Continuous change and transition is the norm in organizations and the pressure to rapidly engage, train, and retain new hires is evident. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), within 18 months, over 50% of senior external hires fail and within 4 months almost half of hourly workers quit. While not all turnover is bad, it is costly… anywhere from 2 – 10 times an annual salary. Effective onboarding is therefore critical, however, they are often perceived as simple “check the box orientation programs” to ensure compliance and provide new hires basic training. In the 21st century economy, onboarding has to be so much more. Research by ADP indicates that successful onboarding depends on the organization’s ability to quickly engage with new employees through the “3 C’s”.
- Connection: Assimilating new hires quickly to ensure satisfaction with their new organization and role
- Comfort: Connecting new hires with their coworkers, managers, customers and the leaders of the organization
- Culture: Educating new hires about cultural norms, including company values and expectations.
As you contemplate how to improve workforce engagement in 2020, examine your onboarding process to see if they include the “3 C’s” criteria. Here are eight practical recommendations to help you meet those criteria and successfully engage new employees:
- Make the best selection decision possible – Consider best practice selection processes and tools, which include using validated tests and assessments at various stages of the hiring process. If you are simply using the traditional resume and unstructured interview to make decisions, you are essentially flipping a coin and hoping for the best. If your new employee isn’t the right fit or does not have the skills to do the job, then assimilation and engagement will be difficult and your onboarding efforts will likely be wasted.
- Begin onboarding before the first day – New hires require lots of paperwork. Getting paperwork out of the way early on improves the likelihood of connection and engagement in the first week. Over 80% of highly effective organizations pre-board new employees before day one (SHRM). This includes completing all the paperwork and having multiple people reach out to the new employee (senior leader, manager, peers) to welcome them to the organization.
- Make a good impression the first week – In the first week, strive for a balance between educating about the job and organization, and developing relationships. Reduce the amount of reading about policies, procedures, and compliance, and increase the amount of time connecting with team members and managers. Human connection early on has been shown to boost employee comfort with their employer and have a lasting effect on new hire impressions of the organization.
- Leverage technology – Leverage online portals with mobile functionality to house the whole onboarding process, including all forms, paperwork, communications, training, and tracking of new hire progress (2019 Best Onboarding Software). Organizations are increasingly using virtual reality technologies for realistic job previews and simulations/ games to engage employees in learning about their responsibilities, and practicing the knowledge and skills required for success. Technology allows for more engaging ways to help new hires get up to speed and in an increasingly digital and mobile world, today’s workforce expects this.
- Extend on-boarding beyond the traditional 7 days – It takes much longer than 7 days for new hires to build an emotional connection with their employer. Longer on-boarding periods mean progressive training, supervised on-the-job experiences, and regular check-ins and feedback to ensure new employees are in fact understanding their role, making appropriate progress, and engaged in what they are doing. In addition, some jobs are becoming increasingly complex and require longer ramp-up times. Many of the projects we take on involve building job profiles for complex positions and when we speak to incumbents about the time it takes to become proficient it often differs from the “corporate line.” For some jobs it might be 1-3 months and for others 3 – 12 months.
- Leverage mentors – Mentors provide additional connection with the organization, act as a sounding board, provide different perspectives, and can help new hire’s more elegantly navigate the organization’s culture. Identify others in the organization to mentor new hires. Depending on the role, this might be a high performing peer who understands the role and can provide guidance from a technical and cultural perspective. Other managers can also provide valuable support.
- Provide feedback and recognize new hires – Build in positive reinforcements for progress made and steps achieved. Leverage formal and informal assessment tools to evaluate learning and provide feedback to new hires at each phase of the onboarding process. This might include simple online progress achievement badges, certificates, celebrations, and managers and team members frequently telling new hires when they have done something well.
- Get employee feedback on their onboarding experience – Like any other process for serving employees, you can’t improve on it if you don’t know what your employees value. Research by ADP indicates that less than 50% of 1500 surveyed employers measure new hire satisfaction with onboarding. The same research indicates that when new hires are “highly satisfied” with their onboarding experience, they are more likely to feel comfortable after their first day than those who were not satisfied, and also more likely to feel comfortable later on in their first year. A well-structured process that meets new hire needs can have a lasting impact on employee engagement.