Should New Starter Induction be part of your People Strategy?

In this article, guest blogger Nadine looks at the value of induction processes for new starters in charity / third sector jobs.
Hi there! I’m Nadine Lock, Tenovus Cancer Care’s People Officer. 

I’ve worked in Human Resources for the last 10 years in the Third Sector and Private Sector and love everything about recruitment; seeing people progress and positively working through any employee issues.

At Tenovus Cancer Care, our aims are simple; to help prevent, treat and find a cure for cancer. With that in mind, it’s really important that we hire the right people and that our people are supported to be the best that they can be in their job. That’s where I come in.

I enjoy my job so much I volunteer with them as well as having a Trustee role with a local community charity. I really do try to make a positive difference and help people.  I’m a recruiter, altruist, passionate about treating people fairly and making our workplace a great one!

First days in a new company are always tough no matter what.  I’m sure we’ve all got the memories of the sleepless night-before, the butterflies in our tummy, the waves of nausea and all the nerve wracking questions running through our mind.   After all, us humans don’t really like a lot of change and the fear of the unknown and starting something new is always daunting.

So, isn’t it obvious that the job falls to our new work family then?  After all, they’re the people who already know how things work, what happens when and why it’s like that.  They’re the ones who can help calm the waters, show us where to go and make for smooth-sailing on our new venture?  Surely the people who get it as they’ve been there and done that are best placed to help their new colleagues find their way, settle into their new role and make it a win-win for everyone?

You’d like to think so but some employers see an induction period as a waste of time, money and resources. They’d prefer to throw people in at the deep end to sink or swim, navigate their own way and just get on with things.  However, some investment into the time at the start of things to get everyone moving in the same direction may well be more beneficial than they first think.

But what’s in it for me if I invest time and resources into this I hear you ask?

Well, according to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management, employers will need to spend the equivalent of six to nine months of an employee’s salary in order to find and train their replacement if they left.  On top of that business expert Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte, says a new employee can take up to two full years to reach the same level of productivity as an existing staff member.[1] So, all in all the return on the investment is starting to stack up and make good business sense.

On top of all that research has shown that a considerable amount of employee turnover happens within the first 90 days of employment.  Apart from having time and money costs to this it also isn’t great for morale and colleagues having to pick up the extra work.  So, isn’t having a welcoming induction programme to help your new starters settle in and be productive a no brainer then?

We’re in an era of HR promoting emotional intelligence in the workforce and great importance is placed on promoting a values-based culture at work.  Buzzwords and catchphrases of the day are ‘empowerment’, ‘employee value proposition’ and ‘staff engagement’ as we all look for innovative and better ways of doing things to keep that competitive edge and boost our People Strategy.

When thinking about our new starter induction programme here at Tenovus Cancer Care we went right to the heartbeat of our operation – our people.  After all, one of the reasons we can do what we do is because we’re a community and see our people as family.

We’ve got a shared sense of ‘belonging’ and believe in the same things to make us – well ‘us’.  We’re all in it to achieve the same thing – to help people affected by cancer.  So we want our new colleagues to be like us; engaged in what we do and how and why and follow the same path to all of us achieving what we signed up for.

As all of our people are massively involved in steering, living and breathing the induction journey along with their new colleagues it was important to get their buy-in from the start.  In the words of the business leader, Gary Hamel “Engagement may have been optional in the past, but it’s pretty much the whole game today”.[2]

So, how do we do it? Well, it’s quite simple really.  Our induction programme was put together by our staff and designed with our future colleagues in mind.  Putting ourselves in their shoes we asked ourselves what joining experiences we’d have found helpful, what did we need to know and when.  We also thought about what we wanted the induction journey to look and feel like for our new colleagues.  It made us think more about our culture, values and working environment and we built this into our monitoring and evaluation work to keep us on track.

Our new starter induction objectives were set to pave the way ahead for smooth-sailing so people could:

  •       Get to know their team & colleagues
  •       Understand how their role fits into things here
  •       Feel welcomed, settled and have everything they need to begin to grow in their role
  •       Have a good understanding of everything that we do here

As we’ve been there and done that we know there’s loads of things to think about in putting all of this into practice.  I’m sure you’re asking “Where do I start with all of this?”  To help you start off on your voyage smoothly here are some top things to bear in mind when making the induction process valuable to your People Strategy.

  1. Start as you mean to go on

Everything we do here is underpinned by our values and we set out the induction journey plan together.  A CIPD Study says that almost three-quarters of engaged employees agree or strongly agree that their organisation’s values positively influence people’s behaviour.[3]

Everyone who is involved at the beginning of our induction journey signs up to having a part to play in setting out the plan and making it happen without any bumps in the road.  This means that we’re all role modelling our values through our behaviour at the start of things.

On the subject of organisational values induction offers a great early opportunity to build clear foundations and set expectations around ethics, corporate social responsibility and expected behaviours and codes of conduct – the anchor of a responsible and reputable organisation.

Israel’s wealthiest woman, Shari Arison says that “I find that when you lead with vision and values, engaging employees and showing them that values are just as important as profits, everyone comes on board.  And not only do they come on board, but they connect to their own individual creativity”.[4] So, we’re making sure that we’re really placing our new starter experience firmly in our People Strategy.

Supporting this idea further, the Vice President of Apple, Angela Ahrendts says “Everyone talks about building a relationship with your customer.  I think you build one with your employees first”.[5] So, let’s start as we mean to go on with things, keep our people safely on board and build our success in the right way.

  1. Don’t jump straight in

This is the start of something for someone who you’ve invested a lot of time, resources and money into hiring.  Try not to let this all go to waste for the sake of rushing to get someone up and running in their job straightaway or else you run the risk of them sinking.  After all, to get someone working at full capacity surely they need to understand how, why and what they do fits in with everything else around them to give them real meaning and a sense of fitting in.

As we’ve all been there we know that once you start in a new job you’ll be chomping at the bit to press on with the job at hand.  While this is obviously a good sign of things to come it really helps to mix up the plan with time spent learning about the new role and with other colleagues and departments to job shadow, share best practice and see how things work.

For people to really get to know the culture and how things happen they need to spend time with their peers, get to know different departments, teams and key people that’ll really help them get going on their new journey.

Outside of the legal compliance bits this is just as essential to your new colleagues feeling like they’re part of something bigger than just their job; they’re part of your community and it also helps for positive working relationships across the organisation as your values are lived out.

  1. It’s more than just a job

According to a CIPD Survey Report organisational values and good working practices are the elements of employer brand most commonly seen to be important for attracting candidates.  As our lives become more accessible often our work and home lives blend in this age of social media and digital technology.

Potential hires also state work/life balance is key in their choice of employer.  These days work is more than just a job for most people and worth more than a means to an end to pay the bills.  In the days of strong social media presence impacting so much on company reputation it’s more important than ever that we see our people as our customers.

What we see here is that staff want to be treated as people whose job and organisation say as much about them as a person as their salary and job status does.  So, they want to put themselves across in a professional, approachable, friendly and welcoming way in all aspects of their life.

Surely this is the same viewpoint as how we’d like our organisations to come across as well?  So, as employers we can easily match these up and set the standard and tone for this through the induction journey at the very beginning stages of the relationship and even before that first day in the office.

What does that look like realistically then?

Perhaps think about sending a ‘Welcome Pack’ to help get over first day nerves – suggest people might want to bring their own mug for a cup of tea or places to go for lunch if you don’t have a staff canteen.  You could even give tips on what the usual dress code is or where people can park their cars. Don’t forget the finishing touches like having the work-station set up ready to go with pens, notepad and a clean and tidy work area.

It’s always nice to feel included and part of things really early on and so why not have someone on hand to ‘buddy up with’ at break or put out an invite to meet the team informally before their first day in the office or go for a team coffee or lunch.  All of these things can really help people feel like you’ve put thought into giving them a warm welcome into the family.

  1. Straight Talking

We’ve found that success and smooth-sailing happens when there is good planning and communication as so many people are part of orchestrating a solid induction programme.  To make things cost-effective and to give a positive shared experience it’s worthwhile planning a group induction if you can.  That means diaries are less restricted, staff are more engaged in recognising the value of the induction and your new staff members feel part of an instant team they can connect with.

We’ve found that commitment is boosted from people delivering induction if there are set schedules so people know when their induction slots are on a regular basis and can plan ahead.  This also speeds up the planning time cutting down on admin resources as you can work off set schedules when you have new members to welcome into the company.  You may also want to consider adapting a schedule for people who work from home or at remote sites so it works for everyone.

Above everything though experience has taught us that people need to know what is expected of them, what they should be doing, when and where.  It always helps to meet people who play a key delivery part in things so there’s a collective agreement as to what they need to be covering, agree on clear and relevant objectives and why we’re doing what we do in this way.

To help people buy into this we’ve found that people love to hear what feedback we’ve had and how they’re doing against expectations.  We look at how our values are shown as a marker of success us.  And, we’re keen to make changes for the better to help all our people swim rather than sink.

It really helps that we’re into seeing how things are going through feedback and what our people have to say about the new starter experience here.  As we’ve already said we love to hear what people think about what we do and how we can do things better.

So, we seek out thoughts and opinions to help us do things really good.  We don’t just speak to our inductees to get their opinions we speak to everyone involved in the whole process so it really is an organisational piece of work that we’re all proud to say we own and a real family affair.

So what are you waiting for?

All in all our induction programme isn’t something that’s just been put together by a senior leadership team or HR alone.  We can all relate to the new starter experience here and how our own parts make up the whole journey experience in practice.  We’ve all had a part to play and our people are proud of the experience their new colleagues get and love seeing the plan in action to say that they’ve really made a positive difference.

Hopefully you can see the value of a good induction programme as it will save you time and money in the long-run and really boost your employer brand internally and externally.  If it’s done properly it can also be a fantastic organisational tool to get people working together and really underline how important your values are and that you’re committed to them.  In short, without a solid induction process in place your people strategy could be at risk of not working out as you’d hoped.  So, good luck on your journey towards having a really great people strategy.


[1] Kantor, J, (February 11th 2016) High Turnover Costs Way More Than You Think

[2] Hamel, G The Future of Management (2007): Harvard Business School Publishing; Harvard

[3] A Barometer of HR Trends and Topics, 2013, CIPD

[4] Bennington, E, (6th March 2014)

[5] Leahey, C, (June 19th 2012) The secrets behind Burberry’s growth

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