A study conducted by Bersin by Deloitte, whose founder is a frequent speaker at our annual HR Technology Conference, found that 34% of employees with less than two years on the job expected to have a new job within the next year. Recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and training new employees is costly. In fact, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that, on average, it costs a company 6 to 9 months of an employee’s salary to replace him or her after the employee leaves.
Onboarding starts before the candidate's first day and continues through their first 90 days on the job. Onboarding software can help reduce employee turnover rates by providing a structured onboarding process. The use of technology can automate many of the onboarding tasks, increase employee engagement and help the new hire feel welcome.
How Structured Onboarding Can Lead to Long-Term Employees
Both small businesses and large enterprises often find it difficult to recruit and hire the right talent. But, spending countless hours and resources to find the perfect hire doesn’t always mean those great new hires will stay — that’s where a structured onboarding process can make a difference.
In this article, we’ll go through the different phases of the onboarding process and explain how they all work together to create a good employee experience. We’ll also discuss how onboarding technology helps keep everything moving smoothly throughout the process.
What Is Onboarding?
Wikipedia defines onboarding as “an organizational socialization (…) mechanism through which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skill and behaviors in order to become effective organizational members and insiders.” Easily put, onboarding is a strategic, standardized process in which the aim is to help new employees feel welcomed, appreciated, comfortable and ready to take on their new role as smoothly as possible.
A Gallup poll found that only 12% of new hires strongly agree that their organization does a great job of onboarding new employees. That means that 88% do not believe their organization does a great job of onboarding new employees. With those figures in mind, let’s break down the different phases of onboarding and see where we can improve.
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The Four Phases of Onboarding
Pre-Onboarding New Employees
The first phase of onboarding we’ll cover is the pre-onboarding phase, also referred to as preboarding. This phase occurs after the candidate has accepted the offer and before their first official day on the job. The goal of this phase is to help reduce the nervousness that can come with the first day of a new job and to get the new hire acquainted with the company.
The pre-onboarding phase is your company’s chance to put its best foot forward to ensure the successful integration of your new hire. Many companies wait until the first day the new employee is on-site to get important paperwork completed. But, with good pre-onboarding, many tasks can be knocked out in advance such as completing tax and emergency contact forms, issuing a copy of the employee handbook, setting up payroll and benefits information, and more.
It's also a great time to address FAQs that any first-day employee would need to know. Things like the location of the restrooms, where to park, who their point of contact will be, what the dress code is, what the policy is for the breakroom, etc.
The best way to onboard a new hire and keep everything organized is with onboarding tools that use automated workflows you have predefined. For instance, you can set up a workflow that once the candidate returns the offer letter, new hire documents and forms will automatically be sent out so they could fill them out and submit them right online. Just be careful not to overwhelm them with too many forms/documents all at once — space everything out over the time leading up to the candidate’s first day so it’s easier for them to digest. You can even set up your workflow to not send another item out to your new hire until the prior action you’ve asked for them to complete is done.
Maybe you decide that the next item is less “paperwork” and more “informative” in nature. You could send out a video that is a few minutes long and answers some basic FAQs as mentioned above. Have you ever received a welcome FAQ video from an employer? The great thing about these sorts of videos is that they can be recorded once and all new hires could receive it in their customized onboarding workflow.
Once the video is watched, a trigger could prompt the system to send out the employee handbook or ask for emergency contact information, etc. Maybe the next task is to have their point of contact reach out or the system could send a task to IT to set up the new hire’s email inbox and voicemail.
This is also a great time to have the system send out a company-wide email introducing the new employee and assign tasks to their direct team members to set up welcome meetings when the new employee starts.
With creative new employee onboarding like this, you are sure to win over your new employees and help them ease into their new roles. All this while helping reduce the company’s annual turnover rate and eliminating the need for a member of HR to be directly involved in the process. Once the workflows are set up, HR can simply monitor the process via the onboarding software.
Welcoming New Employees to the Company
The second phase of onboarding is often devoted to welcoming new hires and providing them with an orientation. It's important that they know how teams operate on a day-to-day basis before starting work. Most new employees will be eager to get started in their new roles so restrict this phase to less than one week.
Keep the first day as painless as possible. It is an important milestone in your new hire's journey with you. The orientation process helps them learn about what it means to work for the company, while also learning about their role and how they can contribute best.
During the first few days (including the first day), introduce your new hire to the team. It’s best to personally introduce team members as they will likely be working alongside one another throughout the year. In the pre-onboarding, we mentioned having direct team members create calendar invites to formally introduce themselves to the new hire. These meetings can be brief but setting aside time for each of the new hire’s direct team members ensures everyone gets a chance to formally introduce themselves and helps build culture.
There will be compliance training items that new employees need to go through during this first week as well. Assigning eight hours of compliance training on day one might not be the best way to keep new hires from leaving the organization. Instead, assign a few of these per day to make it easier for the new hire to complete.
Using new hire onboarding software helps you track everything above and is the best way to see if your onboarding process is working or not. At the end of the first week, make sure to have a pre-scheduled meeting with the new team member to ensure they are comfortable and adjusting well to the company. It’s important that this orientation phase is completed successfully to build a strong foundation for the next phase, job/role specific training, which is crucial to your new hire’s success.
Job/Role Specific Training
Formal training is critical for new hires as it shows you care about their development, and it’s directly correlated with how successful they will be in their new roles. A study conducted by Jobvite noted that 46% of people who left a job in the first 90 days cited that the “day-to-day role was not what was expected.” And 43% of all respondents to the survey found that job descriptions were “very generic and not specific to the actual job.”
During this phase you give the new hire the exact training and knowledge they need to be successful in their new role. Now is the time when you’ll want to introduce your new hire to your Learning Management System. An LMS helps streamline training across your organization and creates a faster and more engaging e-learning experience. You may have some self-paced learning, but you might also want to consider blended learning which combines different learning styles. This can include some e-learning that is followed up by specific training conducted by another team member.
You’ll also want to make sure you cover day-to-day work processes. Who signs off on which decisions? What decisions does the new hire have autonomy over? How do internal employees communicate with one another and share information?
You should include specific training and protocols on any software the new hire will be using. This may include things like project management tools, online communication software, email protocols, phone systems, etc.
During this phase, you should include some sort of job shadowing and/or mentoring. Having new employees shadow a team member within their own department will help them understand the organization better and how their specific role impacts others.
It’s important that during the onboarding phase you have current employees set aside time in their schedules to allow for this mentoring process. Production for the current employee will be affected while they walk the new employee through the process so plan accordingly.
Mentoring has a strong impact on new hires. The following quote is directly from a Deloitte Survey:
“...the positive impact of the mentor, is clearly highlighted by our findings. Among those who have somebody acting as their mentor, more than nine in ten describe the quality of advice (94 percent) and the level of interest shown in their development (91 percent) as “good.” Among those with mentors, 83 percent are satisfied with this aspect of their working lives.”
Transitioning New Hires into Their Role
The fourth and final phase of the onboarding process is to help your new hires transition into their day-to-day role. This is the part of the process where the manager and new hire set precise, measurable and actionable goals.
What does a successful month, quarter or year look like? What measurements will be used to quantify and recognize the efforts that are produced by the new hire? How often are performance reviews and what is included in them? These should all be defined during this final stage of onboarding.
Productivity can be captured using employee monitoring software, tracking the number of tasks completed in a project management tool, customer service scores, etc. Just make sure you are focusing on results and not just hours worked.
At the end of the day, employees want to receive clear guidelines on what their responsibilities are and know how they will be evaluated. This entire onboarding process we’ve discussed in this article helps define those responsibilities.
How to Measure Success of a New Onboarding Experience
Now that you have had an in-depth look at what a good onboarding experience can consist of, let’s talk about how we can make sure that the process we have in place is working.
The key to measuring the effectiveness of a good onboarding process is that it be consistent and repeatable. You will have aspects of onboarding that every new employee goes through and some aspects that will be specific to a department the new hire is in or the role they are filling. Customize where you must but be as consistent as possible to ensure everyone gets a similar experience which will be the best way to get reliable feedback on areas needing improvement.
Speaking of feedback, there is software for that too. You can send surveys to your new hires and ask questions about the different aspects of the onboarding process they liked or disliked. The survey software can easily compile the answers and help provide insights for where you can improve your process.
These surveys can be done at the end of the third phase just before new hires transition into their permanent role. It could also be helpful to do this at the end of their first week to discuss pre-onboarding and their orientation phase. See where things could have been done better and what parts they liked about the process. All feedback is helpful and can be used to improve the process.
You should consider asking these onboarding questions with your mentors, managers and HR team as well. How did they feel about the process? What feedback can they provide from the one-on-one time they had with the new hire? This is invaluable information from the people who help support the onboarding process from the business side.
One of the big measurements you will want to track is your retention rate of new hires. By adding a solid onboarding process, your retention rate should increase. If not, it may indicate a deficiency in other areas such as job titles and descriptions, candidate selection, interview process, etc. It could simply mean you need to tweak a few things in your process.
Other things you will want to track include things like engagement rates, time to productivity, training completion rate and new-hire satisfaction rates. All of these, along with feedback from your team and your new hires, will help you perfect an onboarding process that will help save time, money and build an incredible company culture.
If you are interested in seeing technology and software that can help you accomplish your onboarding goals, plan to visit the next HR Technology Conference and Exposition.