Overhaul or overboard: A detailed look at onboarding for new employees

Friday, January 15, 2016 - 14:54

Guest post by David Reynolds

How effective are your onboarding processes for new employees? When does onboarding start and finish? How does onboarding impact staff retention and productivity?

These are just a few questions that organisations need to be asking to get an indication of what is needed to ensure new employees hit the ground running and, most importantly, stay. In Aberdeen's Talent Acquisition 2014 Reverse the Regressive Curse report, only 32 per cent of companies have formal onboarding processes in place and 71 per cent planned to increase hiring over the next 12 months.

Effective and robust onboarding processes serve many different purposes including:

  • Making employees feel more engaged and motivated
  • Meeting pre-hire and client expectations and delivering on the value proposition and promise
  • Accelerate employee effectiveness and productivity.

When onboarding is haphazard or almost non-existent there is an almost certain chance that employees will be less engaged and more likely to leave in the first 90 days. This is supported by Aberdeen's April 2013 report Strategic Onboarding 2013: A new look at new hires, which says 90 per cent of businesses believe that your employees make the decision to stay with their employers within the first year of employment.

To ensure a maximum return on investment and a high performing employee, organisations must approach onboarding of new employees in a manner that positively supports the productivity potential and ensures they are adequately resourced and trained. The onboarding process should begin well before the new employee starts and should be continued well after they are employed.

Aberdeen's research also indicates that ‘best-in-class’ organisations are more likely to begin onboarding processes before day one. Best in-class companies are also significantly more in touch with their brand and what it says about them to potential applicants, new hires and customers. The pre-employment element of onboarding should include the following:

  • clearly communicate the employer value proposition (EVP) as well as mission, vision, culture, values and corporate identity;
  • provide new employees with the insight into what to expect day-to-day;
  • provide the opportunity for new hires to interact with a colleagues and team mates; and
  • provide new employees with an information kit (can be accessible online), which details role expectations, performance criteria, employee benefits, learning and development plans, career paths, team environment, customers, key sec holders, management team, social events and initiatives and resources systems.

This could also include an electronic tour of the company, self-service portals and newsletters.

Training new hires

How much time should be set aside for training new hires? Over what period should induction and technical training take place? Aberdeen's 2014 Talent acquisition report identified that 20 per cent of companies' new hire processes take one week and 15 per cent only one day. This seems to be a trend with only 37 per cent extending the training beyond one month.

Research results confirm that shorter onboarding programs often make it more difficult to build the capability and knowledge so they are resourced and knowledgeable enough to be able to do the job. Aberdeen has found that companies with short ongoing programs are nine per cent less likely to retain first-year employees than those with a month or longer program.

Best in-class companies are 1.6 times more likely to offer a portal to new hires where they can access forms, procedures and processes. They are also 2.54 times likely to track new hires’ progress in the onboarding process.

What is the key to ensuring your employees remain committed and engaged?

The best place to start is to ensure that you understand what motivates your new employees? What are their preferences and what is their learning style? This is best will achieved through conducting a robust psychometric assessment process for new and potential employees. It will provide you with a very objective insight into each employee.

Most of the research about what motivates employees concludes in many cases that it is the challenge of the job they are doing. Aberdeen's 2015 Welcome to 21st-century onboarding research stated that 36 per cent of companies surveyed believed this to be the case.

If the line manager has a clear understanding of the new employee's strengths, weaknesses, preferences and interests they are far better placed to adjust their leadership style and effectively engage with this staff. In Aberdeen's 2014 Getting the most of your pre-assessments report it was stated that organisations that use pre-assessments experienced a 39 per cent lower turnover rate among high potential talent.

The proof is in the onboarding!

Aberdeen reported that companies with pre onboarding process in place are 11 per cent more likely to retain such employees and 14 per cent more likely to have employees who exceed the performance expectations. Furthermore, 17 per cent are more likely to have higher hiring manager satisfaction ratings.

So what should you do?

It is recommended that organisations consider the following as a minimum:

  • Communicate core values, culture and mission statement
  • Support hiring managers by providing visibility into the status and motivation of new hires
  • Connect new hires through a buddy or mentor arrangement
  • Extend onboarding into learning and development, which will drive productivity and organisational growth.

Engaging new hires through a robust and tailored onboarding process will lead to increased productivity, long-term retention and improvement in organisational performance. This process will vary depending on the level of employee. For CEOs and Executives it is even more imperative to engage at an early stage to ensure expectations are managed.

There needs to be a clearly documented performance agreement in place that sets out KPIs, performance objectives and deliverables and corresponding milestones and timelines.

David Reynolds is the Group Manager of Davidson Executive

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