Successful onboarding is the key to employee retention

HR tech firm Unit4 has been virtually onboarding for two years. Dr. Lisa-Moné Lamontagne explains why it's been working

Successful onboarding is the key to employee retention

The first quarter of 2022 is over, and the Great Resignation has yet to stop.

Companies across the United States (as well as Canada and the United Kingdom) are experiencing historic turnover. If you want to reduce your attrition rate, you should examine your employee life cycle, starting at the onboarding process. According to research from HR consulting firm Brandon Hall Group, organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82%.

While that sounds like a quick fix, an overwhelming majority (88%) of employees don’t believe their organization does a great job of onboarding, according to Gallup. That’s why HR leaders need to step up and make the necessary improvements. After all, it’s much easier and cheaper to keep talent than to consistently recruit and train.

Onboarding is Dr. Lisa-Moné Lamontagne’s specialty. “I enjoy making an employee feel like they belong in an organization and that they made the best decision at this point in their journey,” Lamontagne told HRD.

Lamontagne is the people success leader for North America at Unit4, a Netherlands-founded HR tech firm. With almost a decade of HR experience under her belt, the New York native has demonstrated the ability to cultivate relationships at all levels of an organization, including leadership, mid-management and employees. She earned a bachelor's degree in business management from California State University, Northridge and a doctorate in psychology from Phillips Graduate University in Chatsworth, CA.

Unit4, which she joined in the summer of 2020, rebranded its HR department last year to People Success. “That’s what our focus is: maximizing the value of employees and the value we deliver to them, so everyone is the best version of themselves,” Lamontagne says.

To ensure employees achieve success, HR leaders must prepare them from day one. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Unit4’s people success team has been onboarding virtually for two years with tremendous results. Lamontagne is one of those success stories, calling her own onboarding process an “amazing experience.”

Read more: How benefits and perks have evolved since the COVID-19 pandemic

“The first two weeks consisted of me just meeting other people on different teams,” she says. “Then, everything I needed to do was laid out by quarter, so I could see my plan out. We try to lay out everything employees need to know for their first day, first week and first month and put that into a presentation.”

There are three stages to Unit4’s onboarding process: by department, by region and then globally. Prompting employees to get to know their counterparts from across the world helps maintain company culture, regardless of location. After 60 days, new employees participate in a Microsoft Teams meeting with fellow recent hires to give the people success team feedback on their onboarding process.

“Even in exit interviews we ask how your onboarding experience was and whether the role was what you expected it to be when you were in your recruitment process,” Lamontagne says. “We want to know every step of the life cycle to really make sure we’re aligned.”

Of course, onboarding virtually comes with challenges. For example, many companies are struggling to purchase work-from-home equipment, such as laptops, phones and other electronics, because of global supply chain issues. GetApp’s latest survey finds that 71% of businesses are experiencing up to six months of IT hardware shipping delays. Furthermore, nearly a quarter (24%) of businesses say new hires aren’t receiving laptops until well after their start date. It’s a major headache that frustrates new hires and prevents their new employer from making a good first impression.

With such a tight labor market, companies can’t afford for any hiccups in the onboarding process. Retention is vital right now, so much so that Lamontagne has been working on a strategy with the North American leadership team to make sure Unit4 employees aren’t interested in sending resumes elsewhere, even though companies, especially in the tech industry, are willing to offer whatever it takes to bolster their workforce.

To accommodate employees’ desire for flexibility, Unit4 has launched Flex4U, a hybrid approach that encourages work-life balance. “We want everyone to have control for their schedule and work in a way that works best for them,” Lamontagne says. “That may mean not always being in the office or working different hours depending on your needs. We’re moving into the ‘new normal’ way of working, creating a new company culture around the hybrid environment.”

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