Think about your first 90 days in your role. Remember the anticipation, the ambition, and dedication you felt? Who greeted you at the door? How did you hear about the company’s products and business model? How did you meet your teammates? Did you fill out benefit forms, tax forms, and review the handbook? What kind of training were you offered to help you learn the expectations of your new role?
Individually, these are small details, but together they provide a picture of how an organization met—or mishandled— the innate excitement of new hires. Initial onboarding activities set the tone for employees and have a critical effect on their success.
What should be included in your onboarding strategy?
As a researcher at Human Capital Institute (HCI), I recently conducted a study on the importance and prevalence of onboarding programs. We found 76% of HR leaders and practitioners say onboarding has been underutilized at their organizations, suggesting a clear opportunity to create experiences for new hires that enable them to be more successful and engaged at work.
Onboarding is more than an hour-long orientation and learning where the restrooms are. People, performance, and paperwork are three key components, and it is critical to address each in a meaningful and strategic way. If you find yourself emphasizing one or two of the 3Ps at the expense of another, your organization will not reap the full benefits of a robust onboarding program. For example, we found organizations that overemphasized paperwork reported weaker business and talent outcomes.
Who should participate?
A best practice is starting with a consistent, standardized onboarding experience that is provided to all new hires, regardless of their role. As you build your onboarding strategy, think about how different levels and segments could benefit from a personalized approach offered in addition to that groundwork.
I want to drive home another important message, too: don’t forget your internal hires! Nearly a quarter of organizations do not have an onboarding process in place for internal hires. And while an internal hire may have a better understanding of the culture and the ways things get done than an external one, they are still new to the role and the team, and need support to be successful.
How long should an onboarding program be?
The length of an onboarding program is somewhat dependent on your strategy and the participants in the program. The people, performance, and paperwork activities that are tailored to the needs of the new hires will determine how long the onboarding experience should be. In our study, more than half of organizations have implemented onboarding programs that last between 30 and 90 days. My advice is to begin pre-boarding activities the day an offer is accepted; continue that momentum and excitement up to that first day on the job and beyond.
Why should you invest in onboarding?
The market for top talent is very competitive. Increasingly, employers are investing in improving the candidate and employee experiences, and a crucial component of those initiatives is onboarding. It is the critical inflection point between the candidate’s journey and a new hire experience.
Retention and performance are two immediate outcomes of successful onboarding efforts, but only a little more than half of our respondents measure the efficacy of onboarding and new hire success. One of the few academic research studies on onboarding outcomes found that programs that emphasize culture and connection result in employees with higher levels of job satisfaction and organizational commitment.
Where do I learn more?
For more information, I recommend the following free reports and videos:
- New Hire Momentum: Driving the Onboarding Experience is HCI’s latest research in which we surveyed HR practitioners from 350+ organizations on onboarding challenges and solutions. Portions of this blog were adapted from this report.
- Onboarding Re-imagined is one of my favorite webcast case studies (along with mine from the HCI research above). HR leaders from Salesforce.com share their robust onboarding offerings, including a buddy ambassador program.
Centennial appreciates the research HCI has done to emphasize the significance of an onboarding process. If this is a void in your organization, we’d love the opportunity to talk to you further. 888-366-3760