Delivering successful onboarding as an SME, charity or start-up

Illustration 7 07/02/2024

Without the economies of scale that a large number of annual hires brings to the onboarding process, it’s easy to believe that delivering a fully immersive, interactive and personalised onboarding solution is out of reach for smaller organisations.

The perceived cost of the investment – both financially, and in terms of time resource – can seem prohibitive.

But as Autism Unlimited have shown, creating a deluxe onboarding experience which delivers engagement, inclusion (and sweets) to new starters, all whilst remaining cost-effective and saving HR professionals precious time, is far from a pipe dream. Not least because, for many organisations, the benefits in terms of increases in retention and performance can bear fruit remarkably quickly.

Autism Unlimited provides support to autistic people through education, residential and supported independent living. With a workforce of 500, they don’t hire huge numbers every year, but wanted to introduce a step-change for their onboarding experience. “Before the overhaul our onboarding was just ‘paper, paper, paper’, with lots of people sat around waiting to hear from us,” recalls Claire Causley, HR Business Partner at Autism Unlimited. It was time for change.

Creating a relationship before a candidate even joins

The period between offer and day one is the ideal time window in which to begin building engagement, inclusion and a sense of belonging. “As a charity that supports vulnerable people, we have lots of safety recruitment checks such as DBS that we need to complete before people join us,” says Claire. “That’s why we chose the onboarding platform, Eli. It means people have access to our platform and can begin learning about us from the moment they’re offered, to the day they first walk through the door.”

A user-friendly process that drives inclusivity – and supports neurodiversity

Delivering an inclusive experience is always key – but never more so than when you’re an autism charity. A vital part of this is having a clear-cut onboarding process that makes sure the candidate always knows exactly what’s going on, to avoid anxiety or exclusion. “The checklist function on Eli is very user friendly – in particular to someone with autism,” says Charley Jones, Senior Talent Partner at the charity. “It’s very engaging and interactive.”

A traffic light system – red for those who’ve just been offered a role, amber for those waiting to start and green for those about to begin makes sure managers, HR and new recruits all know exactly what’s happening when, and which tasks they need to check off in each stage. “In the amber stage, Eli prompts the recruitment team, the line manager and the new starter’s buddy to get in touch through the online messaging system, and also allows the new recruit to interact with their Autism Unlimited contacts and ask any questions they may have,” Charley explains.

Building an interactive online community for “newbies” reaps dividends

A key feature of Eli is a social wall where new starters can interact. “During the platform’s implementation period, we were reluctant to use the wall, as we weren’t sure whether our new recruits would engage with it,” remembers Claire. “But we’ve been blown away by the response from them – it’s probably one of the most used parts of our onboarding experience now.”

Of course, the social wall is a two-way communication channel. “It means it’s easy to involve our new starters with charity life, too, posting about events and things, so that they really feel a part of it all,” says Charley.

“We’ve also been using the events platform on Eli to host events where everyone starting on the same day can meet up to chat before they join,” Claire adds. “Obviously, it’s very daunting starting a new role, so this helps to settle and comfort people.”

Having everything in one place makes it easier for new starters and HR alike

Having all the forms, all the checklists, all the messaging and all the introductory content in the same place, makes onboarding simpler for everybody. “The platform is personalised and individual to us,” says Claire. “We’ve created engaging content, with videos, training about autism and more, all captured in one place, which makes it really easy to edit, and really easy for the person on the other side, too.”

A transformative onboarding experience

The figures back up the anecdotal evidence. “We’ve been blown away by the response,” says Claire. No wonder. 96% of new starters rated their onboarding as outstanding. Each person came back an average of 13 times to visit their personalised onboarding portal and spent an average of 10 minutes on the platform every time they logged in. And, because of such high levels of engagement, Autism Unlimited have seen early attrition reduce by 9% over the last two years – one of the reasons why this experience picked up a RAD, IHR and Firm awards. 

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