Onboard Like You Mean It

Onboarding Debacles Undermine Productivity and Retention

A few weeks ago I attended a Women in Business event. I met and struck up a conversation with Alyssa, a 30-something who had recently accepted a new job for a transportation management company. She shared how eager and excited she was to start and yet how frustrating the first few weeks had been.

On her first day she was caught in a sea of paperwork, filled out 37 forms, sat in front of a computer watching “mandatory” modules about her new company’s policies and procedures, and spent too much of her lunch hour looking for the cafeteria. Her first day was memorable indeed—a memory she was not likely to forget.

By the end of her first week, Alyssa had been sharing a makeshift workstation with another new employee and was still waiting for her computer login and access card. Oh, the embarrassment of having to be escorted to the department each morning by another member of the team.

By the end week two, Alyssa knew her manager’s name but had only one short conversation with him. She was still waiting for her own workstation.

While you may be shaking your head in disbelief, this scenario is all too common in today’s work place. A recent Aberdeen Group study reported that only 15% of today’s work places have formal onboarding processes to help new employees become an essential part of the team quickly. Often managers can’t get a new hire up to speed fast enough. New hires are highly enthusiastic to be part of your organization. So don’t squelch their eagerness by drowning them in paperwork or dispatching them into a vast horizon without direction.

Organized Onboarding Optimizes Retention and More

If you want people to perform well, you have to get them off to a good start. While it seems obvious, the obvious is most often ignored. Onboarding is a comprehensive approach to supporting a new employee’s success in your company. As a formal structured process, it provides the most value for your investment by starting the relationship off on the right foot in an environment that helps retain your new talent. A meaningful and deliberate onboarding process has a positive business impact on:

  • loyalty and satisfaction
  • time to productivity
  • your organization’s brand
  • your clients’ experience with your workforce

Here are some surprisingly sad statistics about new hires:

  • 89% of new hires don’t have the optimum level of knowledge needed to do their job (Aberdeen Group)
  • 22% of new hire turnover occurs in the first 45 days (SHRM)
  • Cost of losing the average new hire during their first year is estimated at 3 times their salary (SHRM)

Companies that understand the value of knowledge workers have made onboarding a priority. They are setting the gold standard, and their results are in staggering contrast to those without a formal onboarding process. Companies with solid onboarding processes report results that impact the bottom line:

  • 62% faster time to productivity (Aberdeen Group);
  • more than 20% increase in discretionary effort (Corporate Leadership Council);
  • 60% year-over-year improvement in revenue/FTE (Aberdeen Group); and
  • 63% year-over-year improvement in customer satisfaction (Aberdeen Group).

A Cross-Functional Effort that Starts with the Interview

Onboarding is one of the most critical cross-functional processes. Creating a collective team responsible for the new hire’s success should include human resources, IT, facilities, the hiring manager and more.

Onboarding begins in the recruitment and hiring process; you might actually think of it as “pre-boarding”. The interview process is the perfect time to candidly discuss your company’s culture, values and how they manifest themselves. Be real. Talk about what lives in the halls instead of what hangs on the walls. Discuss what it takes not only to survive, but also to thrive. This candor will help you and the interviewee better assess not only if they can do the job, but also if they will “fit”.

Once an offer has been extended and accepted, work toward making the first day meaningful:

  • Send a welcome package to their home;
  • Be ready for them on their first day;
  • Help them make connections, and create a sense of belonging; and
  • Set clear expectations with solid communication patterns.

Onboarding Remix

Imagine if Alyssa’s experience looked a bit more like this:

Upon accepting the job, Alyssa received a package at her home before her first day. The package included a welcome note signed by everyone in her new department, 37 forms that needed to be completed before she arrived on her first day, and a get-to-know-you questionnaire to learn how she learns best, how she likes to be recognized, personal interests, where she should report to, and who to ask for when she arrives. How do you think that made her feel?

When Alyssa arrived on her first day, she was greeted by a sign next to the reception desk welcoming the new hires by name, who were starting that day. In a morning orientation, all of the new hires introduced themselves, the CEO welcomed them and shared the company’s mission, vision and values, and they were given a new employee tool kit filled with practical branded essentials for building pride in their decision to join your team.

Before breaking for lunch, Alyssa was introduced to her mentor – someone from her new department that would be her go-to for task-related questions AND a welcome ambassador, someone that would be responsible for orientating her to the building, the community surrounding their office building and help her find her way to the “social” opportunities in the organization. The three went off to break bread together.

After lunch, Alyssa’s mentor took her to her new workstation, showed her how to log into her computer, where to find self-learning tools and resources, and brought her to their department’s daily huddle, where, Alyssa’s manager introduced her to the rest of her new colleagues. Following the meeting, Alyssa’s manager met with her to lay the groundwork for her specific role and responsibilities, set performance milestones, provided a an itinerary of learning modules she would experience, and encouraged Alyssa to use self-learning tools and work closely with her mentor and manager to gain confidence in her work. Lastly, Alyssa’s manager provided a clear communication pattern for the next 90 days.

What a very different experience—one that makes an indelible difference in the relationship between the new hire and the organization. The next time you are adding someone to your team I urge you to think about what it’s going to take not just to attract and hire, but also to retain. If your company doesn’t have a formal onboarding process, be the catalyst to bring this critical process into focus. It takes 6.2 months (Michael Watkins, The First 90 Days) to hit the break-even point with your new team member, the point where they add more value than they consume. There is no replacement for a well-seasoned team member that not only understands the technical aspects of their role, but the nuances that accompany experience.

The devil always seems to be in the details. There are lots of details and moving parts to onboard a new employee. If you company doesn’t have a formal onboarding process, it’s never too late to make a difference.

Don’t let those devilish details derail your efforts to onboard your new team members. If you’re looking to be intentional about transforming your company’s onboarding process into an engagement win we have creative ideas. Let us help you implement down-to-earth strategies that are aligned with your company objectives, brand, message and voice. Call us.

Toll free: 800-742-6800     In Minneapolis/St. Paul: 952-933-8365 email: Hillary@askhillarys.com