Onboarding: What HR professionals need to know

Onboarding is an essential but commonly overlooked component of an organization's success

Onboarding: What HR professionals need to know

Most organizations understand that making a favorable first impression during the recruitment process is extremely important; however, it’s equally important to reinforce that good impression during the first year of a new employee’s tenure. An essential but commonly overlooked component for securing this favorable impression is onboarding – the process of integrating new employees into an organization.

Why is onboarding so important?
Companies should never underestimate the significance of onboarding when hiring new employees. This is so because the process doesn’t just benefit new hires; it benefits even old hires and company leaders alike. The process offers the following benefits, according to Strayboots:

Decreased new employee anxiety
Being a new hire can be stressful. However, employers can reduce that stress by providing new hires with all the information they need to fulfill their roles. A strong onboarding process results in much happier employees and helps people discover how their roles fit in with the rest of the company’s workforce. It facilitates the building of relationships, resulting in friendships that are an essential element of happy working life.

Reducing new employee stress starts right at the beginning of the onboarding process, during orientation. Orientation days give new hires a first impression of the company and an idea of what they can expect working there. Thus, these days should be celebratory, welcoming, and informative.

Increased productivity
As new employees go through the onboarding process, they quickly get along with the employees who have been with the company for longer periods. It lets them reach higher productivity levels much faster than if they had to figure things out on their own. Through onboarding, companies enjoy 54% greater productivity from their new hires.

However, without onboarding, it takes around eight to 12 months for new employees to reach their full productivity levels, which can result in losses of 1% to 2.5% of a business’s total revenue.

Reduced employee turnover
Onboarding is a great start for developing employee engagement. It helps introduce new employees to the company and engage them with the company’s values. If they are engaged, they are much less likely to leave an organization to look for one that better fits their work culture. Studies show that 87% of employees are less likely to leave a company when they are engaged workers.

How long should onboarding take?
Most companies spend only two months or less on the onboarding process, and a fraction of these don’t include any training for the new hires. However, the longest onboarding programs are the most successful ones.

The best onboarding processes last from six months to a whole year. It’s because 90% of employees decide if they will stay with a company within their first six months of work. Continuous training and engagement during this time will help employees feel at home in the company. After the critical six-month period, new employees need to see that they made the right decision. It’s where onboarding shifts from a training approach to one encouraging continuous development, according to Strayboots.

What is the best employee onboarding process?
Following steps based on best practices will help you design an effective onboarding process within your organization. CPS HR Consulting shared the steps that you should take:

Assemble a team
This team should be comprised of employees with varied perspectives on the onboarding process. It should include members from HR, leadership, and management, especially those who have a genuine interest in improving your current process. Include also recently hired employees, who will provide you with insights into their onboarding experience.

Determine the “what, how, who, and when”
What: Start with a brainstorming session in which you solicit everyone’s ideas as to what information and activities are essential for your new hires to succeed. Consider surveying employees hired within the past year or so to find out what was helpful, what was unnecessary (or shared with them too soon), and what additional information or activities would have helped them come up to speed more quickly.

The content of your onboarding program will be unique to your organization. However, there are some standard items that you should consider, including:

  • Your organization’s mission, vision, and values
  • Purpose of the unit
  • Colleagues’ names and their specific assignments/responsibilities
  • What to expect on the first day
  • Computer and phone set-up
  • Systems and security access
  • Employee preferences list
  • Employee benefits training
  • Sexual harassment prevention training

How: Determine the optimal delivery method for each segment of your onboarding program. Use a variety of methods so that your new employees aren’t overwhelmed by memos, informational sheets, forms to be completed, and policies to read.

Who: Decide about who is the most appropriate person to provide the information or perform the task. Not everything should be assigned to HR or the supervisor. Consider who the experts are on the various topics and how effectively they can share the information.

When: Consider breaking the onboarding time into five phases: before day one, day one, first week, first month, and first six months. This part requires discipline, as the tendency is to want to share too much, too soon. It’s important not to overwhelm the new employee with large project loads too quickly.

Making a checklist that lays out all the steps from start to finish, who needs to complete which step, and when the steps need to be completed is necessary for effective implementation. This checklist should be an easy-to-use tool to assist managers, supervisors, and HR with onboarding new hires in a high-pace work environment. Supplement the checklist with an automated system to set reminders and create an accountability system.

Organizations – and the individuals within them – are constantly evolving. For this reason, onboarding practices should be evaluated to ensure that they remain effective for the new hire and those involved in executing the program. The most effective way to do this is to seek feedback from those involved at the various checkpoints in the process.

How do you evaluate your onboarding process?
Consider conducting an onboarding evaluation survey that new hires will answer after their first six months. The survey should ask questions that evaluate each phase of the onboarding process – even beginning with the application process. You can ask questions starting from how they heard about your company before they got hired to how they found your onboarding process. Exercise caution to ensure that the questions are worded clearly and concisely.

If possible, make the survey and its results anonymous, as this will help gather honest and objective feedback from the new hires. However, not all organizations hire enough employees year-round to maintain a completely anonymous survey. One way to address this obstacle would be for a senior HR employee, manager, or director to hold a one-on-one meeting with the new hire to ask the questions that would have been in the survey. Make sure to provide appropriate reassurances about the way their feedback will be used.

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