Introducing the onboarding reference check

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Luke Shipley
February 11, 2021
Updated on:

References have been viewed by talent teams as one-dimensional assessment tools. Due to the poor results references have delivered they have fallen out of favour, until now. The poor results are down to the obvious problem, the bias that comes with asking someone an opinion with a vested interest. The incentives are misaligned.

This is why reference checks are most commonly conducted for compliance reasons in the UK today. Otherwise known as the employment verification reference check. This type of reference check usually consists of verifying: work dates, job title and sometimes employment type. This is a valid and important purpose for references and in some industries, it is a legal requirement. This form of referencing is mainly driven by HR and compliance teams and hasn’t interested talent since because of its limited depth.

Emerging reference checking practice

But at Zinc, we believe that  are a unique and vital data point in the hiring process. They are something to treasure. Passing up the opportunity to speak to people that have worked with your new hire is a mistake. Some forward-thinking talent and HR teams share this perspective.

To make  we need to let go of the possibility of referencing at the assessment stage and reframe them. We need to align the incentives of the people that provide references (referees) and focus on new forms of information. Welcome to the Onboarding reference check, which focuses on a candidate's preferences as outlined by a past employer, manager or colleague. This useful and engaging feedback can have a direct and positive impact on developing and onboarding a new hire.

Suddenly your interests and those of referees are aligned. You both want the candidate to be successful so you get open and unbiased insights. You can now give your new joiner the best chance of success at your company.

This type of reference usually consists of: how best to manage, how best to set-up the environment, how best to incentivise and work with new joiners. Referees are free and safe in the knowledge that sharing development areas for candidates will not cost them a new job. Being open is in the best interest of the candidate to become successful in their next role.

We discovered this form of reference being applied back in 2018 by early talent thought leaders. With neutral questioning techniques, we’ve since seen this practice grow in popularity and used to great effect. The combination of employment verification references alongside Onboarding References has also become a popular combination. That way, you can satisfy compliance requirements coupled with the information that interests the candidates' new manager.

Building on this philosophy that we’ve seen be highly effective for our customers, we at Zinc have launched the Onboarding reference check and the Remote worker reference check. These are reference templates put together after years of measuring the results of different reference check questions. We want to share these new practices with the talent community. We will be making the Remote worker reference and the Onboarding reference public in the coming months. We will publish these along with a study on the top reference questions used by HR and Talent leaders.

Attempting to use referencing as an assessment tool has been a frustrating practice over the years. The lack of useful information that comes out of referencing for this purpose left us frustrated. This is why we started Zinc four years ago since we were fed up with the practice. But we believed that we couldn’t overlook the potential power of speaking to people that have previously worked with new hires. We just needed to find a new formula that works, and we now believe that referencing can become relevant again.

We weren’t ready for this form of reference check 10 years ago, when talent was less mature and onboarding was not so thoroughly thought out. Now we know the impact of poor onboarding practices after lengthy hiring processes to find the right person. Understandably this type of referencing does not interest talent teams that are just looking to fill roles and do not have an interest in a candidate’s onward success.

Today nobody can deny that the first 90 days is key to an employees long term success. There’s been no shortage of studies shared with stats like:. We might not all be able to get the budget for the next shiny automated onboarding platform. But the Onboarding reference can be conducted simply and easily, It’s free and accessible to all.

You may have the budget for the shiny onboarding tool that does identify those who join your organisation and don’t leave in 90 days but are set to underperform. Then you're unable to identify the support required to provide a tailored induction and onboarding. Onboarding references may provide the manager and team more insight from those that worked with them, ensuring good people aren’t lost through lack of understanding and support.

In reality if an grant (a UK support grant) is applied for in their first 6 weeks - no cost will be applied to the employer. So it’s not only about giving the candidate a great onboarding experience, it’s about providing them with the tools they need to do the job as early in the process as possible.

Having a full circle review and an understanding of new employees from a variety of perspectives could be the key to onboarding success in the new digital era we live in.

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