A good onboarding program will save you a lot of time and money!

As headhunting specialists CIP Global Executive Search are in contact with both large and small companies daily. We have seen firsthand that a key factor in creating satisfied, engaged, and long-term employees is a successful onboarding program.

Have you lost an employee you had great hopes for and blamed it on a poor recruitment? Did you at any point look at the possibility that the recruitment was right, but the onboarding process was wrong (or even absent)? A failed onboarding program can be as costly as a failed recruitment.

Did you know that as much as 25% of staff turnover happens within the first year? And at the same time organizations with a standard onboarding process experience 54% greater new hire productivity, along with 50% greater new hire retention (1). According to the same source 32% of global executives say the onboarding they experienced was poor.

As you can see there are plenty of reasons to create and maintain your onboarding program.

  • You are creating a strong employer brand
  • You are integrating new employees to the organization with ease
  • You are creating engaged and loyal employees
  • You are saving time and money in both recruitment and training

In this article we present a path to a successful onboarding program for you to tailor to your own organization’s specific structure, size, and challenges.

Onboarding starts during the recruitment process

Your onboarding program should begin before your new employee even sets foot at your office. This is your company’s employer brand, and this is where you have the possibility to make a good impression from the get go.

Routines for replying to ALL applicants when the application is first received, if the process takes longer than expected and when the process is finished (whether the applicant got the job or not).

Your communication at this stage tells your applicant a lot about your company and how you value your employees.

Onboarding does not pause between the decision to hire and the start-date

From the decision to hire until the first day at the job there is often a time period of anything between 1-6 months, during this period it is important that you keep your new employee in the loop. You need to start making her feel as part of the company.

Something as easy as one or two emails with information can be sufficient. The first email can be short and say something like this:

“Dear XX, we are looking forward to start working with you in xx months. As we get closer to your start date you will receive an email with information that you might find helpful. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact xx.”

As the start date gets closer and email with basic information such as who to meet with to get keys, key codes etc. will be helpful. Perhaps add a little info on the team she will be part of and/or how she can find her desk. A few links to company guidelines and routines and perhaps info about any upcoming company events that she will be expected to attend.

All the onboarding steps we have discussed so far can be done manually or one of the many onboarding platforms that are available. Either way works, as long as you are consistent in your communication and adapt the written word to suit your corporate values and language.

3 key areas in the onboarding program

It is important to realize that orientation is not the same as onboarding, rather orientation is a part of your onboarding program. When the new employee finally starts there are a few key areas to focus on, these areas cover the most important areas that you need your new hire to feel confident and secure in.

  • Operational – Make sure that your new employee arrives to a desk that is set up with the right equipment and with the right programs installed on her computer etc. Here it is also important that she has access to right materials and instructions, perhaps a glossary of your industry/business specific terms and jargon, and other information that is necessary for her to do the job right. One very important aspect here is to allow enough time for your new employee to train/learn her tasks and responsibilities and to appoint a colleague or manager to assist with this.
  • Strategic – This goes beyond the more tangible efforts of the operational part of the job. To give your new employee the opportunity to excel at her new job make sure that she gets to know and identify with your organization’s values, structure, culture, challenges, long term and short term goals etc. A great motivational factor for anyone is to be able to see the larger picture and to work towards common goals.
  • Community – Peers play a huge role in motivating employees to go the extra mile so when it comes to the social situation at your company you need to make sure the new employee feels welcome and included. Have a plan for how to create valuable relationships with both colleagues and managers. We are all social beings, and it will be difficult for any company to keep an employee engaged, motivated and loyal if the social integration fails.

Even though much of the information can be read, it can be worth considering having appointed people to go through/show many of the above discussed topics. This will further strengthen social ties as well as reinforce the messages your employee has already read. The learning curve will shorten.

Remember, there is a lot of information for your new employee to learn and social steps that needs to be taken, therefore make sure you have planned for all of this to take time.

Well executed onboarding takes a full year

As a standard you should have 30, 60, and 90- day check ins with your new employee to make sure everything is proceeding as planned and to get a chance to right anything that might be wrong.

During the check-ins you will review and evaluate how your new employee is performing, find out what support they need and if they are facing any challenges. You will also get their thoughts on your onboarding program so far and get a feel for how they are adapting to the new work environment.

According to Ben Peterson, CEO of BambooHR, an HR technology company only 15% of companies continue onboarding after six months and at the same time it takes a full year to find whether an employee is fully productive and will make for a great future employee . The end of the first year is when traditional onboarding transitions into retention and employee satisfaction (2).

Do you remember the statistics from the beginning of the article?  25% of staff turnover happens within the first year and your efforts have a huge impact on that decision. So don’t let the onboarding effort slip just because you finally reached the 90-day check in but rather have a plan for how to successfully train and review your employee to the one-year threshold.  This is when you can shift from on-the-job training to continuous development. This is when you know your onboarding program works!

Author: Caroline Tiala
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