New Research on Onboarding and Employee Success

A recent study shows that a structured onboarding process doesn’t just prepare employees for their new position; it improves employee engagement and confidence at arguably the most crucial and sensitive point in their new career which in turn directly relates to an employee’s initial performance.

Why is Onboarding Important? 

Think back to when you once joined an established sports team or watched your children in their first matches. While the new jersey and team badge look impressive the awkwardness caused by playing with unfamiliar team members, uncertainty about ‘exactly what is it I am supposed to contribute’ and the overall ‘newness’ of the team rarely brings out the best in anyone’s performance.

Onboarding effectively

Next thing you know someone is sitting on the reserves bench feeling frustrated with themselves, their talent unrealised and maybe their confidence depleted.

Had the new player been given a ‘team welcome’ with introductions to everyone at the club, tactics explained and participation at training sessions that improved their individual skills before the first game they could have had a positive debut.

So if we take this simple analogy into the workplace, what should an onboarding program look like?

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, a well-structured onboarding process will:

  • Include one-on-one “jumpstart” coaching with intensive feedback and support.
  • Introduce new employees to their work family so they know co-workers and feel comfortable reaching out for resources.
  • Follow up, follow up, and follow up
  • And, make use of technology.

Introducing and improving onboarding contributes to an employee commencing with confidence, feeling supported, becoming productive and realising their value sooner.  Conversely employees who spend weeks and months finding their feet in an organisation are likely to be returning to the online career sites earlier than anticipated.

And with an average $11k per employee recruitment cost, getting on board with onboarding has never been more important.

It’s about equipping not just engaging

You can’t force engagement, particularly with new employees. New employees should be given the opportunity to ‘buy in’ rather than expected to ‘swear an allegiance on their very first day.’

Through onboarding, an organisation can equip people with the knowledge and orientation that will help them settle, understand their surroundings and contribute sooner, and that will be gratefully received.

Equipping is empowerment.

Learning begins with joining

Unaddressed skill gaps cause employee discomfort and contribute to early departure whereas a report on the effectiveness of onboarding programs by the Aberdeen Group revealed that 77% of employees that participate in a formal onboarding program meet their first performance milestone.

New Hires milestone

Few employees will possess one hundred percent of the skills required to excel in their position the day they commence, and neither the employee or their direct manager are likely to know what all those missing skills are.

An onboarding program contributes to establishing a trusting relationship between the new arrivals and their manager enabling open discussion about skill gaps. During onboarding, these might occur during one-on-one catch up’s and immediate action could be taken rather than the ‘too little, too late’ output of a probationary review.

Like educational institutions supporting new student intakes, organisations are embedding mentoring or ‘buddying’ programs that support the newly arrived employee as part of onboarding.

How long should the onboarding process last?

I believe that the structured process should support the employee to at least their probationary review and in most cases for six months. There should be a seamless transition to other HR initiatives and Performance Management should take over the baton. This ‘handshake’ transition between arrival and ongoing HR initiatives will increase the likelihood of creating highly functioning team members as I describe in cherish and challenge.

You can familiarise yourself with the developments in onboarding programs by joining groups on social media such as on LinkedIn Onboarding Best Practices, and Onboarding Groups like these provide a varied and revealing understanding of what organisations have and are implementing from around the world.

What kind of onboarding do I need? 

Does your organisation have any formal orientation?  If the answer is no, the goal should be to create a well-planned onboarding program that ensures a positive, consistent new starter experience and sets them up for success, even before Day One.

Imagine your new people already having established social networks in your organisation, being visible throughout the business, being ready for collaboration, and up to speed with organisational purpose and compliance before they pull up their chair to the new desk. Day One then looks very different. The series of practical ‘this is how you perform your role’ sessions and guidance commence immediately.

‘How’s the new job?’. ‘Its great! I am flying’.

For organisations that have already implemented an induction or orientation process I recommend an ‘Onboarding Audit’ with the objective of ‘how can we improve our new starter experience’ and ensure:

  • Faster speed to productivity for new hires
  • Higher retention rates, and
  • Better integration and acculturation

Clear explanation of the person’s role and orientation and training must occur as well as socialisation during onboarding.

I’d love to hear more about what your organisation currently does to engage and support new employees.  What are the best practices your team has found for optimising orientation and building socialisation into new-employee training?

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