The importance of effective onboarding

Welcome to the world of onboarding, where first impressions are everything and the stakes are high. 

Let’s face it, as an employer, you’re probably feeling a bit nervous. After all, statistics show that 11% of employees change their minds about an offer after they’ve signed a contract. And with the cost of replacement for one worker estimated to equal about one-third of the worker’s annual earnings, it’s no wonder employers are feeling the pressure to get onboarding right. 

But here’s the thing, onboarding is crucial for determining whether a new employee will stick around. And according to a survey, only 12% of employees agreed strongly that their organization does a great job onboarding new people. 

And that’s where this article comes in – we want to help you understand the importance of effective onboarding in retaining good employees. So let’s dive in and explore exactly what makes an onboarding program so successful, from the perspective of both the employee and the employer. Because with the right approach? You can set your new hires up for success, and ensure they’re engaged and motivated from day one.

The first few months are crucial

We’ve all heard the saying “first impressions are everything.” And when it comes to onboarding, it couldn’t be more true. 

In fact, a study by the Aberdeen Group of Senior Executives found that 86% of new employees decide whether to stay with their new organization within the first few months. That’s right folks, the clock is ticking as soon as they walk through the door – and the first few months are crucial for determining whether a new employee will stick around. 

Onboarding programs that focus on helping employees feel welcome, supported, and successful during this time period can have a big impact on retention. Let’s not leave it to chance and make sure those first few months are a walk in the park.

Are you giving new employees a rough start?

Although many of us won’t admit it, the simple fact of the matter is that not all organizations are great at onboarding new employees. The stats are actually quite shocking – according to Gallup’s “State of the American Workplace” 2017, only 12% of employees agreed strongly that their organization was doing a great job onboarding new people! 

That’s a pretty low number. 

But the good news is, organizations that focus on making improvements in this area can have a big impact on their new employees’ experience and engagement. Which means that if you’re one of the 12% getting it right? Then you could be setting your new employees up to be super successful – and preventing the most talented from becoming disgruntled in their new job. 

And if you’re an employer reading this, and you’re thinking that maybe, just maybe, your onboarding program leaves something to be desired… don’t worry! Keep reading. Because if you find a few ways to make small changes right now, you’ll be making a positive difference for years to come.

Don’t let your new hires feel misled: The consequences of miscommunication and misrepresentation

When it comes to starting a new job, the truth is, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows like the advert made it out to be. Did you know, according to a survey by Psychology Today 43% of employees who quit in the first 90 days reported feeling that their day-to-day role wasn’t accurately described during the hiring phase? Yikes! That’s a lot of unhappy campers.

It’s crucial that recruiters and hiring managers do a better job of communicating what the day-to-day reality of a role will be like. Otherwise, new employees may feel misled, leading to a decrease in engagement, productivity, and retention. Nobody likes to feel like they were duped. Which is why you should be upfront and honest about the role new hires will be taking on.

Read more: Creating a talent pipeline – the ultimate checklist

Now, that doesn’t mean you have to tell them about the fact that the coffee machine is usually broken, and that Dave who sits in the corner sometimes picks his nose. But it’s certainly important to have a clear and accurate job description. And remember, honesty is the best policy. It may be a bit uncomfortable to talk about the not-so-glamorous aspects of a role, but it’s better to be upfront and honest than to have a new employee quit in the first 90 days. Unless you like being the butt of a bunch of “I quit” memes…

Don’t skimp on induction

Right, you’ve published a decent job description, and you’ve done the hard work of finding and recruiting top talent. Now it’s time to make sure they stick around. 

You already know that a proper onboarding process is the key to unlocking employee engagement and motivation… But, let’s be real, it’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day hustle and bustle, that you can sometimes neglect the induction process.

If you want our practical advice? Don’t be tempted to skimp on induction. It’s a crucial step in securing employee engagement and retention. According to a report by recruiting consultants, 22% of people reported that receiving a proper induction influenced their decision to look for another job. Compare this to 51% of employees admitting that a great onboarding experience motivated them to go “above and beyond.”

But how can you ensure a proper induction process? 

Well, for starters, a proper induction process should not only cover the basics of the job, but also the company culture, values, and mission. It’s also important to assign a mentor or buddy to new employees, to take them through their induction – it provides a friendly face throughout, from somebody who understands the reality of working for your company, including the most important tips and advice such as where to find the best doughnuts. And lastly, don’t be afraid to ask your new starters for feedback on how they feel their induction went – and use that advice to make adjustments as needed. Trust us, it’ll pay off in the long run. 

Encourage people to be themselves: The power of authentic self-expression

We’ve already talked about having a truly authentic job advert to set the right expectations. Well, when it comes to onboarding and employee engagement, authenticity continues to be key. But right now, we’re talking about the authenticity of the self! After all, who wants to work at a place where they can’t be their true selves? 

According to research conducted by Cable et al (2013), newcomers who are able to bring their authentic selves to work are more likely to be motivated and productive employees. 

But how do organizations create an environment where newcomers can be their authentic selves?

First, it’s important to reframe socialisation around newcomers’ authentic self-expression. Instead of trying to “break them in” to the company culture, organizations should focus on eliciting the best from their new employees by encouraging them to share their unique perspectives and use their signature strengths.

But it’s not just about talk. Actions speak louder than words. You can create opportunities for newcomers to showcase their signature strengths and unique perspectives, such as through job shadowing, mentoring, or special projects. 

The culture connection

Of course, when we say you shouldn’t try to force new starters to fit your culture, that doesn’t mean you must simply abandon your culture. In fact, quite the opposite – it’s no secret that job seekers really do care about the culture of a company, with 46% of them claiming it’s “very” important when considering a job offer (2018 Job Seeker Nation Study, Jobvite). 

If you want to keep your new hires around, then alongside letting them be their authentic selves, you should make sure they feel like they fit in, or at the very least like they understand the culture of the company.

Think about it, if a new employee feels like they’re in a completely different universe, they’re not going to stick around for long. But if they feel like they’re a part of the team, they’ll be more likely to stay and contribute to the success of the company. Which is why you need to make sure your onboarding program reflects the mission, vision, values, and culture of your organization.

Nobody wants to be like that one person at a party who’s just standing there awkwardly, not knowing anyone or what to do. Make sure your new hires feel like they’re a part of the team from day one. Help them connect their unique strengths and perspectives with what makes your workforce special, and you’ll soon be swimming with a winning formula.

The remote on-boarding revolution

Let’s not forget the elephant in the room – the fact that fewer employees are physically walking through the office doors for their first day at work.

We’ll admit it: Onboarding remotely is no walk in the park. But we just have to bite the bullet on this one – because a poor remote onboarding experience can be just as damaging as a poor physical onboarding experience. Plus, there’s so much more to consider!

And no, it’s not just about making sure they have a computer. 

Imagine your first day at your current job. The jitters, the uncertainty, the doubt. Now imagine that, but in a virtual environment. The hallway bonding and the new boss taking you out to lunch? Not happening. But there are ways to mitigate first-day nerves and make your new hire feel welcome and confident from the start.

For example, appointing a dedicated onboarding liaison: Even in an office setting, having someone fill the role of informal mentor for a new hire is a good idea, but it’s even more critical remotely. This person should be different from the new hire’s manager, so they feel comfortable asking any question, big or small. You don’t want your new employee feeling uncertain about who to go to with their questions. The best case scenario is for the onboarding liaison to reach out to the new employee before their first day, so they know who to turn to when they inevitably have a million questions.

But let’s not wait until the first day to make our new remote employees feel welcome. As soon as they accept the job offer, find a way to make them feel like part of the family. For example, one company, Reckitt, sends a care package to new employees’ homes before their start date, filled with the company’s products and a warm note linking the products to the company’s mission. Talk about a nice welcome!

And let’s not forget about the logistics – setting up technology before the start date can alleviate first-day jitters. Offering a session with IT to show the new employee how to use the videoconferencing platform, communication channels and other company systems, will help them feel more comfortable and in control on their first day.

Summing it up

In a nutshell, onboarding is the foundation of a happy and productive employee. It’s the first impression that sets the tone for the entire employee experience. A strong onboarding program helps new employees feel welcome, supported, and successful, leading to higher retention rates and a better bottom line for your organization. Remember, a happy employee is a productive employee and a productive employee means a happy employer.

So, let’s give our new hires the royal treatment they deserve and watch our retention rate soar!