What’s Missing from Your New Employee Onboarding Process?
by Ed Daugherty
September 16, 2019
Let’s say you have the perfect recruiting process down cold. It’s helped you land that elusive perfect person for your open role, someone with the right skill set and personality for your organization. Your recruiting team has hit a home run, securing a huge contributor who will stick around for years. Or will they?
It all comes down to how well they’re onboarded. Even when all the other pieces of the puzzle fall into place, faltering during the new employee onboarding process can send that unicorn talent running out the door.
Why Is Onboarding So Important?
There are several reasons why hiring experts refer to onboarding as the most crucial time in an employee’s career with your company. This period sets the tone for that individual’s life with you. While everyone has heard that proper onboarding increases retention, improves the employee experience, and helps productivity, the impact of these benefits doesn’t truly hit home until three specific stats are looked at.
You want new employees to feel invested in your company and their new roles. They should feel welcomed and good about the work they’re trusted to do. When onboarding goes wrong, these feelings don’t happen and people are more inclined to leave. That doesn’t just create a hiring problem, but a financial one as well.
Turnover is costly. When a role is vacant that means there is less production. Maybe other employees are working overtime. Perhaps clients are lost because your team can’t keep up. Then, it costs money and time to recruit again. If your project manager spends half their time interviewing candidates and has to do it multiple times a year for the same role, that’s a lot of time they can’t dedicate to their job.
Gone are the days of placing someone in a new position and letting them be baptized by fire. Today’s roles, especially in hot industries like IT, healthcare, and professional services, are high-profile ones. You’re likely paying a great deal for these individuals and need them productive quickly. Proper onboarding helps them hit the ground running as soon as possible.
What Does Proper Onboarding Preparation Look Like?
As a rule of thumb, you want to start by creating a flexible onboarding system that is about 80% set in stone and 20% tailored to the role and individual. This is especially important when managing different generations in the workforce. As the weeks, months, and years pass, you’ll want to continue fine-tuning this process as you discover what truly works for your unique organization. To help get in the right frame of mind, consider these onboarding questions from SHRM:
- When will onboarding start?
- How long will it last?
- What impression do you want new hires to walk away with at the end of the first day?
- What do new employees need to know about the culture and work environment?
- What role will HR play in the process? What about direct managers? Co-workers?
- What kind of goals do you want to set for new employees?
- How will you gather feedback on the program and measure its success?
As suggested above, a lot of preparation goes into onboarding. After all, it’s disheartening for a new employee to walk into their new role only to find an unprepared manager. Before their first day, make sure all documents are ready, have their work space ready to go, and know exactly what they’ll be doing their entire first week. Let other employees know someone new is starting, especially in the new employee’s immediate department. Walking into reactions like “Oh, I didn’t know we hired someone new” sends messages of disconnection and is not how you want new talent to be greeted.
How Long Does Onboarding Last?
This question is often where even the best companies make a mistake. Effective new employee onboarding programs don’t end after the first day, week, or month. They last at least an entire year, with some experts saying that onboarding never truly ends. This length of time makes more sense when you consider the six dimensions of onboarding from Forbes:
Activities within each of these dimensions in the form of training, team meetings, one-on-one dialogue, and work assignments create a fast, effective, and structured process that blurs seamlessly into the ongoing employee experience.
Ideally, you’re transitioning employees into their new environment and role as slowly as possible while setting the stage for them to contribute and produce more with each passing day. Think of it as a scale where the first day might be 0% productivity and 100% onboarding activities unrelated to their specific position’s output. By the end of the first week, maybe that scale is 30/70. After a month, it’s hopefully closer to 90/10. This will vary since every company, position, and employee is unique, but it’s important to understand that even the sharpest talent won’t be maximizing their potential by the end of their first day.
Brainstorm onboarding activities that support new employees as they continue to dig deeper in their new roles. After all, abruptly ending onboarding after one week will create a jarring experience. For example, if you have a monthly employee newsletter, consider sending newer employees a special newsletter every two weeks that better explains the ongoing activities their coworkers are accustomed to. Likewise, if you have company-wide meetings each quarter, describe to new workers what they can expect and how they should prepare. Efforts such as these make rookie employees more comfortable in their positions over time.
Your New Employee Onboarding Process
At its core, onboarding is about transparency. If you’re starting a new employee, then that professional saw something in your company, open position, and people. You sold them on something, and now it’s time to deliver. Creating a stellar new employee onboarding process tailored to your company isn’t just the perfect way to welcome them to their new home, it’s the only way.
Looking for vetted talent ready to hit the ground running for your organization? Reach out to us today.