talent acquisition

Onboarding New Hires: Four Proven Success Principles

Onboarding New Hires: Four Proven Success Principles

Move over orientation, strategic onboarding has arrived with an emphasis on reinforcing the reasons new hires accepted an organization’s offer in the first place, as well as establishing a strong foundation for engagement. Employers looking to give their onboarding programs a much-needed makeover should remember that, in order to truly engage new hires, they need to get at the heart of what employees care about most—succeeding in their current role, being given growth and development opportunities, and forming strong, effective work relationships.

Unlike orientation, which has typically been driven by a compliance mindset that focuses on paperwork, onboarding is an immersive experience that significantly impacts new hire productivity, success and intent to stay. And while onboarding differs from organization to organization in terms of content, format and delivery, here are four principles that always correlate to success.

Just because onboarding begins doesn’t mean recruiting should end.

According to The Work Institute’s 2018 Retention Report, 40% of all turnover takes place within an employee’s first year and among those who leave, 50% do so within their first 90 days. Given this stark reality, it’s not surprising that companies are paying more attention to onboarding than they did in the not too distant past. Unfortunately, organizations often forget what it feels like to be new and the frustration that results, especially among high performers, when employees are left to sink or swim. Remaining in recruiting mode after an offer is accepted and throughout the onboarding process is a must. This includes check-ins to see how a new hire’s onboarding is progressing and answer questions she may not feel comfortable asking her manager or colleagues.

Onboarding can’t be achieved in one day.

Unlike orientation, which can usually be completed in one day, onboarding is a long-term process that can take as much as 18 months, depending on the employee’s role and level. Your onboarding program should address major milestones along the way, such as specific goals around productivity and results. These expectations should be communicated at the outset for both the employee and the manager, with regularly scheduled conversations that provide new hires with the feedback they need to develop and stay engaged.

It takes a village.

Onboarding’s impact is extremely limited when the program is viewed as the sole responsibility of HR or the employee’s manager. Make sure your program involves a broad range of individuals. You can support new hires in cultivating relationships with colleagues by assigning a peer to serve as a “buddy” and a more experienced co-worker as a mentor or coach, as well as organizing meet-and-greets with cross-functional teams. Helping to ensure that strong bonds are formed as soon as possible can have a dramatic effect on both performance and retention.

Personalization should always be part of an onboarding strategy.

Yes, onboarding will include standard elements that provide the consistency required for a shared work experience. But if everything about your program is the same for each participant, then you lose out on the chance to demonstrate to people that their unique abilities and contributions are valued. Look for ways to personalize new hire communications and tailor experiences based on the individual’s role or function. For example, don’t give all new hires the same tour when you can lead them through the areas of your campus where they’re most likely to spend their time.

Of course, you can’t deliver an effective onboarding experience if the new employee doesn’t show up. Unfortunately, a strong job market means that “ghosting” on the first day of work is on the rise, and research by Randstad indicates it may be most prevalent among Gen Z. An uptick in ghosting is one of the main reasons why we’re hearing more about the importance of “preboarding” activities, a term used for new hire outreach that happens well before the first day of work. You can check out Dr. John Sullivan’s anti-ghosting toolkit on ERE for innovative ideas to mitigate ghosting at your organization.

Onboarding new hires presents an ideal opportunity to communicate your employee referral program. ERPs have proven to be a top source of quality hires, make sure yours delivers results! Download our e-book on how to get the most out of your Employee Referral Program now.


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