Published: Mar 27, 2018
I’d venture to guess that all of us have a memory of starting a new job. If you’re like me, the decision to start a new job isn’t one taken lightly – it can impact family, career, and lifestyle just to name a few areas. I remember getting my offer letter, the information I received before my first day after accepting it, what I wore on my first day, who greeted me when I arrived, how I spent my day, who I met, and of course there was that feeling of excitement and anxiety all wrapped into one. Starting a new job is a key moment in everyone’s career, so why is it that the opportunity to effectively onboard new employees and harness all the excitement new hires bring into a company seems to be a missed opportunity for most employers?
We recently explored the topic of onboarding with the Human Capital Institute and found that nearly two-thirds of the respondents to our survey said the top purpose of onboarding is to integrate employees into the organization’s culture, such as the way business is conducted and how the employee’s performance contributes to organizational success. However, our respondents told us the focus on culture makes up an average of just 30 percent of their onboarding programs…the other 60 percent revolves around filling out paperwork, reviewing policies, and getting oriented to resources like technology and workspace. It’s this administrative side of onboarding that weighs down companies and prevents them from focusing on the onboarding activities that drive positive business outcomes.
So why aren’t employers putting more focus on creating impact through their onboarding programs? Here are four misperceptions about onboarding that I think are keeping companies from taking a fresh approach.
1. You need dedicated resources to effectively run an onboarding program.
Sure, we’d all love to have a team fully dedicated to running an onboarding program for our companies, but the reality is most of us wear multiple hats and that’s just not a practical solution. Putting together a cross-functional team that owns different parts of the onboarding journey and automating routine tasks are both great ways to make sure you’re giving your new hires a structured experience while also sharing the load of program creation with more than one person. Giving new hires exposure to other departments and the opportunity to meet people outside of their day to day helps them establish key relationships, which are critical to long term success. Make sure to bring in members of different departments to help facilitate onboarding and give a full picture of your organization.
2. Each new hire has unique onboarding needs.
It’s true that no two new hires are the same in terms of their needs, but there are core elements of an onboarding program that are relevant to all new hires. Things like filling out required paperwork, information about benefits and eligibility requirements, policy review, understanding the physical workspace, and learning about the company are relevant to all new employees. Focus on bringing consistency to these pieces of the process across your organization so all new hires have the same experience. After the initial phase of the onboarding process is complete, then it’s appropriate to start introducing role-specific things like training and team assimilation. The front end of the onboarding process should be efficient and consistent. When you get that part sorted out, you can greatly reduce the administrative burden onboarding has a reputation for.
3. Onboarding doesn’t have an impact on retention.
Companies spend a lot of time, energy, and resources on recruiting new talent. Having an onboarding program focused on the retention and success of new hires by providing a great employee experience should be a priority. New hires who have gone through a well-structured onboarding program are more likely to remain at a company than those who haven’t. If you’re getting pushback on putting resources behind building out a more robust onboarding strategy, remind your stakeholders that this is the first and only opportunity to make a strong impression on the culture and give new hires the information and support they need. Or, if you need to say it in a more operations-minded way, emphasize how they’ll reach role proficiency more quickly and become productive, engaged, and committed to your company.
4. It’s not HR’s problem.
There’s a perception out there that managers are responsible for onboarding their new hires. Once someone completes the talent acquisition team’s part of the process, ownership of the onboarding experience moves from HR to the manager. While it’s true that managers play a pivotal role in the onboarding process and are key to knowledge transfer, designing a training strategy, and establishing goals and expectations with the new hire, that doesn’t mean they‘re the only ones responsible for onboarding. This is an opportunity for HR to collaborate with the business to establish roles and expectations in the onboarding process and communicate what HR will handle, what’s expected of managers, what pieces other functions own, and what the new hire can drive themselves. Using your HRMS or HCM technology’s employee onboarding software to manage checklists and assign tasks is a great way to keep teams on track with their onboarding responsibilities.
Make sure your new hires know they made the right choice.
In today’s job market, choice is the new competition for your recruiters, managers, and team leads. Individuals can choose how they spend their time, including where they want to work and what they want to do. If you decide to take the next step and extend an offer to a candidate that is the right fit for your company – and they accept – make sure they know they made the right choice. Building an effective onboarding program doesn’t require an overabundance of resources, but it does require that you put a little thought, focus, and commitment into designing an experience that wows your new hires.