Last month's Business Navigator discussed how to digitize your business' recruiting efforts, including the onboarding process. But software tools are just one small part of the employee onboarding process. If you’re bringing on a new employee, consider these tips and strategies to ensure everyone involved gets the best possible outcomes from the process.
What is Onboarding?
Onboarding, or the process by which someone learns how to fill their role within a company, is critical for employee satisfaction and retention. All too often, onboarding and job training are thought to be the same thing—training managers or business owners think because someone knows how to use the tools provided to do their job, they’ve been successfully onboarded. But socializing new hires into the company culture is just as critical as practical training when it comes to truly successful onboarding.
The top-performing businesses, which retained 91% of employees or more for a year or longer, emphasized peer networking opportunities and introducing new employees to their “go-to” people at a higher percentage than others who were less successful at onboarding.1
A study conducted by the Aberdeen Group surveyed the onboarding process of 230 organizations and ranked them according to effectiveness at retention.
Companies that help new employees become one of the gang while they’re also learning the business keep those employees around longer.
Preparing for New Hire Orientation
Before your new hire sets foot in the building, make sure you’re prepared for them. If they need to have logins for any software or training portals, make sure they’ve been generated in advance. Print any necessary training materials or forms like a Form I-9 or non-disclosure agreement that the employee will need to complete. If you’re not sure what to go over on the first day, a group of over 1,000 workers surveyed said their two top priorities the first week on a new job are job training (75%) and review of company policies (73%). A tour of the company and their workspace (59%) and being paired with a buddy or mentor (56%) were also highly valued.2
Orientation vs Training
Your goals for your onboarding process should be to both train your employee for their new job and help them get oriented in their new work environment. If they need to learn practical skills, or how to complete internal processes, training modules and checklists can help ensure no critical detail of the daily workflow is skipped. However, these tasks are often better learned from watching another person perform them, not listening to someone explain or completing a workbook. Consider assigning the new employee to shadow a team member—not a supervisor—for a portion of each training day.
Onboarding also needs to ensure the employee has a clear understanding of your company values and the expectations of their supervisors. Again, this should be approached both socially and more concretely. Make sure to give them a job description and employee handbook, but follow up on those materials in conversation and make sure the new employee understands and doesn’t have any concerns or questions.
One major online retailer spends five weeks training new hires in their job duties. At the same time, they go through education about the company’s values and how the new employees’ jobs will support the company. At the end of the training, the new hires are offered $2,000 to leave if they believe they are not a good fit for the position. Only 1% take the money and go; the rest are committed to the company and their new role within it.3 A comprehensive onboarding strategy that prioritizes both practical training and social/emotional orientation is more likely to result in engaged and satisfied employees.
Accountability in the Onboarding Process
One of the most common mistakes companies make in their onboarding process is that the result of the onboarding isn’t any one person’s responsibility. HR might be responsible for conveying company policy, but the new hire’s supervisor is responsible for overseeing their duties, and maybe a departing employee is the one responsible for actually teaching them a new task. Top-performing onboarders from the Aberdeen Group study showed a difference from the norm in this area: Those companies are removing some of the onboarding responsibility from HR and recruitment managers and transferring it to the employees’ mentors and team members.
Of those top-performing onboarders, 52% emphasize goal setting for employee development early in the onboarding process, and 19% use assessments to determine what skills they want to help an employee develop.4 New hires and their employers and trainers need to develop SMART goals—specific, measurable, agreed-upon, realistic, and timely. Developing SMART goals helps give the new employee direction in their new role and gives them a say in the process.
Getting Your Employee Up to Speed
Studies show that it takes eight to 12 months for a new hire to achieve true and full proficiency at their job. However, 31% of people have quit a job in the first six months, meaning they decided it wasn’t worth the effort of working to that point. Commonly-cited reasons for quitting were that the job didn’t match the description, the employees didn’t feel adequately trained, and their supervisor wasn’t a good personality match.5 Many of these issues could have been detected and perhaps addressed if those employers took a longer-term and more proactive approach to onboarding.
Continue to check in with your “new” hires about their job satisfaction and feelings for at least the first six months of their employment, though this may be a habit you want to keep up for their entire term of employment. While it's important to understand each employee’s unique needs, most employees are eager to receive feedback on their performance. It can also lead to insightful conversations where managers receive equally valuable feedback.
Onboarding a new employee is about a lot more than job training; it’s also about introducing them to the company and making sure they’re a good fit. By clearly defining who is in charge of guiding the new employee’s steps, you get off to a good start when it comes to a clear and effective onboarding. From there, determine which information about the business is most critical both practically and from a perspective of values and culture. Educate new hires on these topics, but don’t expect everything to stick after a whirlwind of early training. Continued follow-up and initiatives to engage employees with their peers and confirm their understanding of key company policies is a critical and often overlooked part of the onboarding process. We hope with this information, you and your team can develop an onboarding process that keeps employees loyal to your company for years to come.