Onboarding: The Critical First Step to Employee Engagement
November 4, 2019
It hasn’t been all that long since the term onboarding appeared on the talent management horizon. After all, the original, traditional "onboarding" concept was pretty matter-of-fact, to be kind: "OK, here’s your cubicle, computer, desk, phone, ID badge and a map to the closest restroom. Good luck!"
For the past several years, as bringing new people into an organization has finally been recognized for its critical connection to engagement, onboarding has taken on a new definition. Simply, onboarding today is the strategic vehicle for fast-tracking new talent into – and through – the organizational labyrinth to a progressed state of engagement and, as a result, productivity.
In other words, if you do it right, onboarding means that a new employee can hit the ground running and start out on a very positive note.
From pre-screening through hiring and onboarding, welcoming a new employee to the team can be the start of a rewarding relationship. Or, it can be the beginning of a missed opportunity. For employers who have workforces in the 500-600 range, missed opportunities translate to expensive oversights.
Consider the fact that even with that new focus on onboarding, studies show that one third of all external hires are no longer with an organization after two years. That’s an especially unfortunate outcome for smaller businesses that need to be as focused as possible on business strategies – not worried about the expensive merry-go-round of bringing on new hires
Saving Time, Increasing Productivity and Improving Retention
There are solid strategies for delivering the ultimate new candidate experience from start to finish. There also are new approaches to creating a successful onboarding program based on the strategic objectives of any organization. Using those proven strategies, combined with today’s learning and talent management software systems, you can develop a clearer picture of what needs to be done to compete for and retain talent - today and in the future. It also provides the foundation needed to help new hires succeed in their personal career development and drive optimal business results.
Using technology to help in developing and executing a successful onboarding process can:
- Bring more structure and consistency to an otherwise decentralized process
- Enable blended learning opportunities, combining classroom training with e-learning and social learning
- Facilitate targeted role-specific skills training for faster time-to-productivity
- Allow new employees to connect with their new team, peers and perhaps even a mentor via an internal social network
In addition, leveraging a system will automate the process, saving valuable time in areas such as auto-registering new hires and notifying and reminding new hires of required steps.
Small Investment Delivers a Big Return
You may have noticed that employee engagement is receiving a lot of attention in mainstream and trade media. After all, an engaged workforce is a productive, happy workforce. Well, it should come as no surprise that onboarding is the catalyst, the place where engagement really begins when someone joins your company. The good news is that effective onboarding requires a relatively small investment to deliver a big return.
Below are some tips on developing an effective onboarding strategy:
- Be sure to have a clear understanding of what competencies are required for success, and how those competencies link to business outcomes.
- Provide structured development support in the first few weeks.
- Remember to support both managers and new hires throughout the process.
- Establish a clear roadmap for success early in the onboarding process.
- Do your best to have an understanding of what drives and motivates any new hire. Work out how you are going to increase his/her level of engagement.
In the end, successful onboarding requires micro-engagement based on what matters to the individual, more than anything. Also, the most successful companies don’t end their onboarding program after a week or two. To work, onboarding should span well into the early stages of employee development. In some leading companies, in fact, onboarding is a two-year process – a strong indicator of its importance.
Clearly, onboarding today must be a much deeper, more meaningful effort than just providing an easy route through new hire paperwork. If it doesn’t serve as a prime driver of employee engagement - getting the new hire jazzed up and productive from the get-go - then it’s time to rethink your process and move to onboarding that works.