Importance of Onboarding

Employee onboarding allows new hires to attain the necessary knowledge, skills and behaviors to become effective and engaged employees and members of their teams. It’s an ongoing process, which some have even referred to as an experience, not a one-time event.  It provides opportunity for the integration of new hires into a company and its culture. How strong your onboarding strategy is can influence the success of not only your employees, but your company too. We’ve been sharing a bit about employee engagement and retention, and employee onboarding is yet another business strategy that should not be overlooked by HR. 

Think about your experiences as they relate to the weeks and days following up to a new job, the first day and the weeks following. Did you accept an offer and not speak to your future employer until you arrived on your first day, or did they check in with you every week to see how you were doing and if you had any questions? Were people in the office unaware of your arrival, or were you greeted and welcomed, with a workspace and a computer set up ready for use? Did you spend your first day filling out paper or subjected to a “bore-ientation”, watching videos and expected to then read through a wordy employee handbook, or were you given the chance to do much of that prior to starting? Did you understand your role, what was expected of you, who you could go to for questions? Or were you thrown to the wolves, unsure of even where the bathroom was located?

Consider how these experiences made you feel, how they impacted your view of the organization and ultimately if they had any impact on your performance and duration of stay.

Onboarding is crucial to a company’s success because it has shown to have direct impact on employee retention (The Onboarding and Retention Relationship, Carver, 2018).  The way an employer handles the weeks prior to and the first few days and months of a new hires’ arrival will impact an employee’s performance, engagement and ultimately will determine whether he or she will stay with the company.

Onboarding should be coordinated strategically, involving key players from HR to IT, with the length varying, depending on the needs of the position. With that said, onboarding should always do the following:
a) include a structured employee orientation
b) communicate job expectations
c) identify a mentor, and
d) include continuous training and goal setting

Effective and strategic onboarding is important for both the company and its employees. Let’s take a deeper dive into three reasons why:

  1. Increased retention. Retention impacts an organizations culture, morale and productivity. High turnover rates also cost companies and organizations time and money, creating a need to recruit and hire replacements. An analysis of 31 case studies conducted by Heather Boushey and Sarah Jane Glynn concluded that costs to replace employees can range from 10-30% of that employees’ annual wages. According to the Society for Human Resource Management “employee replacement costs can reach as high as 50-60% of an employee’s annual salary”. This high end of the range is true for higher-paid employees, taking into consideration the complexity of roles, credentialing, education and specialized training required to fulfill a role.
  2. Reduced time to productivity. The more time a new hire spends filling out paperwork and viewing trainings, or trying to navigate the company and their role alone without a mentor, the longer it will take for that employee to begin contributing meaningfully to the company. While it may take some time away from the mentor, the long-term benefits outweigh this sacrifice. Part of onboarding is clearly defining the role and expectations of a position. The importance of job clarity, how well an employee understands their role, will improve performance. Employees who are onboarded properly and know what is expected of them in their jobs will perform better. Role clarity can impact self-efficacy, which impacts job satisfaction and organizational commitment.  The sooner an employee understands their role and has the necessary skills to do their job, the sooner they can add value to the companies bottom line.
  3. Increased employee engagement. Effective onboarding will provide a new employee with a sense of self-confidence. When an employee feels confident in doing a job well, they will be more motivated to be present, innovative and will be more successful than their less confident counterparts.

Many companies are seeing firsthand the impact that successful and strategic onboarding can have.  Mark Murphy, CEO of Leadership IQ and Author of “Hiring for Attitude” has a clear picture of the benefits that such onboarding can offer. “The immediate benefits of effective onboarding are well-adjusted new employees, but long-term benefits to the company hit the bottom line, including improved retention, reduced time to productivity, and better overall customer [client/consumer] satisfaction. And long-term benefits to employees are job satisfaction, higher performance, lower stress, and organizational commitment.”

While there are many trends developing in the onboarding world, one of my favorites is the idea of pre-boarding. Many employers think that onboarding begins the day of a new employees arrival, but making a new hire feel welcomed to the team shouldn’t start the first day. It should start as soon as a formal offer letter is sent. Having a new member join your team is an exciting occasion for both the individual and for the company, and it is an occasion to celebrate.

Sending your future employee a welcome note expressing how excited you are to have them on board is a great way to make an employee feel special. Treat them as if they are already a part of the team by checking in with them every week or two via email or phone call up until their first day and share company updates about what is going on and how their role will fit into solving those issues. You can make them feel welcomed by inviting them to upcoming team meetings or holiday parties as a way to introduce them to the team prior to their arrival. Doing so can allow them to feel more comfortable, seemingly easing them into the group. This is also a great time to allow for the opportunity to fill out paper work before they get into the office, or to at least share employee handbooks and benefit summaries for them to review. Filling out the paper work is time consuming and can take away from building relationships day one if all the paperwork is left for the first day. If a new hire can sense that they are already valued, they will feel that they made a great choice in choosing your company.

An anecdote from a new employee:

“Pre-boarding was a concept that I’d never heard or experienced, until I did. When I was being pre-boarded, I could tell. My interactions with with my future supervisor felt different than any I’d had with previous employers. Every encounter felt warmer; I immediately felt valued and welcomed. Being that I am a recent hire, I can attest that pre-boarding is an important first step in making a new employee feel like their contributions will be important, and to get them excited, motivated and even more inspired to join your team.  My future supervisor checked in on me weekly to see if I had any questions about the job, and even asked how I was doing over all, how my week/weekend was, and the like. Having her show an interest in me as a human-being was a breath of fresh air. I remember thinking to myself that had made the right choice in choosing this company as my future employer based solely on how  I was being treated right off the bat.  My future supervisor was excited for me to join the team, making it known by staying in touch and by sending a note in the mail with a welcome gift. I even was invited to the holiday party which occurred before my start date. I attended and had the chance to meet the whole team. I was shocked the invitation was extended to me, but I am os glad I took the opportunity and attended. It was a nice touch and small efforts like this can really make a difference. It made me, even more so, want to give my new employer my absolute bet effort and performance.”

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