Overlooking onboarding will cost your business
Most of us have suffered the frustration of a chaotic or negligent onboarding experience, one that withers any excitement and enthusiasm for a new role. Yet organisations continue to underestimate the importance of a structured, intentional onboarding strategy – to the detriment of not just the new hire, or department, but the entire organisation.
Let’s look at the statistics.
According to one study, 35% of companies don’t spend any money on onboarding, while 36% have no structured onboarding process at all. 31% of surveyed employees without onboarding training reported resigning within their first six months in the new role. 20% of all employee resignations happen within the first 45 days of hiring.
When we consider that it takes around eight months for those new hires to reach full productivity – and it costs a company anywhere between $4,000 and $25,000 to hire a new employee – it becomes clear how costly an inefficient onboarding process can be. With just a standard onboarding process, organisations can expect 50% greater productivity from their new hires and greater retention, with 69% of employees reporting they are more likely to stay at an organisation following a structured onboarding process.
But why is onboarding so often overlooked? A common explanation is the lack of time and resources from management: effective onboarding takes place over months, requiring focused and personalised attention. Most managers, quite reasonably, do not have the capacity to offer this kind of support to all new hires – and this problem grows exponentially with the size of the organisation.
Another explanation is the lack of departmental alignment, a challenge that likewise grows with the size of an organisation. Settling into a new job means more than integrating with the immediate team. New hires require orientation with key departments like HR, IT and Finance, as well as any role or industry specific divisions.
As we’ve seen, failure to properly onboard new hires lowers productivity and employee retention. Beyond this, it directly impacts your bottom line and damages company culture: employees feel less settled, more stressed, and cohesion breaks down as teams and individuals are less familiar with each other, due process, company culture and what’s expected from them.
Hybrid and remote working further exacerbates this problem. With a dispersed workforce, it’s even harder for new hires to build relationships with colleagues, ask questions or get the supplies and access required to support their work. Evidently, a consistent, structured and efficient onboarding process is more essential than ever. But where to begin?
What makes for effective onboarding?
Before implementing any onboarding strategy or procedure, consider what it is you aim to do. What are the key goals of onboarding?
Complete all necessary administrative tasks.
This is a basic point, but often a bureaucratic nightmare. The first goal of onboarding is to make sure all contracts, employee details and checks are completed and logged.
Ensure your new hire knows exactly what’s expected of them.
Whether this is achieved by going over key skills, job specifications or KPIs, this step is crucial: clarity and clear goals ensure you set your employees up for success.
Set out your company values, culture and ethics.
Not only does this reinforce a positive attitude and behaviour from the new hire, it demonstrates cohesion and continuity in their new workplace, encouraging a sense of community and making new hires feel welcome.
Provide all the necessary tools – hardware, software and desk space.
There is nothing worse than chasing people for the right access and equipment required to get your job done – particularly when you don’t know the people you are chasing. This is one of the most urgent tasks of onboarding, and key to its success.
Make new employees feel welcome and excited to work.
Bearing in mind most employee turnover happens in the weeks after arrival, it is essential to quickly build a sense of solidarity and enthusiasm for the new job and employer early in the onboarding process. Effective messaging ahead of new arrivals encourages solidarity with existing employees, and eases any tension that may be caused by new hires.
With these goals in mind, let’s lay out the core features of a structured, focused onboarding procedure.
The onboarding process
This step-by-step guide can be used as a framework to build your own onboarding strategy. Each organisation will have specific quirks to navigate and each role needs to be tailored; the core principles, however, can be applied to all businesses of any size or industry.
1. Prepare all paperwork before your new hire arrives.
Starting a new job can be intimidating and overwhelming at the best of times, especially when faced with huge piles of contracts, forms and policy documents. To ease and speed up this process, ensure all documents and forms are prepared in advance. This may require coordination between multiple departments, most crucially HR, IT and Finance. Particularly for enterprise businesses where large numbers of people are hired at any one time, it is best to automate and digitise this process where possible. According to Business News Daily, HR managers can spend three or more hours collecting and processing information that isn’t captured digitally for each new hire, with 16% spending more than five hours on this process. Companies that do automate their onboarding process can expect a 16% higher retention rate.
Consider new starter packs, shared folders, digital forms and a dedicated workflow to cover all bases so as little time as possible is spent filling out dull paperwork. This will be a new hire’s first impression of their new workplace. Be as organised as you expect them to be – you set the precedent.
2. Equip your new hire with all necessary hardware, applications and services
This step likewise benefits from automation, and requires coordination between multiple departments – in this instance IT, Operations and, crucially, the department the new hire is joining. The correct handling of this stage greatly improves productivity and the ability for the employee to get to work quickly, allowing them to settle into their role and feel integrated with the department; its mismanagement, on the other hand, can seriously cost a business.
Untracked hardware allocation and unnecessary software licence provision inevitably lead to missing or broken hardware and spiralling costs, as well as increased risk of data and security breaches. The solution to these problems lies in prevention. Setyl’s dedicated onboarding flow is one such tool that automates the allocation of hardware and software: employees are automatically enrolled in Setyl’s onboarding workflow when added to an organisation’s workspace; from here, it is possible to assign hardware and application licences manually or automatically depending on their department and location. Through an integrated, in-app survey the new hire confirms they have access to all necessary software and are in possession of their assigned hardware. Completion of the survey also captures their digital agreement to an Acceptable Use Policy which can be stored on the system and downloaded for record-keeping.
3. Review and clarify the job role, company culture and values
Having covered the administrative and logistical aspects of onboarding, it is necessary to review and confirm your new hire’s role and expectations, now and for the future. This stage shouldn’t be rushed. It may have been some time since the new hire was chosen for the role, so it’s important to review the job specification and key skills required with the new hire and the hiring manager. This is a good time to go over the basic structure of the company, and their role within it, as well as their specific responsibilities and targets.
Here, it is important to set out the metrics that their performance is measured by. KPIs are crucial in evaluating the productivity of a new hire, while clear objectives will help them settle into a position quickly. We suggest that after two weeks, these should be reviewed. If the new hire is struggling with their workload and not meeting targets, work with them to understand what part of the process isn’t working, and adjust their targets if necessary. Constructive support and flexibility are key to success in the first weeks, and months, of onboarding.
It is also important to clarify company ethos at this point. Explain any policies and rules you implement, including zero tolerance policies, and highlight any social activities and events to look forward to. You want to give them the best chance of fitting in and feeling included – their performance will improve as a result. And, of course, always give space for them to voice any questions or concerns. The conversation should flow both ways: set out your expectations for them, and ask them to do the same for the company. What progress are they looking to make? What skills do they want to learn? How will they personally measure their success, and what are they looking for from the company?
4. Schedule all the necessary orientations
Where the first half of this onboarding framework can be quite intensive, orientation has the opportunity to be active, fun and engaging. If orientation is taking place in the office, walk around the building – make introductions, and point out all key contacts and senior figures in the organisation. Run through the various communication channels used across the organisation for various teams and departments, and whether you use Slack, or Teams, or Google chat, email or meetings.
Special care should be taken with the department the new hire will be joining. Make sure everyone is well acquainted; this may involve setting up a group call if individuals are working remotely. The same can be said of any contacts outside the department they are likely to need – IT support, office managers and HR staff, for example. If you are onboarding many employees over the course of a couple of weeks, these introductions can be scheduled as a group, though you should aim to complete all essential meetings within a week of a new hire’s start date.
It is also worth considering a buddy or mentor system for new hires. Having a dedicated contact to answer any minor questions, provide immediate feedback or help can be an enormous source of support and reassurance for someone just starting out.
5. Provide focused skills training
Providing ongoing training, support and performance reviews is an essential part of successful onboarding. Some training can be condensed into the first week, with other programs spread out over the course of a few months, or ongoing. Regular training keeps new employees on the right track, and also provides opportunities to clarify the job role and sharpen up essential skills. Consider what training can be carried out more efficiently in groups, as this also provides an opportunity for employees to meet and support each other through the onboarding process.
Role-specific training should align with the success metrics agreed in Step 3. Training sessions create a space to review these metrics, and provide opportunities to learn from colleagues they may not have much contact with otherwise. This way, it is also possible to follow an employee’s progress, or flag concerns if they are not keeping up.
6. Keep up regular feedback sessions and check-ins
Perhaps the most important aspect of the onboarding process is to maintain ongoing communication with new hires. Unlike training sessions, one-to-one catch-ups provide a personal, more relaxed and open environment for the manager, or employer, and the new employee. Here, you can provide feedback, analyse performance, and voice any concerns or questions.
Schedule your first two review sessions on the first day; it demonstrates commitment to supporting the new hire, and offers a timescale for them to settle in, gather thoughts and raise issues. Once again, refer back to the conversation in Step 3. How are they performing according to the success metrics set out when they first joined? What have they achieved, and what areas need more attention? Has the job fulfilled the expectations they set? Are they making progress as they would like, and what future can they see for themselves in the organisation?
These meetings are essential in receiving feedback for your onboarding process as well. Whether an employee is performing or not, insight from their side of the onboarding process is invaluable. Regular meetings for the length of time it takes to complete onboarding – anywhere from weeks to months – are critical to getting this key feedback, so you can continually improve your method.
As we have seen, onboarding is often overlooked, at the expense of organisational efficiency and the bottom line. Not only are there financial implications, but a lack of structure, attention and care can result in high turnover, at the expense of valuable skills, company cohesion and culture, and employee wellbeing. Effective onboarding requires inter-departmental coordination, organisation and communication, with the support of software and digital automation to smooth the process. Setyl is one such tool that can help with this process. For more information on how Setyl can help your business, chat to our Sales team or book a Demo here.