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The Problems Surrounding Employee Onboarding

During the past decade, organizations have used onboarding programs with the hopes of seamlessly integrating a new employee, all while attempting to improve retention, engagement, and their overall employee experience.  Sadly, most companies are completely failing at implementing a successful onboarding program. According to a survey recently completed by Gallup, only 12% of employees agree that their organization does a great job of onboarding new employees.  The consequences of this are detrimental – significant turnover within the first year of employment and low engagement among employees who stay.

So what exactly has gone wrong with onboarding?  And how do companies fix it?

Socialization is a key component of an employee joining a new team, and arguably crucial to success in any role.  However, onboarding always seems to be “someone else’s job,” with leaders, managers, and team members not taking responsibility.  If no one is reaching out to help the new employee, it’s no wonder that employees never feel fully engaged and leave the company early.  When managers take an active role in onboarding, employees are 3.4 times as likely to strongly agree their onboarding experience was exceptional (Gallup).  

Another major problem with onboarding relates to too many details slipping through the cracks.  There are many circumstances that can affect the extent to which details are missed during employee onboarding, however, too many missed opportunities can cause stress on the new employee.  Not to mention, it doesn’t paint a positive picture for what their experience may be in working with this organization. Some common examples of missed details include:

  • Employee’s key card doesn’t function on the first day
  • A key piece of equipment did not arrive before the employee did (i.e. laptop, computer mouse, cell phone, etc.)
  • New hire arrives before supervisor on the first day
  • Email address isn’t set up by IT in time
  • Employee uniform was not ordered before the new hire arrived
  • A benefits enrollment meeting was forgotten (Exacthire.com)

Not only does the disregard of these details leave your team scrambling at the last minute, it also makes a negative first impression on your brand-new employee.  Think about what these new hires may be saying to friends and family about their first few days of work. In addition, think about how this might be amplified on social media.  Great onboarding = great PR for your business.

Gallup discusses how company culture can also play into great PR for your business, and this begins with onboarding.  A PowerPoint slide with your core values listed is not enough to truly convey what makes your organization an extraordinary place to work.  New employees want to know if they belong with you. Furthermore, they want to know what you believe, and how that makes a difference in the way work gets done.  Organizations need to provide immersive experiences that let employees feel your values, not just be able to name them.

An example of this might be focusing on safety.  If safety is essential to your culture, consider bringing in managers who can explain a story about tough calls they made in the name of safety.  Introduce and celebrate safety award winners in front of new employees. You could even create immersive role-playing scenarios where the real managers evaluate teams on their safety thinking.  The purpose of onboarding is to get new hires acquainted and inform them about the company’s values, mission, vision, and history. New employees should leave work those first few days feeling excited about their new journey and engaged in their work.

Engaged, talented people want to work with you because they see opportunities and possibilities.  Ben Wigert, Director of Research and Strategy at Gallup explains, “Onboarding can often feel like a bait-and-switch operation, where many of the opportunities promised during the job interview are shown to be illusory.  It may not be time to talk promotions, but managers should have conversations about an employee’s dreams and desires early on.” All of this can be built into the onboarding process. Employees should also be introduced to learning and development opportunities that extend training beyond formal onboarding.  Again, something that can be built into the process. Employees who strongly agree they have a clear plan for their professional development are 3.5 times more likely to strongly agree that their onboarding process was exceptional.  

Compared with employees who rate their onboarding experience at a “4” or below on a 5-point scale, employees who give their onboarding a “5” are twice as likely to strongly agree they feel fully supported and prepared in their new role.  In fact, if your employees aren’t consistently scoring your onboarding process a “5 out of 5,” the majority of people going through your program would not strongly agree they feel fully prepared and supported in their new position. “In other words, if your onboarding is not exceptional, it’s broken.  To make onboarding work, HR leaders need to design a consistent, creative and deeply engaging experience that wows new employees,” says Ryan Pendall, writer at Gallup.

Depending on the size of your organization, allowing for flexibility may also be necessary within your onboarding process.  Jessica Stephenson, Vice President of Marketing and Talent at ExactHire claims, “Failing to customize the onboarding experience can be just as detrimental as not having much of an onboarding process, too.”  It’s important to determine the core elements of your process – those activities that must be introduced to all new hires, and then flex the experience to cater to different new hire requirements that may be based on:

  • Employee geographic location
  • Department and/or division
  • Employee role/level in organization
  • Special accommodations for employee
  • Assessment results (ExactHire.com)

The definition of employee onboarding encompasses so much more today than it did in the past, so it’s no surprise that numerous potential problems now exist.  Today, there are many things to track, and many people to involve. Some growing organizations are utilizing independent systems to mitigate some of the administrative burden.  Emails are manually sent to different stakeholders to remind them to complete things, such as ordering new business cards, creating schedules and timesheets, and coordinating department members’ agendas for a new hire lunch.  Excel spreadsheets are used to keep track of which employees have signed off to acknowledge the latest policy update.

This gradual approach to systems is a step in the right direction; however, it pales in comparison to the efficiency and productivity that can be achieved with web-based onboarding technology.  By having a single system to integrate all onboarding-related forms, tasks, activities and assignments can help alleviate (and even avoid) many of the problems often associated with onboarding. At the very least, it can help free up time to address more intricate aspects of the onboarding process.  “Robust employee onboarding software can handle your tasks, notifications, employee signatures and HR countersignatures, form updates, prompts for benefits enrollment, equipment provisioning, training curriculum and more. Plus, moving cumbersome paperwork into the cloud means no more illegal handwriting and incomplete fields on statutory forms,” Stephenson says. 

A broken onboarding process not only loses exceptional talent, it loses your organization money.  According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), employee turnover can be as high as 50% in the first four months for hourly workers, and 50% in the first 18 months for senior outside hires.  The cost of recruiting, hiring, and training are exceptionally high. Conservative estimates indicate that it will cost a company one-half to two times an employee’s annual salary to find and onboard a replacement.  The average cost of turnover for a bedside RN is estimated at $49,500, but costs can range from $38,000 to $61,000 depending on hospital and location. And some reports estimate that replacing a physician is at least $200,000, but can reach as high as $1 million per exiting doctor (Businessdailypay.com).  In a competitive talent marketplace, a broken onboarding process causes you a lot of wasted time and wasted money. It’s time to make employee onboarding a priority in your organization.

Contact us to discuss how to improve your onboarding experience.  We are here to help!


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