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The Secrets of Successful Onboarding!

Bob Little 

January 12, 2018

Recruitment and selection can be an expensive and time-consuming activity, but its value is unquestionable if it’s done effectively. A proper onboarding mechanism should be part of this process.

Hiring new team members, only to see them leave before they’re contributing productively to your organization, can be more expensive in the long run than investing in an effective recruitment process in the first place.

Mind Tools’ article, Engaging New Recruits, highlights research by the Gallup Organization that estimates employee disengagement costs the U.S. economy more than $350 billion a year in lost productivity. In the U.K. the cost is an estimated £44 billion each year.

Labor turnover happens. It’s a fact of working life. However, there’s no need to actively encourage it and, in the process, cost your organization time, money and resources unnecessarily.

Labor Turnover Rates

According to the recruitment website, Monster, the average annual labor turnover rate in the U.K. is some 15 percent, although this varies between industries. In the U.S., says that 30 percent of external new hires turn over within their first two years of employment.

Retention statistics from other organizations, including the Society for Human Resources Management, show that turnover can be up to 50 percent in the first 18 months of employment.

No organization likes wasting money or losing value. A non-existent or poorly structured onboarding process can impact labor turnover rate, and lead to more expenditure on additional recruitment.

That’s why having a successful onboarding process, sometimes known as “induction,” is vital for new hires.

The Onboarding Process

Onboarding progresses the recruitment and selection process. It embraces orientation, training, coaching, and mentoring.

It involves networking, along with product or service knowledge and brand awareness. It’s neither a simple nor a short process but, done well, its value to the organization is substantial and long-lasting.

Speaking at the Charity Learning Consortium (CLC) annual conference, in London, U.K., Kim Edwards, talent and leadership development manager at Getty Images, outlined key issues relating to onboarding.

Edwards believes that effective onboarding impacts positively on a worker’s motivation, productivity and retention. This is good news, considering that the average cost of recruiting a worker is $4,129, according to technology solutions specialists, Gartner (formally CEB).

Room for Improvement

Moreover, says Edwards, according to Gartner/CEB, the current quality of onboarding has plenty of room for improvement. For example:

  • It takes some eight months for a new worker to reach full productivity.
  • Organizations with a “standard” onboarding process experience a 54 percent increase in productivity and a 50 percent increase in worker retention.
  • Only 36 percent of new hires believe that they’ve received an accurate picture of what it’s like to work at their organization.
  • Only 35 percent of new hires understand their new organization’s strategy.
  • 33 percent of new hires look for a new job within the first six months of starting a new job.
  • Workers who experience the longest onboarding program gain full proficiency 34 percent faster than workers at organizations with the shortest onboarding programs.

Design Questions for Onboarding

Edwards says that at Getty Images, the company “presents a globally consistent onboarding message, and builds in local variables to these programs, notably to cater for cultural variations.” She adds that the firm asks four key questions as part of its ongoing development of onboarding design:

  • How can we help all new hires to get started in a globally consistent way, regardless of their role and location?
  • How can we help all new hires to understand what’s expected of them and contribute to our company’s success?
  • How can we encourage a growth mindset in our people from “day one”?
  • How can we build manager capability, so that they’re better able to support their new hires to get started faster?

Edwards says, “We try to take advantage of each new joiner’s initial naivety and enthusiasm – and so we aim to give them as much compliance and regulatory training as we can in that period.” Her onboarding program covers a new hire’s first 90 days. It explores engagement activities (pre-day one), orientation, foundation learning, and self-paced learning (from day one), followed by “staggered” job-specific information, which includes being placed with a peer who acts as a “buddy.” This buddy activity is led by the new hire’s manager, supported by Edwards’ L&D function.

The final 60 days of the formal onboarding period involves a series of orientation workshops. These are facilitated by the HR department, and supported by the new hire’s manager and senior leaders. The onboarding evaluation process involves 30-day check-ins with the new hire and their manager, workshop attendance, and a questionnaire to be completed by the new hire after 90 days in post.

7 Key Tips for Successful Onboarding

According to Edwards, the key tips for would-be top performing onboarding programs are:

  • Define your success factors. Decide what you want your new hires to be able to do by the end of their first week, first month, and first 90 days.
  • Clarify organizational strategy and goals. Determine how the new worker’s goals relate to these, and how the new worker can contribute to the organization’s success.
  • Help the new worker to network.
  • Share the load. Upskill managers and others within the organization, and give them a guide so that they can play their part in onboarding new hires.
  • Stagger the “information dump.” Timing is key. Decide what is essential for new hires to know during their first day, first week, and first month.
  • Start small and simple, and scale up the program over time.
  • It’s never over. Never get complacent and always continue improving.

“Overall,” Edwards says, “make onboarding fun. Don’t try to do it all instantly. Use, but stagger, face-to-face and online learning delivery. The buddy idea is both free and useful – and make use of regular check-ins in order to ensure that the new hire is both OK and is doing OK.”

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