Onboarding introduces new starters to the organization and their roles, providing the tools and resources they need to get off to a good start. It should not be confused with orientation, which forms only a brief part of the onboarding process. It typically covers arrangements for day one, such as allocating a desk, ID pass, and necessary equipment. 

Traditionally, onboarding has been mainly administrative, focusing on processing new starter paperwork and enrolling recruits in formal in-person training. With the rise of the “employee experience” model in recent years, however, organizations have realized the importance of moving away from purely transactional processes and cultivating experiences at each stage of the employee lifecycle. 

It makes sense that after all the efforts to attract and recruit, you would want to keep up the momentum once a candidate has been appointed. The employee onboarding experience is a continuation of this and focuses on integrating a new starter into the organization while creating the best first impression possible.

What Impact Can the Employee Onboarding Experience Have On Organizational Success? 

The days of the “job for life” are long gone, and while job-hopping might have been frowned upon by previous generations, Millennials and Gen Z are less likely to remain at one organization for their career. Surveys indicate that a third of new hires quit within the first three months of employment—and even day-one resignations are not unheard of. 

These premature departures point to potential issues with the employee onboarding experience, which can have a major influence on whether an employee intends to stay with your organization for the long term. This is one of many reasons you should prioritize creating better working experiences for employees.

Let’s look at some of the main benefits a positive employee onboarding experience can have for your organization.

Boosts productivity

The focus of the onboarding process is orienting an employee and helping them become assimilated within the organization and their individual role. Suppose your new starters have been provided with key company information, appropriate tools for the job, and a full understanding of the expectations of their role. In that case, they’ll be able to hit the ground running. This will help them achieve increased levels of productivity and efficiency much more quickly. Studies show organizations that invest in onboarding programs benefit from a 70% increase in new hire productivity.

Enhances engagement

Creating a positive employee onboarding experience gets engagement off to a good start. Employees who are engaged have a better sense of well-being, feel more connected to the organization, and are more productive. This all makes for a better working environment, which is crucial to both the success and reputation of the business.

A full onboarding process can last up to a year with a range of activities centered around embedding the company culture, mission, and values. New hires who remain that long are likely to be more engaged and committed to the organization. Engaged employees are less likely to resign, which leads us to the next success factor.

Improves retention

Reducing turnover continues to be a priority for many organizations in this climate. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that 69% of employees are likely to remain with a company for a minimum of three years if they have had a great onboarding experience. Furthermore, a Glassdoor-commissioned research paper found that organizations with effective onboarding processes can increase retention by 82%.

Now let’s look at some ways you can improve the employee onboarding experience to maximize its impact.

Best Practices for the Employee Onboarding Experience

1. Create a strategy

It’s important to recognize that onboarding does not belong to HR alone. All people managers and their teams have a role to play to ensure its success, and it requires the input of the wider organization to be truly effective. 

Your onboarding strategy should cover compliance, learning and development, and cultural engagement. Be sure to consider the needs of different groups of workers—for example, office-based, field-based, or home-based—as well as acknowledge diversity, equality, and inclusion requirements.

You can go a step further and include a preboarding stage, which covers the period after recruitment and before the first day on the job. It’s about keeping the new hire “warm” and building anticipation for their commencement. 

2. Preparation is key

Being prepared for your new starter’s first day can make all the difference to their perception of your organization. 

Make sure there is a plan in place with their first day mapped out. Key activities should be scheduled, equipment and the relevant login details should be set up, and anything else they may need should be ready and waiting for them.

It is widely recommended to look beyond day one and prepare an outline of at least the first 30-90 days. This could be a two-way document with an outline of activities and events the company has organized—for example, training, 1-2-1s, and meet-and-greets—alongside goals the employee wants to achieve in the respective period.

3. Make it personable

Providing employees with pages of processes and policies to familiarize themselves with, coupled with monotonous induction modules, is a path to immediate disengagement. Instead, there needs to be a good balance between modern digital methods and traditional in-person interactions to keep things engaging for a wider audience.

New employees need to be welcomed warmly, so ensure you schedule introductions with their immediate colleagues and key stakeholders. A lunchtime social or after-work gathering on the first day can also help to build team bonds. Assigning a buddy who they can go to with day-to-day queries can help ease any anxieties they may have about being the newbie.

Tokens of appreciation are welcome too! Gifting new recruits with company memorabilia can help to plant seeds of belonging and show them you are happy they have come on board.

4. Gather data

Collecting insights at various points helps to substantiate your efforts, especially if senior leadership needs convincing of the return on investing further in the onboarding experience.

Consider rolling out new starter surveys, where you gather feedback at specified checkpoints, such as 30, 60, and 90 days, and after they have undertaken the company induction and relevant training.

5. Review and improve

Reviewing data allows you to see what’s working well and what isn’t. Beyond that, it creates an opportunity to make improvements to the onboarding program, with a solid evidence base.

Resources should be appointed to make sure the data collected is acted upon. There should be defined roles to ensure this important exercise is not neglected. Many organizations will have management committees and/or employee groups with whom this responsibility may sit. HR and line managers can take valuable insights from the feedback received and use it to inform strategy and foster continuous improvement. 

Conclusion

The benefits of a well-considered employee onboarding experience are far-reaching. As studies have shown, strong onboarding processes result in more engaged and productive employees who are more likely to remain with the organization for longer than those who did not have a positive experience.

Furthermore, the resulting increase in productivity and reduction in turnover can have a direct effect on the profitability of an organization. Data can help quantify the impact and incentivize the prioritization of the onboarding experience in your company’s overall people strategy.

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