Blog entries

Peak season for appointing new employees

The new academic year is just around the corner, and soon Aarhus University will again be abuzz with students new and old. At AU, this time of year is also the peak season for recruiting new employees. In this month’s blog, I will be looking at some of the measures that the administration takes when recruiting new staff, and how we ensure that they get off to a good start once they are on board.

Aarhus University is highly dependent on being able to recruit the right employees – for both academic and technical/administrative positions. We in the administration play a key role in making this happen.

To improve the quality of our recruitment and to attract a wide range of applicants to academic positions, the senior management team recently adopted a set of norms which will now be discussed with the academic councils. Moreover, HR and the department/school secretariats are in the process of adapting the relevant working procedures to ensure a fast and efficient process characterized by quality in regard to both content and tempo.

We occasionally find that the field of applicants to our positions is too narrow. A key element of the new norms will therefore be to ensure that we advertise broadly, for example when recruiting researchers. To ensure that we have enough applicants, it is important to attract both male and female applicants as well as a broad selection of international applicants. The departments/schools and administrative units will be able to ensure this through a structured and strategic approach to staff planning in accordance with their academic strategy

Welcome aboard!

An important element when recruiting new employees is that, following the appointment, there is a procedure in place which ensures that the new employee gets off to a good start. This process is called ‘onboarding’.

At the Department of Agroecology, for example, they have gone out of their way to make onboarding a key priority when recruiting new employees. At the department, in 2017 they have taken a systematic approach to welcoming new employees, where guides and checklists are used to ensure that the start-up is as smooth as possible. 

Immediately after the candidate has been employed, the department sends an email to the new employee presenting his or her contact. Moreover, as the first day of work approaches, the new employee will receive more detailed information about the department, future contacts and a list of relevant websites which the employee may find helpful to look at before arriving. A key element of being welcomed to the Department of Agroecology is the allocation of a so-called ‘buddy’, whose job is to introduce the new employee to the more informal and social initiatives in the workplace. 

According to the feedback received from new employees, they greatly appreciate this information, and the fact that they soon become integrated as members of the team or section where they are based.

In fact many good local onboarding processes are already in place at the university which are all tailored to the respective departments and their working cultures. For all of them, onboarding is a very positive way of helping new employees to quickly find their feet and feel at home after starting their new job at AU.

Of course, there are also challenges. Onboarding must be a priority for both managers and colleagues, and allocating the necessary time can often be a challenge in a busy working day. HR is therefore trying to provide advice on how to plan onboarding programmes for new employees most efficiently.

A number of AU-wide onboarding initiatives have also been launched in recent years. For example, we now hold intro days twice a year at which the rector welcomes new employees, who are also introduced to the university’s structure, communication and services.

First impressions count

Part of the university’s strategic focus is about our ambition to recruit and retain the best staff – both academic and technical/administrative employees. In order to achieve this objective, we also need to excel at the administrative processing of new appointments, so that applicants and new employees are left with a good impression of AU, one which reflects the organisation’s professionalism. 

Here, the individual employees in HR and the department/school secretariats play a particularly important role in ensuring that the recruitment and onboarding processes are perceived as being both professional and flexible. As you know, first impressions count.

But in fact, we can all contribute to these processes. During the recruitment phase, you yourself might be the person who knows just the the right candidate, and who can share the job ad with him or her on LinkedIn, for example.

And once the new employee has been taken on, we can all do our bit to ensure that he or she is made to feel welcome – and is introduced to the culture in the department and the various systems. 

I very much hope that everyone will continue to assist in this.

Read more: Checklists and guidance for introducing new employees