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Getting onboarding right so that employees stay

August 22, 2016

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

After weeks or months of sometimes agonizing recruitment efforts, your new hire is finally starting!  You are excited to welcome them on their first day, and the team can’t wait to meet them.  But now they need to get up to speed in order to be a productive member of the team.  This is not only important for the business, but also in the retention efforts which should already be commencing.   Successful onboarding is key to successful retention.

Studies show that 90% of employees make a decision to stay with a company after just one year.  91% of employees are retained at organizations with a formal onboarding process, as compared to only 30% of employees at organizations without formal onboarding.  But according to Aberdeen, only 37% of employers have a formal onboarding program.

What does onboarding consist of?  Also known as organizational socialization, onboarding refers to the mechanism through which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors to become effective organizational members and insiders.  SHRM refers to four levels of onboarding:

1. Compliance
This level includes teaching employees the basic rules and policies of the organization.  It’s basically getting through all the paperwork (i.e., direct deposit, email set-up, employee handbook acknowledgment, etc.)

2. Clarification
During the clarification level the job description and expectations are discussed.  Expectations should be clear to both the employee and his/her teammates.

3. Culture
This is a broad category where the employee is taught what the “norms” are in your organization.  How do you function as a team?  What is the dress code?  What are the preferred methods of communication?  Is there an open door policy?

4. Connection
And finally, the last level is connection.  Potentially the most important, this refers to the integration of the new hire into the team and the organization as whole.  It’s about making them “part of the family.”

A study published in the Academy of Management Journal found that the first 90 days of employment is pivotal to building rapport with the organization and the new hire.  Employees that receive high levels of support have more positive attitudes about their jobs and work harder.  Those that do not receive ample support and direction tend to be unhappy and unproductive employees who only last several months.

When employees go through structured onboarding they are 58% more likely to remain in the organization after three years, according to a Wynhurst Group survey.

It’s important not to confuse onboarding with training.  “Employee onboarding is the design of what your employees feel, see and hear after they have been hired.  Often, companies confuse onboarding with training.  While training does have a role within the onboarding it doesn’t represent the entire scope of the process,” said Michel Falcon, found of Experience Academy.

A mentorship-style program can be highly beneficial and encourage positive office relationships.  New employees should always know who to turn to and feel comfortable providing feedback.  Part of ASE’s approach to onboarding is the creation of a “buddy system.”  New employees are paired up with a more tenured employee so that they always have someone they can feel comfortable going to with questions.

Another ASE-member company offers a program called LINK – Leading Induction for Newcomers Knowledge.  They also use a buddy system.

Both formal and informal onboarding practices are essential.  A formal orientation plan is just as important as providing a warm greeting to the new employee, taking him or her to lunch, and providing a functioning workstation on day one.  Many say that the first day of employment is the most important one.  Research has shown that the course of a new employee’s success is set as early as the first two weeks on the job. Hourly workers have been known to not show up for day two if day one was executed poorly.  

Best practices for successful onboarding include:

  • Make the first day on the job special
  • Use formal orientation programs
  • Develop a written onboarding plan for all new employees
  • Monitor the plan over time and make adjustments as necessary
  • Utilize technology
  • Create 30, 60, 90, 120 day milestones to check on employee progress
  • Include key stakeholder meetings as part of the onboarding program
  • Clearly communicate objectives, timelines, roles, and responsibilities to the employee

HR managers and business leaders must understand the importance of integrating new hires into the organization quickly and effectively.  The result will be faster learning curves for new employees which will increase productivity and employee engagement.  An onboarding program that pays attention to how employees are feeling throughout the process is one that will succeed.

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