First impressions matter. In a study conducted a few years ago, the researchers looked into the impact of an employee’s onboarding experience on their turnover. A staggering 69% of the employees were found to be more likely to stay for at least three years after a great onboarding experience. On the flip side, it was also noted that nearly a fifth of all turnover happens within the first 45 days of employment.
So what really is causing this? One survey showed that over 60% of companies do not really have any solid goals to achieve through the onboarding process. In a way then, employee onboarding is turning out to be more of a ritual at many organizations than serving as a scientific training program.
Building goals for an onboarding program
The objective of an onboarding program is pretty straight-forward – bring the newly recruited employee up to speed with the rest of your workforce. This goes beyond training them for the role they are hired for and also includes aligning them with the culture of the team.
Assessing a candidate on their culture-fit and skill-match usually precedes the onboarding process. These are assessments that are made during the candidate selection process itself. However, regardless of how well a candidate fits the job role, the onboarding process is when the real test begins.
It is also important to build an onboarding program that will set the right first impression of your company to your new recruit. As studies cited earlier in this article show, your new employee may have already made their mind up on staying or quitting by the end of the onboarding process.
The goal setting process thus needs to look at three specific perspectives – honing the employee’s skills necessary for the job, making them more culturally aligned to the organization, and finally building an atmosphere that sets the right first impression.
Honing employee skills
This is by far the most important of the three areas, especially from the employer’s perspective. This is also the easiest of the three areas to set goals for. The way to do this is through periodic assessments throughout the onboarding process. Many learning management systems today come equipped with assignments engine that make it easy for the employer to assess the success rate of the onboarding process.
The culture in every organization is unique and it is not easy setting goals for this purpose. A typical cultural alignment framework looks at the inherent tension between two critical dimensions of organizational dynamics. Firstly, where does the organization lie in terms of attitude towards people (from independence to interdependence). Secondly, what is the typical attitude towards change (from flexibility to stability).
Understanding your organization’s unique cultural framework could help channel your new employee towards a similar culture. Setting goals can be trickier though. What however works is letting your new employee meet and engage with employees from various departments they may work with on a routine basis. This could include shadowing employees from these various departments as well as meeting the heads. Not only does this help your new employee understand the work culture across various departments better, it is also an opportunity for them to make acquaintances which is critical to keeping employees happy at work.
From an employee’s perspective, this is the most critical aspect of onboarding since this creates the first impressions and subsequently influences their decision to either stay or move on. A large part of atmosphere building is intertwined with your organization’s cultural alignment goals. An employee who fits very well with the culture of the organization is more likely to stay in the long run. In addition to this, what matters to most new recruits is how they are treated in the organization. It is important for an HR manager to set up a meeting between the employee and the CEO or the Regional Head within the first few days. This creates a sense of importance and purpose and is critical to building the right first impressions.
Evaluating the success of your onboarding program
Once the goals have been set, the next step is to put the plan into action and evaluate the success of these programs. The most effective metric is quite obviously the employee turnover rate that can be measured at the end of every year. But measuring effectiveness over such long terms can be counter-productive since a lot of other extraneous factors (like changes in the industry or economy) can play a role in the attrition rate.
Surveys can help address this challenge. Administering your employees to periodic surveys at the end of each month over the first six months could help evaluating the success of your onboarding programs. One word of caution here – employees seldom tend to give critical feedback when they are on your payroll. This is all the more true for new recruits. Consequently, the success of the survey method depends to a great extent on the kind of questions you seek answers for.
Seeking critical feedback with questions like “how would you rate the training programs” may not provide organizations with the right feedback. New recruits may also shy away from questions such as “how can we make your onboarding program better”. While this question can bring about a few honest ideas and experiences, they are not foolproof.
HR managers should instead focus on relative assessment techniques (For example, “Did you like video based course on the sales department or the assignment type training for marketing”) – Providing your employees with a multi-modal training program can give you the opportunity to assess their preferences and thus tweak your onboarding programs further.
It is also a good idea to have honest one-on-one meeting sessions with your new employees at the end of every month or two. These sessions tend to bring out a lot more forthright and honest views about the efficacy of your onboarding programs.
A continuous process
When all is said and done, it is worth pointing out that onboarding is just one of the many components that make the symbiotic relationship between an employer and the employee truly effective. Monitoring the effectiveness of onboarding is a continuous process and it is important to constantly experiment and measure the impact of your training programs on the overall satisfaction of the employee and their contribution to their job.