How to onboard new recruits for long-term success

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Author: Robin Panrucker, Head of Talent Development and Inclusion at Taylor Wessing

This article explores how L&D teams structure and deliver onboarding – important for long-term talent retention. It will dive into how to support those who recently entered the legal field to overcome skill deficiencies, but also how to best support lateral hires with experience.

Starting in a new firm is a daunting experience for anyone, no matter what your experience level is, as you leave behind your “safe zone”  and enter a realm of something new, challenging, but full of uncertainty.

The onboarding process starts well before the first day and should consist of a warm welcome from the hiring manager, meeting the team – even being invited to any party or social event that has been organised. The hard work done by the talent acquisition team and hiring manager can soon be eroded without this care and attention, the entire candidate experience needs to be considered with the new joiner in mind.

A good, solid and well-structured induction/onboarding schedule is vital for ensuring that new team members feel welcomed, informed and prepared to start their journey with the firm. It fosters an organised introduction to the company’s culture, expectations and resources, which are essential in shaping a positive first impression. There is a train of thought that people will always remember their onboarding experience whether it’s good or bad, and if not great, will tell 10 of their friends who in turn tell 10 of their friends and so on. If it’s a good experience, it is more likely they’ll tell 1 or 2 people, so it is vital to get this right!

This initial experience can significantly influence an employee’s integration within the team, their job satisfaction, and ultimately their long-term commitment to the firm. A comprehensive checklist aids in setting clear expectations from day one, streamlining the acclimatisation process and demonstrating the firm’s professionalism and dedication to employee development.

In essence, it lays down the groundwork for a productive professional relationship. If your onboarding process reflects attention to detail and a thoughtful approach, new joiners are more likely to reciprocate with high engagement and performance levels.

At global law firm Taylor Wessing, we follow the same principles regardless of the level of experience, but with some nuances as you might expect. Each new joiner is guided step by step through their initial onboarding journey by our Talent Acquisition team ahead of starting with the firm, this ensures the formalities are completed however is also key to providing a positive experience during this period ensuring they are set up for success in readiness for their first day. Through successful and seamless collaboration across multiple teams including Talent Acquisition, Talent Development and IT,  fundamental steps such as having the right equipment available regardless of whether they are spending that first day from home or in the office, having a friendly face to connect with you from the IT team on that first morning to ensure everything is set up for you and our Talent Development team having prepared a clear onboarding plan is how the journey at Taylor Wessing starts.

The new joiner will receive a detailed schedule which covers the main areas that we feel are crucial to learn the basics when joining us. This starts on day one and is meticulously scheduled in the diary before the new joiner begins by the Talent Development team to ensure when they land their first week is filled with lots of informative sessions, this includes things like information about the firm and our clients, responsible business, IT skills, knowledge and research to name a few. The purpose of these different sessions is not only to teach new joiners how things are done at Taylor Wessing but also to not only meet each other but be exposed to various members of the Business Services teams so that people have a face and a name to go to and feel a sense of belonging from day 1. 

With a new joiner who may not have legal experience, the same schedule is followed but with slight differences with a bespoke format to ensure that the individual receives the support they need in the areas they don’t know about so that they aren’t at a disadvantage. This is generally in the IT software area so we run multiple sessions on the more popular packages sometimes on a 1:1 basis to give our people the confidence to deliver what they are expected to. This, combined with the regular core skills programmes that we offer from trainee level up to 10+ and Senior Counsel, gives our people the development in other areas that are relevant for their experience level whilst also enabling them to meet others in their cohort.  It may be prevalent to deliver sessions on office etiquette, communication skills if people just haven’t had the exposure to the legal world or professional services.

With the onboarding schedule we also offer a buddy to all new joiners who are there to help guide the new joiner through the firm and will be an additional resource to ask those “daft” questions to. This again, gives the new joiner another person in the firm and so help them to start to build their international network and those all too important relationships. With more experienced hires it is always prudent to offer a coach to help with the transition into the firm (dependant on their level!) but also offer a mentor who can do the same thing with them in a different way. By offering a variety of support mechanisms we seek to offer the very best start to all of our new joiners and help them get off to the very best start we can.

Upon completion of their first week with Taylor Wessing, where the new joiner has been given a real taste of what it’s like to work here, met some fellow new joiners and started to build relationships across their team, it ends with a further check-in from our Talent Acquisition team to ensure they have settled in okay, and it provides the opportunity to gain some feedback on their experience thus far and help us establish any learnings or improvements we can make for the future to our processes.

Once a new joiner has had their six-week catch-up with our Talent Advisory team, this allows us to adjust any skills development that they may seek and also allows us to ensure they are on the correct development programmes. This, in turn, also helps Talent Development to adjust any core skills programmes in line with what other firms are doing (or not doing) so we can make sure our people are receiving the correct development, both in terms of the business needs but also the wider legal industry.

Of course, the hiring manager plays a huge part in the integration of their new joiner and would work with all the relevant departments to create a seamless onboarding experience, while understanding any development needs of the new joiner. The entire onboarding process is a collective effort and while mainly driven by Talent Development, it does need everyone else to be invested and engaged so that we retain our talent on a long-term basis. The journey doesn’t stop within onboarding, our new joiners will continue to have access to many opportunities to enhance and learn new skills throughout their career at Taylor Wessing through our varied offering of self-directed learning and programme support.

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