All Aboard - The Importance of a Robust Onboarding Process

When it comes to recruiting a new staff member, most organisations focus heavily on attracting and then selecting the best possible candidate for their team. A great deal of time and effort goes into selling the organisation, and then once a strong pool of candidates have applied for the role, the focus moves to interviewing, reference checking and finally making an offer of employment to the preferred candidate.

Once the preferred candidate has accepted the job offer, everyone breathes a sigh of relief, thinking that the hard part is over – and this is where most organisations fail. Getting the preferred candidate to put pen to paper is only the first hurdle, next comes another and possibly even bigger hurdle – keeping them!

Statistics show one in four people recruited will leave within the first six months, highlighting the need for organisations to have a robust onboarding process in place. Contrary to what most organisations may believe and practice, onboarding does not last a day, a week or even a month. The onboarding process starts before the employee’s first day ‘on the job’ and should last for six months.

Benefits to the Organisation

Many organisations have inadequate or ad-hoc onboarding processes which make them susceptible to low employee engagement and high employee turnover. By developing and successfully executing a robust onboarding process, organisations can benefit from:

  • Increased employee engagement
  • Reduced turnover costs
  • Reaching ROI more rapidly
  • Successful assimilation of new employees into the organisation’s culture
  • A more stable and productive organisation

With employee turnover costs estimated to be anywhere from 50% to 150% of an employee’s annual salary and estimates of the investment an organisation must make to get an employee to the point of determination of long term suitability to the business being approximately $100,000, it is evident that failing to onboard new employees correctly can cost organisations a great deal of time and money.

TIPS FOR A ROBUST ONBOARDING PROCESS

To guarantee the retention of quality employees, organisations need to ensure their onboarding process incorporates each of the following elements:

Begin onboarding at acceptance of offer
A successful onboarding process should begin before the new employee’s first ‘official’ day on the job. New employees can be involved in conversations and meetings before they join the organisation via technology (ie: email or Skype) or face-to-face meetings. This is particularly important for employees joining after a long notice period.

Encouraging involvement before day one helps keep new employees in the loop regarding business decisions, speeds up the assimilation process and reduces ‘first day’ anxiety.

Ensure you are prepared
Nothing could be worse for a new employee than turning up on the first day of a new job to find that they’ve been shoved in the corner of the office because the organisation is still “creating space” for them and that their computer “will be here in a few days” because the Office Administrator forgot to order it. Immediately, the new employee feels unvalued by the organisation.

Creating a good first impression is essential to keeping a new employee engaged; therefore organisations need to ensure that the new employee’s workstation, IT system, equipment and supplies are prepared and up and running prior to their start date.

Involve several people in the onboarding process
Onboarding should not be the sole responsibility of one team member, but rather a group effort. Different onboarding tasks should be undertaken by different team members, including administration staff, the new employee’s direct manager, senior management and a buddy or mentor (generally a peer). Each team member should know and understand their role within the onboarding process and should be committed to the process.

Involvement of different levels within the organisation again speeds up the assimilation process, and demonstrates that the organisation is committed to thorough training and development. However, organisations should keep in mind that it is important for the onboarding process to be consistent. All those involved in the process should communicate on a regular basis to ensure that information being provided is consistent.

Assign a buddy / mentor
A buddy or mentor should be assigned to the new team member from day one. Organisations should ensure they choose an appropriate buddy for the new employee – a buddy should be an experienced team member with strong knowledge of the organisation and the role which the new employee will be undertaking.

The buddy system helps to make the onboarding of a new employee smoother and quicker, helping the new employee to become more productive at a faster pace. In addition, the buddy system is a good way to transfer knowledge, develop new ideas and also helps to reduce any anxiety the new employee may have when starting the new role.

Spread out the onboarding process
Organisations need to resist the urge to bombard the new team member with copious amounts of information on their first day by sitting them at a workstation and asking them to read through your 50 page Company Policy Manual. This will have the new employee’s head spinning by lunchtime and it is highly unlikely they will retain much of this information. The new employee should be given these forms and policy documents at the start of their employment and then be allowed to read through them in their own time.

It is also a good idea for organisations to provide information about the company and the culture on an ongoing basis rather than through the traditional ‘classroom-style’ method. Managers should schedule regular meetings with the new employee to discuss the philosophy of the firm and spread these out over the first few weeks.

Touch base regularly
As a rule, the employee’s direct manager should be meeting with the new employee at the end of the first day, end of the first week, and end of the first, second, third and sixth months. Ensure that you schedule these meetings on the employee’s first day and stick to the program.

Managers can make these meetings effective by asking meaningful questions to gain insight into the onboarding process. Ask what is working well in the process, what needs attention, and whether the new employee is facing any issues within the company. In addition, managers should provide constructive feedback on how the employee is progressing and develop and review an action plan at each meeting.

Deal with any issues or concerns immediately
If the new employee voices any concerns during the onboarding process, organisations need to ensure these are dealt with in an appropriate and timely manner. If managers sweep problems under the carpet in the early stages it will likely result in further, more serious problems down the track. Such actions can also alert the new employee to a possible internal culture of avoidance and procrastination.

Any performance or behavioural issues identified during the onboarding process should also be dealt with immediately. Alerting the new employee to any gaps between their current performance and what is expected of them is a good opportunity to set expectations and allows the employee the opportunity to improve. This will ultimately lead to increased productivity and reduced turnover.

References:

1 Roth, H. (2008). Staff Turnover Facts. Available at: http://www.lifeworksolutions.com.au/news/staff-turnover-facts/

2 Sork, Anthony. (2008). Induction & Attachment – Ensuring ROI For New Employees. Sork Human Capital Pty Ltd.

3 Boyd, Carolyn. (2011). Knowingly Oversold. HR Monthly, February 2011.

Views: 4541

Comment by Bernard Keith Althofer on February 3, 2012 at 11:12

There are some excellent points made in this article.  Unfortunately there are organisations where people are busy and don't seem to understand the benefits of good inductions/orientation or even onboarding.  I speak with people on a regular basis who say "Nobody told me".  Based on these discussions, it would appear that their current level of dissatisfaction with their workplace could have been substantially reduced. It seems that in some cases, the induction etc has been a case of 'attend this program on this day' and then the content covers some of the HR policies e.g. safety, pay, leave, EEO, bullying etc and in some cases is held a month or so after they have been at work.  By this time, the new employee has been introduced to some practices that may not align with organisational expectations.  Over a period of time, some bad habits may develop and become a way of life.  The days of "here's the meal room, there's the boss's office and there's the toilet' should be consigned to history.  I suggest that it might be beneficial to explain the rules of engagement.  For example, in a recent presentation, it was obvious that issues such as social media, lunch breaks at the pub, and some of the basics about turning up for work on time had not been covered at any stage.  Getting people to understand the rules of engagement, the workplace culture, the intent and purpose of industrial agreements and the linkages those instruments have to the employer and the worker are important.  A good induction/orientation/onboarding just can't be done in one day.  Given the number of employees who seek redress through various Courts, Commission or Tribunals in relation to unfair dismissal, it is critical that some time be invested in making sure that they have a good understanding of organisational expectations.  On the other hand, investing some time in inductions etc might be worthwhile from an organisational point of view.  As has been suggested to me by some managers, it is hard to terminate someone when they have completed their probation period if no-one has addressed performance issues with them.

Comment by Amanda Selleck on February 6, 2012 at 14:30

Jevita this article is excellent. Although it all seems so clear many organisations have trouble practicing it. Onboarding is so critical to the new employees perception and feeling of the organisation. There are so many small thigns that can be done to ensure they feel at home. 

Comment by Anthony Sork on February 7, 2012 at 10:06

Thanks for a great post, Jevita - and thanks for referencing us.

You cover a great range of important points.

I support what you say about effective onboarding beginning before day one. Judgments employees are making about an employer actually begin during the recruitment phase, where any delays, mis-communication or un-professionalism can impact greatly on the employee's level of attachment to the new organisation and their new manager.  We strongly recommend that employers objectively measure the level of attachment of their new employees which covers the impact of onboarding processes during the critical attachment period. That way they will understand whether the new employee feels security, trust and value, acceptance and belonging within their new organisation which will ultimately impact their level of engagement and length of their tenure.

Comment by Jevita Nilson on February 7, 2012 at 11:49

Thankyou for your comments! Onboarding is definitely a key area that many organisations need to focus more on. Employers often focus so much on getting the recruitment right, that they let the ball drop, so to speak, when it comes time to induct the new employee into their role and the organisation. We see so many new recruits leave because of poor induction, or companies express dissatisfaction with their new employees because they aren't learning quickly enough. Often when we ask whether they have been appropriately inducted, the answer is often in the negative - they just didn't have time, they wanted the person to 'hit the ground running'. But unfortunately it's a costing mistake and employers often find themselves back at square one. A little bit of effort during this critical period will go a long way to happy and productive employees!

Comment by Rhonda Willis on February 10, 2012 at 9:32

An Invaluable post.   The old saying "first impressions always last" or "you don't get a second chance to make a first impression" are so true when it comes to an effective induction.  If a company demonstrates a lack of organisation on the first day, where to from there?  The proof is in the pudding, when you make a conscious effort to improve the induction process, and there is a significant drop in staff turnaround.....coincidence - I think not..

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