Your Onboarding Program Shouldn't Be a Map to Nowhere: 5 Ways to Improve It

June 11, 2015

For many new employees, the new hire orientation is ironically disorienting—like getting a map and being told to navigate without knowing the destination. Sounds silly, but unfortunately we see it on a daily basis at BambooHR as we work with hundreds of organizations that struggle to implement onboarding without first defining a destination (or understanding the larger opportunity).

In order to improve onboarding practices, you have to first understand why onboarding is important and then apply some key principles to your program.

Why getting onboarding right is worth the effort

  1. Retention: You spend a ton of money recruiting—far too much to waste that investment by not onboarding properly. Employees who feel welcomed and brought up to speed by a well structured onboarding program are 69 percent more likely to stay with a company. Many companies already realize this—52 percent agree onboarding can improve retention rates.
  2. Job satisfaction: Without onboarding, employees don’t know how to meet expectations and are left feeling dissatisfied. Onboarding increases employee job satisfaction by teaching them how to get the most out of their position and be successful at the company. This makes them 32 percent less likely to quit.
  3. Engagement: Of companies that invest the time and resources in onboarding, 54 percent saw higher rates of employee engagement. In fact, employees’ discretionary effort increases by more than 20 percent when they are onboarded effectively. Imagine what you could accomplish with an entire workforce excited to go above and beyond the minimum requirements and advocate for your company.
  4. Productivity: It simply takes longer to try to figure something out yourself (which is what employees with poor onboarding end up doing). Effective onboarding gets employees up to speed speedier—by 54 percent. Showing new employees the quickest, most accurate way to do tasks shortens ramp time significantly.
  5. Performance: Employees who don’t know exactly how things work are more liable to make mistakes or miss targets. Onboarding programs increase employee performance by up to 11 percent. Again, when employees know what they’re doing and how to meet expectations, it’s more realistic for them to perform well.

Now you know the onboarding destination: greater employee experience and impact. But in the complicated world of onboarding, where results are obvious but navigating isn’t, the destination is only the beginning. Now you have to figure out how to get there.

5 keys to a successful onboarding program

1. Start before day one

Starting onboarding as soon as offer letters are signed gets employees ramped up and performing well even more quickly. Instead of being greeted by a stack of papers and awkward introductions, your new employee will be able to start developing the institutional knowledge and relationships vital to their success.

Before your new hire is even an employee, you can email paperwork, have your new hire answer a questionnaire (so you can introduce them to their coworkers) and help them get to know their team by providing access to LinkedIn profiles and bios. Companies who start effective onboarding earlier, reap the benefits sooner.

2. Extend onboarding

Extending the onboarding time to be sure your employees are trained well and satisfied will increase your ability to retain them. 90 percent of new hires decide whether to stay with your company within the first 6 months, so you’ll want to check in frequently (about once a month) throughout that time. Giving employees an ally throughout their extended onboarding experience helps address any challenges and ensure success.

3. Socialize

Employees who enjoy each other will do much more for your company than an office of strangers. Onboarding should include time to help your employees develop real relationships with their coworkers—70 percent of employees say having friends in the office is the most important element to a happy working life. Socialization also creates opportunities for employees to find mentors to help them perform and grow.

4. Give and receive feedback

Employees need feedback in order to meet expectations and be engaged in their work—98 percent of employees who don’t receive feedback fail to engage.

You should also provide opportunities for your new hire to give you feedback so you can monitor their experience and address any problems or concerns. Creating alignment by introducing a feedback loop during onboarding is a great way to nurture employee/company relationships.

5. Train and develop

Training and developing employees magnifies all positive impacts of onboarding. It increases income per employees by 218 percent and makes employees feel valued—and employees who feel valued stick around longer. If you can only improve your onboarding focus on one area, focus on training and developing. Nothing impacts a company like a well-qualified employee.

We don’t want our new hires wandering aimlessly when it comes to onboarding. With a clear destination in mind, and a charted path to get there, they’ll be able to navigate successfully. When thinking about how your company onboards, decide which specific destinations are most vital to your company—like retention, job satisfaction, engagement, productivity and performance. Once you’ve decided what matters most, apply principles that map directly to your destination. Your new hires will be able to navigate with clarity, and your onboarding will be more effective.

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*Image by Guillermo Salinas

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