An organization only gets a single opportunity to make an impactful and enduring first impression with each employee. Like most facets of life, that first impression often imprints itself on the duration of the relationship and, in the specific case of employers, can ultimately determine if a workforce and organization operate with similar goals and in a cohesive, healthy fashion.
For those reasons and many more, onboarding is a critical component of the overall employee experience and journey, establishing a sound foundation that both parties rely upon for the duration of employment. Simply put, employee onboarding is the immersion of a new employee into an organization’s policies, procedures, and culture that introduces them to the tools necessary for a productive and satisfying tenure.
As straightforward as the onboarding process might be from a distance, however, it requires a high degree of organization and precision for it to be considered successful. Employers must devote sufficient attention and resources to their onboarding processes and procedures, particularly as the organizations themselves grow in scope and complexity. Coupled with an already dynamic marketplace and workforce with ever-increasing demands and expectations, there’s little room for error, miscommunication, or imprecision in the employee onboarding experience.
To put it another way, onboarding is the entry point to what should be a productive, enduring, and satisfying relationship between a new team member and an employer. An inadequate onboarding process immediately impedes the development of that relationship which, in turn, slows productivity and growth, increases turnover, and ultimately damages the entire organization.
Onboarding Is Too Important to Ignore or Minimize
To that point, making the absolute most of the onboarding experience has become a requirement for organizations to find success in such a competitive marketplace, where attrition is corrosive to all levels of productivity and talent in short supply. Regarding attrition alone, roughly 20% of turnover occurs within the first 45 days of employment, often a symptom of substandard onboarding procedures.
Likewise, nearly 90% of new hires begin looking for another job within the first six months of employment – a statistic that’s even higher for millennials – and almost a quarter of all new employees leave the organization before their first year anniversary.
The tech and startup sectors, for example, experience high turnover rates relative to other industries and, not coincidentally, often make insufficient investments into onboarding procedures, relying on newcomers to fend for their own when new to an organization. While there’s certainly room for spontaneity within the onboarding process, an entirely ad-hoc approach carries distinct dangers with it, including:
- Prematurely losing talented workers who might have grown into highly productive team members if given sufficient guidance and nurturing when hired
- Failing to identify poor performers due to a lack of formal procedures that otherwise would provide the opportunity to evaluate their work and discover any inadequacies
- Prolonging the amount of time it takes for a new hire to fully ramp up and become productive from a lack of formalized training and education regarding job responsibilities
- Higher stress levels and lower satisfaction rates amongst new hires that can quickly spread to the rest of the workforce, significantly impeding productivity throughout the entire organization
Alternatively, an organized, robust, and fulfilling onboarding experience has an equally beneficial effect on individual workers as well as the overall organization. Nearly 70% of employees will stay with an employer for three years or more if the onboarding experience is satisfying and thorough, resulting in 50% higher productivity rates when onboarding is considered effective.
Given the fact that, on average, it takes eight months for a new hire to reach full productivity, successful onboarding obviously plays a critical role in minimizing attrition and giving both the employee and employer enough time for a workforce to fully ramp up. Overall, when employers make sufficient investments of resources and attention into their onboarding procedures, the benefits are far-reaching and broad in scope, including:
- Better job satisfaction rates
- Stronger commitment to the organization
- Lower attrition
- Higher performance and productivity
- A more satisfying career trajectory
- Reduced stress
Make Onboarding Concise But Thorough With Enduring Impact
While the actual onboarding process itself should be concise to ramp up the employee as quickly as possible and, therefore, become a productive member of the team without delay, it should also establish sound practices and communication channels between the employee and their co-workers, management, and HR. Collectively, the education, training, knowledge, and skills developed and fostered throughout onboarding will be instrumental for the duration of employment.
Orientation, although a critical component of the onboarding process, is still nothing more than that – a single component. Think of orientation as a singular event that welcomes a new employee into the company and introduces them to the most basic of policies and procedures. The entire onboarding process, however, is a series of interconnected events that uses orientation as a launching pad into a far more thorough dive into the necessities and requirements to be successful in their position and within the organization itself.
Furthermore, it’s often helpful to separate the onboarding process into both formal and informal procedures that, together, provide a structured and organized approach while leaving plenty of room for voicing questions, concerns, and a more spontaneous and open atmosphere.
- Formal onboarding procedures: A predetermined, highly organized set of training sessions and various procedures to help a new employee adjust to their new position, usually conducted separately from existing employees to concentrate on the learning aspect of onboarding.
- Informal onboarding procedures: More impromptu and loose in structure, informal events typically include a tour of the office for introductions to current employees, shadowing coworkers for a better glimpse of day-to-day activities, or meeting with HR and IT to discuss benefits and goals, or receive equipment needed for the job.
Recent research has shown that organizations that divide their onboarding process into these formal and informal categories have a workforce better equipped to handle the daily rigors of the job and fit better into the corporate culture. Of course, this is yet another instance of the onboarding process playing an enduring role throughout a team member’s employment and not just the beginning of the worker/employer relationship.
Effective Onboarding Strategy Should Include Well-Defined Goals
Like any other form of strategy, constructing and implementing effective onboarding procedures should have a clear endgame in mind, allowing the process to be quantified, analyzed, and measured for maximum efficiency and impact. Hyphen’s platform can provide the tools needed to accomplish those tasks, giving employers the ability to establish benchmarks and guideposts throughout their onboarding to continually monitor for success and any areas in need of improvement.
Using a consistent and thorough feedback system, such as Hyphen, based on pertinent people data throughout onboarding can reveal how effective onboarding procedures are in reaching those goals. From the very beginning of onboarding during employee orientation to subsequent training sessions and introductions, all of the different components within the onboarding process should work in unison to help reach those predetermined goals. Orientation, although an essential but single piece of the complete onboarding puzzle as previously discussed, should include its own set of goals to accomplish, including:
- Introduction to the organization’s mission, vision, and culture
- Completion of any required new employee paperwork with the guidance of an HR representative that is available to answer any questions that arise along the way
- Explanation of all available benefits, again with the assistance of HR or a benefits coordinator
- Thorough review of all health and safety policies, including those on harassment and overall conduct
- Introduction to all pertinent administrative procedures, including computer systems, software packages, and anything else needed for the job responsibilities, preferably with the assistance of an IT representative
Aside from orientation, the overall onboarding strategy should strive to accomplish three distinct goals that, at least at first glance, might appear to be highly qualitative and subjective and, therefore, impossible to measure. However, with the sense of direction and impact provided by Hyphen’s feedback platform, these goals can be gauged with people data metrics to continually monitor onboarding effectiveness:
- Acclamation: Far more involved than telling a new hire where to park in the morning and when to take lunch, acclimating a new employee introduces them into the overarching personality, expectations, and philosophies within the workplace. Those expectations, of course, run in both directions so properly acclimating a new hire establishes clear lines of communication that precisely spell out what management expects of the employee and, in turn, what the worker expects of the organization itself.
- Engagement: Engaged employees directly correlate with higher profitability, product quality, and customer reviews while lowering turnover rates, absenteeism, and safety issues. Engaging a new hire during onboarding establishes the foundation for a supportive relationship between the employee and the organization, as well as management’s commitment to the worker’s professional growth and satisfaction.
- Retain: More a product of successful acclamation and engagement, boosting employee retention rates should always be a primary goal of any onboarding process. Again, attrition can be extremely detrimental to an organization, costing as much as 1.5x an annual salary to replace an employee, not to mention the accompanying lower productivity rates and reduced morale.
Successful Employee Onboarding Produces Specific Results
Although every organization is different and, therefore, requires a personalized approach to employee onboarding, the end results should always yield a distinct set of building blocks from which an employee can rely upon to find success and satisfaction within their role in the organization, including:
- Genuine career support from supervisors that begins on day one and continues throughout their employment
- A thorough understanding of an organization’s culture and performance values
- Insight into the organization’s strategic position within the marketplace, where it wants to be in both the near and distant future, and how it plans to accomplish those goals
- Fostering and expanding beneficial relationships with co-workers through different activities and events
Likewise, although the onboarding process never really ends but, instead, seamlessly evolves into subsequent stages of the employee experience, once an employee is fully ramped up and reaches full productivity, both the worker and management should be able to look back at the onboarding process and recognize a handful of accomplished objectives. If both parties perceive these objectives as successfully completed, then the onboarding process itself can be considered a success:
- The new employee considered onboarding a positive experience
- The new hire was able to verify that they made the right choice in accepting the job in the first place
- The new employee has a good understanding of the organization’s overall vision
- Onboarding helps the new hire identify and understand their specific roles and responsibilities within the organization
A successful onboarding process establishes a solid foundation that both an employee and employer can rely upon well into the future. Traditionally more of an afterthought rather than a focus of attention, organizations are just now starting to understand the last impact of a successful onboarding experience. While feedback systems like Hyphen’s can prove to be powerful tools to inform and guide the onboarding process, employers must first make a commitment to improving the process itself before assembling an onboarding strategy.
Onboarding is simply too important to every level of an organization to be relegated to half measures and lackluster efforts. Make a genuine commitment, devote the necessary resources, and develop a sound, feedback-driven strategy to make onboarding a source of enduring strength and consistency that serves as an organizational bedrock for years to come. First impressions carry too much weight to settle for anything less.