Onboarding: Accelerate productivity and increase employee engagement!

Many companies are ramping up their recruiting efforts to keep pace with the current economic boom. Having an effective onboarding program is critical to getting new hires up to speed and retaining them for years to come. How can companies make their onboarding process as engaging and productive as possible?

When starting a new job, we can all relate to filling out I-9 and W-4 forms, entering personal information into the payroll system, reading through the alternative insurance plans, and deciding how much to invest in the company’s 401(k) plan as well as which funds to choose. These steps are the administrative side of onboarding. If that is all there is to your onboarding program, you are missing an ideal opportunity to introduce new hires to stakeholders, provide clarity on how to succeed in their jobs, and fast-track them to full productivity.

You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression!

Onboarding helps. The Aberdeen Group, in their 2009 study, reports that 86% of senior executives and human resources staff believe that a new hire’s decision to stay in a company is made in the first six months of employment. The study also found that companies with effective onboarding programs had higher success rates for new hire assimilation: 62% had higher time-to-productivity, and 54% reported higher employee engagement.

A 2014 survey of approximately 1,000 employees by BambooHR found that 16% of respondents had left between the first week and third month of starting a new job. Why? One-third of those who had quit said they barely had any onboarding help or none at all.

Turnover can cost up to 50% of an employee’s first-year’s salary. It’s expensive!

My own experience as an HR leader matches these surveys. When my former company conducted employee engagement surveys, responses clearly showed that new hires had the highest criticism for poor training and ineffective career guidance. Many new hires, although competent in their roles, struggled with learning how to use functional and enterprise software. They also didn’t understand the unwritten rules for getting work done in the organization. Manager forums identified similar issues as well as high rates of novice errors.

After the company implemented a robust onboarding program, we saw a dramatic improvement in new hire employee engagement scores and a significant decrease in new hire time-to-productivity.

So what makes up a successful onboarding program?

Be sure to design a program that fits your company’s culture and addresses your business strategies.  Following are the components I recommend for an effective onboarding program:

  1. Make for a smooth transition. Greet the employee warmly as soon as they arrive. Make sure their laptop or smart device and access to e-mail, servers and databases are approved and ready to go on day one—not one or two weeks later!
  2. Provide new hires with an overview of the company’s mission, business strategies and tactics, and show them how they fit in. Provide written information or videos, and have a company executive meet with new hires to talk about the company’s history and principals. Build in time for questions to make sure that specific business strategies are relevant to the new hires’ roles.
  3. Managers need a simple guide and checklist to use with each new hire to explain their team’s alignment with the company’s strategies as well as identify their key stakeholders, processes and work tools. Then, set 30 day, 90 day and annual goals for the new hire. Be sure to provide timely feedback, especially during the first few weeks.
  4. Proactively set up meetings for new hires to meet key stakeholders, with the objective of getting their relationship off to a great start. These meetings will help ensure that new hires understand what is critical to achieve for each stakeholder.
  5. Have each functional organization establish its own new hire training program highlighting the functional organization’s priorities, its work processes, and how to use the department’s software (which is often the toughest learning curve!) In order to get started, I recommend setting up management and employee teams to identify specific areas of concern for new hires and solutions to address each concern.
  6. Assign coaches to new hires from within the organization! Teaming a new hire with an expert will drive huge improvements in their productivity!
  7. Hold a breakfast or lunch for company directors with new hires to discuss career advancement, take questions and offer advice.
  8. Use technology to keep new hires informed! If your company has more than one geographic location or remote workers, use web-ex or other technology to include new employees in important presentations and discussions.

After my previous company implemented the steps above, the next employee engagement survey showed statistically significant improvements, particularly for new hire training! Management feedback confirmed the survey’s results. One new hire told me, “This is my best new hire orientation experience. I made the right choice to join this company.”

Have you seen employee engagement and productivity increase by improving your company’s orientation program?  What has been your experience?

Victor Assad is a strategic human resources consultant and executive coach who works with key decision makers and human resources leaders on talent management, accelerating change, leadership development, and other strategic initiatives, such as mergers and acquisitions, strategy implementation, and flexible workplace. Contact Victor for a free one-hour strategy session on how to create an onboarding program that improves productivity and employee engagement. You can contact Victor at victorassad6@gmail.com. Visit Victor’s website at www.victorhrconsultant.com to download free whitepapers and to read more of his blogs!

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