You may also like: Preboarding – four reasons why actively engaging new employees counts