The One HR Initiative to Improve Retention, Engagement, and Productivity

Organizations spend lots of time, effort, and money recruiting and hiring new employees. Employee attraction, recruitment, hiring, and onboarding, coupled with experiences that take place after onboarding, affect how an employee feels about an organization and its promises. When a new employee doesn’t experience the same things in their job that they were promised during recruitment, they may start searching for a new opportunity or become disengaged.

New-hire onboarding is a big area of opportunity for employers. Gallup’s 2019 State of the Workplace report indicates that only 12 percent of employees think their organization does a great job at onboarding. Employers may believe that the onboarding process represents just one small piece of an employee’s journey and therefore isn’t a critical influencer of their perceptions about the organization. However, organizations that have a structured process show positive results in multiple areas. Gallup reported that those with a strong onboarding process improved their new-hire retention by 82 percent and productivity by 70 percent. Data from Silkroad show that when organizations improved their onboarding programs, 53 percent increased employee engagement and 44 percent improved overall organizational culture. In addition to these benefits, onboarding helps new hires adjust to the social and performance aspects of their jobs so they can quickly become productive, contributing members of the organization.

Here are three important items to consider when building out a structured onboarding program:

Give employees purpose in their jobs. Onboarding is the perfect opportunity to share why it matters that an employee gets out of bed for work every day. How does an employee’s job fit into the organization’s goals? How does their job help other people? Most workers, especially Millennials, approach a role and a company with a highly defined set of expectations. They want their work to have meaning and purpose. They want to use their talents and strengths to do what they do best every day. They want to learn and develop, and they want their job to fit their life. According to data from the 2019 Imperative Workforce Purpose Index, there is a 1 percent chance a person will be fulfilled in their life if they are not fulfilled in their job. How can you facilitate fulfillment and purpose as an employer during the onboarding stage? Find out what the new employee’s values are and connect them to the organization’s mission, vision, and values. Share (through stories, video, peer coaching, training, etc.) how they can make a difference in their role at your organization.

Facilitate relationship building. One of the Gallup factors of engagement is that employees have a best friend at work. Helping employees build relationships with others as a new employee helps them learn faster, fosters collaboration, and makes them feel like they belong. These relationships can be fostered in-person or remotely using video conferencing and other technology.

Here are a few important relationships to facilitate for new hires:

Manager: Managers should be checking in with new employees during their first week and then again at 30, 60, and 90 days. They should be making sure they have the tools they need to do their job and that the new employee know what is expected of them over the upcoming weeks and/or months. Ideally, a manager is able to welcome the new employee on their first day.

Mentor or Ambassador: Generally, a mentor or ambassador is a new employee’s coworker in their department. A mentor/ambassador helps a new hire with culture education (language, acronyms, communication, etc.) and relieves the manager or supervisor for more value-added activities. A mentor or ambassador is available to answer day-to-day questions, ultimately increasing a new employee’s confidence and efficiency.

Buddy: A buddy is generally someone who works in another department and is assigned to the new employee. A buddy helps them become familiar with the buddy’s department and sometimes will help train a new employee on a particular piece of information. For example, it may be helpful for a new employee to have a buddy in the Accounting Department. The accounting buddy can introduce the new employee to their department and train them on how to properly complete an expense report for reimbursement.

Get rid of the information overload. Try not to overload a new employee with too much information, especially on their first day. Here are a few tips for avoiding information overload:

Plan carefully: Be thoughtful–new employees don’t need every single piece of information on day 1. Start with the basics: where to put their lunch, where they will sit, and who they will be working with. Try to spread out the content the new employee needs to learn throughout the onboarding process, which could last for several months. Perhaps create an agenda for the employee’s first day, and maybe take it a step further and create a calendar or schedule for upcoming months.

Allow time for processing and absorption: After particular pieces of information are given, provide the new employee time to process and an opportunity to ask questions. Rarely will a new employee be able to remember everything, and if they are not given enough time to process, they will ask again.

A successful onboarding program can promote not only employees’ belief in the organization, but their willingness to exert effort on its behalf. A carefully planned onboarding process, supported by everyone in the company, can keep employees motivated and informed. It can combine the needs of the organization with the needs of the individual to achieve the goals and success of both. However, that synergy does not happen overnight; people need time and opportunity for the development of trust, communication, interaction, and commitment. The onboarding program provides the framework in which this can happen. If it is successful, employees have a better opportunity to become more knowledgeable and competent and feel like they are making a difference in their jobs. As a result, they may move toward a total commitment to the organization. This in turn leads to continuing growth, success, and self-renewal for both the organization and its employees.

If you would like to talk more about developing a structured onboarding program for your organization, please contact us.