July 26, 2018
Estimated Read Time: 7 Minutes
Ah, the first day of work. A day filled with a mix of angst, nervousness, excitement, and intrigue. This is the day when expectation is met face-to-face with reality. Most people don’t remember every nuance of that action-packed day, but they do remember how they felt and who they met (even if they can’t quite remember everyone’s names). The point is, everyone remembers their first day of work. At least… you hope that they do. Isn’t that the goal of a quality onboarding program?
Whether you’re onboarding a recent graduate or an engineer with 15 years of experience, everyone that walks into your organization on their first day is expecting you to guide them through their first experience with your organization. But if you don’t have an onboarding process in place to ensure a smooth introduction to your organization’s structure, beliefs, mission, and culture, you could be hitting a rocky road of uncertainty – and the last thing you want your new employees to do is second-guess their decision to join your team.
Onboarding is typically defined as the process of bringing a new employee into your organization by providing them with the necessary information, training, support, and mentoring needed throughout the transition. While many organizations treat onboarding differently, the overall goal is to ensure a smooth introduction to the organization and provide a structured means to establish the new hire into a stable asset of the team.
Not to be confused with Orientation which typically lasts a few hours and consists of completing the appropriate administrative paperwork and a brief overview of the organization.
Onboarding typically lasts anywhere from a full quarter to a full year and focuses on the initial development of the new hire and provides a formal framework for two-way feedback. Onboarding programs can vary dramatically – but one thing that they all strive for is the assimilation of new hires into an organization with minimal friction. With most new hires taking 8-9 months before they’re “adequately” up-to-speed and consistently contributing to the team, onboarding programs have become an essential step to improve the quality of a new hire’s experience with your organization.
When a new hire joins the team, there are always various expectations from both the new hire and the rest of the team. The new hire has been charmed by the recruiting team and has most likely bought into the mission of the organization – aligning their personal beliefs the organization’s. But what happens when those beliefs and promises turn out to be skewed or sometimes just plain false?
When the expectations and aspirations of a new hire are at conflict with their new team or even the organization as a whole, the new hire can easily come to the conclusion that they’ve made a mistake. After all, 60% of organizations fail to even set goals for their new hires. That’s why 20% of all employee turnover happens within the first 45 days at a new gig. All the while, the rest of the team is left wondering what happened to the “all-star” new hire when derailment sets in and the new hire finds employment elsewhere.
This exact scenario plays out every day.
But the good news is that there are onboarding tools available to remedy the challenge of communication and development with your new employees. In fact, 69% of employees are more likely to stay with their organization for three years due to a great onboarding experience. Even after that, employees who go through a structured onboarding program are 58% more likely to still be with that organization after three years of employment.
Combine these numbers with the amount of time it takes for a new hire to “get up to speed” at their new organization and the positive impact of an onboarding program becomes clear.
But to capture the full effect of an onboarding program, you need to think long-term.
Onboarding programs are commonly created with the intent of expanding the orientation process to include additional training and assimilation with the new hire’s new team. However, a true onboarding process needs to extend well beyond a new hire’s first week, and even their first month at your organization in order to truly benefit from increased employee retention. Not only that, but if we consider the length of time it takes new hires to become productive members of the team (as stated earlier) we need to be introducing onboarding programs that extend months beyond the date of hire.
According to an OfficeVibe report, only 36% of organizations extend their onboarding program beyond the first month of a new hire’s employment. While a short-term onboarding process makes a great introduction to your organization, it misses the opportunity to nurture and develop your organization’s new hires – expediting and enriching their development process.
If you’re thinking about creating an onboarding program for your organization, and even if you currently have a short-term program, consider expanding your onboarding process and implementing some of the key strategies listed below.
Culture is an often overlooked piece of the onboarding process when bringing on new employees. Especially when we focus so heavily on performance and the dreaded “Orientation Checklist,” it can be easy to forget about the human aspect of integrating a new personality into your existing tribe of characters.
In a Human Resources capacity, it’s become easier and easier with modern tools to measure your company culture and associate quantifiable data that lets you know the health of your company culture. The adverse effect of standardized culture strategies, however, creates the false sense of security that culture is a metric that can be easily manipulated like most other KPIs your department monitors. We can easily forget the “living and breathing” element to culture.
New employee onboarding presents a great opportunity to lay the groundwork with new hires as they enter your existing culture ecosystem. Company culture truly is a growing entity that requires constant enrichment – and understanding that each new face contributes to the overall culture ecosystem is a great way to conceptualize the need for strong employee onboarding.
Some of the better onboarding programs that I’ve seen include a “buddy system” whereas an experienced member of the team is assigned to each new hire. Not only does this provide an established direct line for feedback (from a peer), it also shares the responsibility to assimilate the new hire into the existing team dynamics within their direct group of coworkers. This helps to manage expectations and creates an honest environment of day-to-day life within the organization. Everything from company events to restaurant locations can quickly become memorable interactions for your new hires – you’d be surprised how important everyday arguments over the best tacos in town are to the comradery we all hope to build.
The other primary benefit to the buddy system is the ability for immediate performance questions and feedback. Of course your managers and supervisors should be involved in the day-to-day activity with your new hires (and rest of the team as a whole), but the opportunity to have a peer mentor for your new hires can quickly help them understand the nuance of daily deliverables and job functions – further helping your new hires to assume additional responsibilities as well as the psychological safety to perform and make decisions within their role.
When it comes to your onboarding process, clarity is key. We take for granted the jargon that we throw around on a daily basis and while most new hires can do their best to keep up, high performing teams have a keen ability to operate based off of assumed behaviors. You work with a group of people long enough and you can practically finish their…
You were going to say “sentences,” right?
Consider instituting a formal performance review to mark the end of your onboarding process, no matter how long it may be. Because at the end of the day, we all want clarity, and your new hires will appreciate knowing when the expectations put upon them have changed.
Like most things in life, you’ll only get from an onboarding program what you put into it. If you’re happy with your current employee onboarding program, by all means, don’t break it just to experiment. But if you’re starting from scratch or are having employee retention issues, it may be a good idea to think about the expectations you’re setting and what accountability milestones you have in place to manage and monitor the status of your new hires and their progress toward assimilation.
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