Follow Us f t in

Employee Onboarding – The Stakes Are High

Published: Oct 04, 2016
Employee Onboarding – The Stakes Are High

By tallyfy

A well-lit desk, a decent PC, a stack of business cards, and a coffee mug with the company logo? While these tokens of esteem have value, it takes more to get the full value out of employee onboarding. Employee onboarding is about making a great first impression that optimizes the following:

  • Employee engagement. Optimal engagement has to be designed in from the start.
  • Productivity. If you want it sooner and more of it, improve your onboarding.
  • Workforce retention. Acquiring new employees is expensive. Good onboarding leads to higher retention rates and helps your enterprise bottom line.
  • Customer satisfaction. How you start off by treating your employees will have a major effect on how they treat your customers.

Conversely, poor employee onboarding is a major contributor to the $37 billion (estimated by consultancy company IDC) that US and UK employees cost their organizations annually because they lack understanding of their jobs, and a 50% turnover rate within the first 18 months of employment (SHRM, the Society for Human Resources Management.) There can be no doubt. Proper onboarding is not only key for your new employees, but also for your business.

Employee Onboarding is Too Important to Be Left to Chance

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Onboarding of new hires cannot be skimped, conducted offhand, or curtailed without good reason. On the other hand, here’s the good news. Effective employee onboarding processes often have similar objectives and activities. They may simply differ in terms of content. For example, onboarding a new Chief Marketing Officer will involve a different set of first-day contacts and a different discussion about objectives compared to a product development engineer. However, first-day contacts and objectives both feature in the onboarding of each. As a result, you can plan ahead and map out different actions along a timeline to make a reliable, repeatable process.

The Double-Edged Checklist

Lists of actions and timings of those actions can be useful ways of making sure you cover all the bases. Yet as simple task lists, they may lack a vital element: the reason why each task is being done or even the result to be achieved. That makes them double-edged:

  • A checklist that is used with the objectives of engagement, productivity, retention, and satisfaction in mind can help to achieve great results.
  • However, a checklist that is executed mechanically without any thought about the real goals can lead to new employees wondering why on earth they signed up in the first place.

For example, administrative paperwork will often need to be done rapidly to insure compliance. At the same time, it is an opportunity to confirm to the employee the conditions of his or her employment, and to give reassurance that what was in the job offer is indeed what will be paid and provided. Similarly, the desk/PC/business cards/coffee mug “kit” is more than a bunch of articles arranged in the same place because they happen to be item 5 on the checklist. They are also part of an overall objective to make the employee feel welcome, valued, and respected.

The starting point for the onboarding checklist is not necessarily the first day in the office, either. For instance, those all-important interpersonal relationships can start earlier, say, at the moment the job offer is accepted. The better the preparation leading up to that pivotal first day in the office, the more chance there is of a lasting and mutually beneficial work relationship afterwards.

A Sample Employee Onboarding Process

A sample process timeline might look like the following:

At job offer acceptance

  • Hiring manager: calls new employee-to-be to welcome to the company.
  • HR department: sends confirmation letter with practical details about time and date of start, dress code, parking facilities, and so on. Possibility to send out legal forms and company handbook at this time to free up time on the first day for other activities.
  • HR department/hiring manager: assigns a mentor to the new employee-to-be. The mentor is typically another employee in the same department, but without any reporting relationship to the new employee-to-be.
  • Mentor: makes welcome call to the new employee-to-be.

One or two days before the new employee’s arrival

  • Facilities/HR department: prepare security badge, workspace, with PC, work materials, and information sheet on where to find answers to questions (company intranet, for instance), key dos and don’ts.
  • IT/facilities department: provision PC, phone line, email account, enterprise social network account.
  • Hiring manager: email to other employees in the department to advise them of the arrival of the new employee and prepare them to welcome him or her.

First day activities

  • Hiring manager: meets new employee, offers undivided attention during the meeting, provides a written plan of employee’s objectives and responsibilities, explains the information sheet (see above) and key do’s and don’ts.
  • Hiring manager/HR: completes immediately essential paperwork with new employee.
  • Hiring manager: introduces new employee to mentor (face to face) and to neighbors/team members in the department.
  • Manager/mentor: takes new employee to lunch.

Follow-on activities

  • Hiring manager: first week meeting with the employee.
  • HR: complete any further paperwork with the employee.
  • Regular one-on-one meetings between the manager and the employee for exchanges, feedback, issue resolution (if any).

The end date or timing for this process may vary according to the enterprise using it. By appropriately balancing onboarding activities with time for the employee to work on projects and feel productive, the process may last several months. Some organizations consider that the most effective onboarding process may even last as long as one or two years.

How Much of Employee Onboarding Should Be Paper-based or Digital?

While some paper may be inevitable, the trend is towards digital onboarding. In many cases, new employees make their first contacts and apply for their jobs online. With increasingly mobile and digital lifestyles, they may naturally expect to find a similar environment at work. Employee onboarding processes like the example above can be turned into corresponding digital processes. The easy-to-use process automation ihelps make sure that an effective onboarding process is defined and operated. It also provides straightforward integration with HR and IT department systems to automatically trigger the right actions at the right times.

Are We Heading Towards a New Era of Employee Onboarding?

Employment and job requirements are changing faster than ever. So far, organizations have used ad hoc job shadowing and cross-training to try to balance needs and skills. In the future, by packaging these work requirements into more standardized modules, enterprises can better structure cross-training and support employee mobility through efficient processes. As a result, staff can be rotated more easily according to employee preferences and enterprise needs, and specific skills shortages can be avoided.