From ‘yes to desk’: how people leaders ace the transition from candidate to employee

Hiring a new employee takes a lot of time and resources. On average, companies spend 24 days and $4,000 to hire a single new employee. That number is even higher for highly specialized or in-demand positions.

Your investment shouldn’t end after a candidate accepts your offer, however. Until they are sitting at their desk, a great preboarding and onboarding process is essential for maintaining your new hire’s excitement and getting them off to a good start with your company.

Despite its importance, only one in ten employees say they’ve had a positive on-boarding experience. And new hires with a negative onboarding experience are two times more likely to seek out new opportunities elsewhere.

How do you make your employee preboarding and onboarding experience as useful and effective as possible? This is the issue we explored at the ‘From yes to desk’ webinar on Tuesday, August 6th, 2019. Co-led by Hire by Google and Sapling, a leading HRIS, our discussion involved several industry experts:

  • Niki Yu, Director of Employee Success at Copper

  • Rasika Saikia, Global Lead of Onboarding at Google

  • Lizzie Mann, Talent Acquisitions Operations Lead at Aclara

  • Kathy Kelly, Lead Recruiter at Hire by Google

Missed the webinar? We’ve summarized the key points here, and have the full recording in the video above.

“From yes to desk” webinar highlights

The Q&A webinar was led by Bart Macdonald, CEO and Co-founder of Sapling, who guided the conversation by asking a series of questions sent in by attendees. Some of the most important questions and answers are detailed below.

How do you manage candidate expectations during the hiring process?

The job hunting process can be a vulnerable time, and candidates get anxious when they don’t know what’s next. It’s all about staying engaged, says Kathy Kelly. Let the candidates know what they can expect by providing timelines around the recruiting process and beyond. Be proactive about giving them information you think they’ll need; and try to answer their most pressing questions before they even ask them.

Lizzie Mann agreed that transparency from beginning to end is absolutely key, and that candidates should always be notified in advance about what to expect. This goes for all candidates too, not just high-profile ones. Everyone should get the same experience regardless of the position they are applying for.

How often (and when) should I communicate with a candidate during recruiting and into onboarding?

The level of communication may depend on the role, says Lizzie. Certain roles take more time to go through the interview and hiring process, so they may require more outreach. That said, she aims to follow up once or twice a week on average.

Recruiters should touch base both before and after each interview. Ask the candidate how it went and see if they have any questions. Lizzie also likes to reach out on Fridays so that the candidate goes into the weekend feeling positive about the hiring process.

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Recruiting doesn’t end when the employee accepts the job. It’s important to stay engaged and connected with them up until their first day and beyond. After the candidate accepts the position, the preboarding process begins. At this point, Lizzie likes to check in on a weekly basis. Though Sapling automates onboarding and first-day reminders for new hires, don’t underestimate the value of speaking with them over the phone.

How do you keep candidates engaged when you have a long hiring process?

There is always a risk that candidates will start to feel isolated during a long hiring process, so you want to make sure they have a specific point of contact to reach out to with questions and comments. Do everything you can to help candidates feel a connection with their potential future workplace. Niki Yu recommends inviting the candidates on-site to “pre-engage” with the team, see the office, and evaluate for themselves if the workplace is a good culture fit.

This engagement continues after the offer is signed and is a crucial part of preventing new hires from backing out of their offers before their first day. Get their managers involved – personal contact from management shows the employee that you’re excited for them to be there.

Bart MacDonald added that, at Sapling, they reach out to new hires in many different ways, including hosting on-site happy hours, sending gifts to their home, and recording videos for new hires where they introduce their future coworkers.

Which key elements belong in preboarding vs. onboarding?

The primary function of preboarding is to keep the new hire engaged and excited before they start work. Rasika Saikia says that “it’s a way to set expectations.” You can remove a lot of the anxiety that comes along with this major life change by helping the employee ease their way into feeling comfortable in their new job.

Onboarding takes place after the new hire’s employment has begun. It should be focused on getting the employee familiar with the company, their coworkers, and their new position. Timing is a critical part of this. Niki likes to schedule onboarding to begin on Tuesday mornings instead of Mondays. That makes the first day less stressful for the new hire, and gives the team time on Monday to make sure everything is set up correctly for the week.

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You can organize preboarding and onboarding more effectively by mapping out the touch points, or what Bart describes as the “moments that matter.” Delegating who is responsible for connecting with the employee, and when, can make the process easier not just on the employee, but also on HR and the rest of your team.

What do you see as the most influential part of the onboarding process?

Beyond making sure the employee’s paperwork is complete and that they are set up on all systems, onboarding is a chance to “give employees a reason to believe in the company,” says Rasika. Do this by finding ways to connect their personal beliefs with the values and goals of the organization.

Rasika onboards up to 500 new Googlers at a time, but she still strives to help each employee personally connect with the company. One of the first-week activities that she organizes is an exercise where new employees are asked why they joined Google. They also discuss which of Google’s values resonate with them the most. This sets the stage for them to feel like a part of the Google ecosystem.

How do you not bore your new employees on the first day of orientation?

Orientation schedules that include mountains of paperwork and mundane tasks like getting access badges can be pretty dull, but there are a few things you can do to minimize boring tasks. The challenge, Rasika says, is “how to make the tactical magical.”

One easy way to make onboarding more engaging is to use the preboarding period to front load as many process items as possible. If employees have already done all their paperwork ahead of time, they can jump into a Day 1 that is filled with more high-engagement, impactful activities.

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With so much information, new people to meet, and procedures to complete, new employees may feel like they’re drinking from a fire hose. Fight information overload by breaking up the practical information with something more personal. Instead of giving them a lot to read and overwhelming them with resources, allow them time and space to hear stories from other people in the organization.

How do you provide the best onboarding experience possible for employees who are remote or don’t come into the office on a daily basis?

Remote employees present an extra challenge when it comes to onboarding: you still want to build meaningful connections, even if they aren’t physically present in your office. And that starts with consistency, stresses Lizzie.

All employees should get the information they need, no matter where they work. She makes sure that remote employees are well educated on how their role affects the company. This makes them feel like a meaningful part of the team.

Hiring managers should make frequent contact with remote employees to make sure they have all the information and equipment required to be successful. Constant communication also sends the message that “we’re not forgetting about you, even though you're not on-site.”

With so many tools available now — like Slack, Skype, and G Suite — this shouldn’t be difficult. Niki has also seen virtual reality used to make remote workers feel more connected: think virtual coffee buddies and training sessions. She expects we’ll see more of that in the future.

Do any of you have mentoring programs, and if so, at what point does the new hire get engaged in them?

On their first day, every new Googler is assigned a mentor — a senior employee who has been trained to work with new hires. Mentors can show new employees around the office, answer questions, help new employees find resources on career advancement, and give cultural insight into the company. Rasika says that every new hire has a unique set of circumstances and experiences, so that 1-on-1 connection is really meaningful.

What is the most difficult or rewarding part of this process?

For Rasika, the most rewarding part of onboarding employees is providing a “deeply human connection” in the face of extremely large-scale hiring. Her major challenge? “How do we continue to scale our excellence and not settle?” They do this by building new infrastructure and using blended learning to onboard employees remotely: a combination of e-learning and in-person meetings.

For Niki, the challenge is trying to do a lot for her employees with far fewer resources than she might have access to at a large company like Google. At the end of the day, if employees feel safe with HR, and they come to them for feedback and guidance, that feels very satisfying.

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For Kathy, the challenge is coordinating timelines, people and teams to create a successful onboarding experience. The most rewarding aspect of onboarding is receiving positive feedback from new employees. It’s crucial to “roll out the red carpet” for new employees because it’s essential to the employer brand and to building a strong company.

And for Lizzie, being that first point of contact is really gratifying. She likes seeing employees grow and move up the ladder. Also, the fact that “we’re giving people jobs” is in itself extremely rewarding.

Want to learn more?

If you’re interested in hearing more about how to take your preboarding and onboarding processes to the next level, check out our recorded deep-dive webinar to see how Sapling and Hire by Google can help you put your learnings into action. Watch the recording now.

About Hire by Google

Hire is a recruiting app by Google that uses AI to make the hiring process faster and simpler. Because it is designed specifically for G Suite users, with Gmail, Google Calendar and other G Suite integrations, Hire streamlines administrative tasks so that your team can hire the best people, faster.