One of the most important things an organization can do for its employees is to coordinate an effective onboarding experience. Onboarding begins well before someone joins the organization. It involves ensuring employees have everything they need to succeed in their role, as well as preparing training and activities to reinforce knowledge and integrate them into the team. This article covers why effective onboarding is so important, and how managers and human resources (HR) can implement an effective onboarding program.
The Basics of an Onboarding Process
The CIPD defines onboarding as “…The whole process from an individual’s contact with the organization before they formally join, through to understanding the business’ ways of working and getting up to speed in their role”. Managers and HR must ensure that every element of this process is planned and executed to perfection, to ensure every employee is seamlessly welcomed into the organization.
How an effective onboarding program can make or break your company
An effective onboarding program is easy to overlook, but it can have a major impact on an employee’s integration into the team, as well as their job satisfaction. If organizations get onboarding right, they are more likely to see increased retention and employee engagement, as well as improved morale, productivity and a stronger employer brand.
Increased Employee Commitment
Getting onboarding right means that from the start, your employees will be engaged and in tune with their jobs, the company, and its goals. A recent study suggests that a quarter of employees will resign in their first ninety days; an effective onboarding program will mitigate this risk. It will likely increase the chances of the employee becoming loyal in the longer term as well.
Improved Employee Experience
An effective onboarding program is a powerful tool to enable employees to settle in, get to know the business and, perhaps most importantly of all, socialize. A well-crafted induction program will introduce the employee to the workplace, its standards, and the leadership. It will give employees a chance to meet their team, mingle with other new joiners who are in the same boat, therefore bonding over their shared experience, and would hopefully quell any fears or anxieties. Put simply, an effective onboarding program will set up employees for future success.
Improve Employer Branding and HR Reputation
An established, structured, and effective onboarding program is very marketable. It will make the employer value proposition (EVP) tangible and credible, and it can showcase the great things an organization does to look after its people.
Onboarding programs should be developed with an organization’s image and branding strategy in mind. It should be synchronized to the EVP, demonstrating to prospective talent – as well as newcomers – what working for the organization is all about.
Finally, seeing as an effective onboarding program is so closely related with positive HR measures, such as decreased labor turnover and increased employee engagement, creating an effective onboarding program will highlight the achievements and talents of your HR department.
How to Create an Onboarding Program
Managers and HR must work together to create an effective onboarding program. Pulling one together requires operational considerations such as documenting meetings and setting technical training, as well as HR activities such as planning e-learning and completing statutory requirements such as paperwork, tours, and performance management documentation. It is a considerable team effort.
1. Make a List of Everything an Employee Needs to be Successful in their Role
This list should not start and end with a job description. Managers should, however, review this and ensure that the employee will have everything they need to execute their duties successfully and productively, as well as considering the development of soft skills and employee engagement activities. This might include information on breaks and vacation policies, and a list of contact information of people the newcomer might need to reach out to.
An important aspect of employee readiness is ensuring that all technology, such as a laptop, phone, workstation, and systems, are all set up in advance of day one, and ready for the employee to use immediately.
2. Establish a Framework for the Onboarding Curriculum
An effective onboarding framework not only maps out learning and support interventions, but is also designed to be shared with the new joiner, ideally ahead of their start date. Onboarding frameworks will map out meetings and activities on a daily basis. Naturally, a lot of these will be concentrated on the first few days or weeks but will also include activities up to the end of the employees’ probation period, between the three or six-month service point.
3. Establish Communication Channels
Organizations might wish to encourage new joiners to communicate even before they enjoy their first day. You can utilize your company’s preferred internal communication tool. Some companies are also setting up Facebook groups for onboarding groups to socialize in the run up to day one. Whenever this is done, a critical part of onboarding is to allow the new employees to gel and get to know each other.
The onboarding framework mentioned above will include contact information, as well as a general phone and email directory of key people, such as the employees’ team members, manager, and mentor. It is also important to establish communication norms, such as standards, etiquette, and scheduling dates for one-to-ones and job chats.
4. Involve Management Teams
A critical part of onboarding is to ensure that leadership is visible and makes specific time to meet with new joiners. This could be one-on-one, if a newcomer needs to have facetime with certain managers, and/or group meetings with executive leadership. Either way, managers of induction programs should schedule these meetings in advance and build them into the onboarding framework. Newcomers should be briefed on what (if anything) to prepare for these meetings.
Another nice touch is to set up a ‘coffee morning’ with newcomers and executive leadership a month or so into their job, so these mangers can understand how the new hires are settling in.
5. Streamline Paperwork
Utilizing effective Business Process Management (BPM) or Human Resources Information System (HRIS) software may enable some organizations to send out paperwork, such as offer letters or handbooks, and have candidates complete them electronically, in advance of their first day, thus saving a lot of time during onboarding.
HR should also look at ways to make as much of the onboarding process as paperless as possible. This might include virtual learning, sending the onboarding framework via Trello, gamification or even the use of podcasts and apps, which have the added benefit of creating a modern-feeling employer brand.
6. Identify Metrics to Measure Effectiveness
One way to measure the effectiveness of onboarding is through the ‘three Cs’ which are ‘Clarification’ – if the employee understands their job, ‘Confidence’ – measuring how effectively the employee is acquiring new skills, and ‘Connection’ – assessment of how well the employee can build effective relationships and access support. These three Cs can be assessed through regular pulse engagement surveys, and, to some extent, through productivity tools which will evaluate how quickly the employee is able to get up-to-speed in their job. Measurement of labor turnover and exit interview responses will also enable data-driven HR teams to understand how effective their onboarding programs are.
7. Establish a Way to Stay in Touch
Effective onboarding relies on constant support and coaching techniques. Leaders and HR professionals in charge of onboarding must ensure that newcomers know who to go to for support, and that there are planned follow-up meetings which are scheduled in advance and committed to by all parties. These can include weekly check-ins between the employee and their manager, probation review meetings, and coffee mornings, allowing cohorts to socialize and maybe meet with executive leadership. Establishing and sustaining an open-door policy is a critical part of this process.
Onboarding Automation Tools
One of the largest challenges to the above guidance is that HR must do all they can to ensure consistency, in that every employee gets the same onboarding experience. As well as offering a paperless onboarding process which can be completed in advance of an employee joining, HR teams could also track learning progress through e-learning tools, as well as onboarding checklists linked to the organization’s HRIS and probation system. Automated feedback systems can measure in real time new joiner satisfaction. Finally, even supporting elements of onboarding can be automated, such as knowledge checks conducted, and employees being automatically enrolled into benefit websites.
An effective onboarding process is a critical part of the employee experience and the over all employee life cycle. It can significantly contribute to a well-run and high-performing workforce. Nevertheless, creating an effective onboarding program is not easy, as there are many elements to draw together. Critical to this are the cornerstones of ensuring that onboarding processes begin before day one, are written down and communicated to employees in advance, and include significant socialization and communication interventions to ensure that the employee settles in well and is working towards becoming top talent, and that this progress is celebrated over time.