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The effects of onboarding on employee retention

When you properly onboard new team members to your company, you’re actually playing a major role in increasing employee retention. First impressions of company processes, key team members and policies and procedures can have a lasting impact on whether new hires hit the ground running, or are set up to fail from the start.

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Typical onboarding procedure

Hiring a new employee is the beginning of a crucial period of change for your company. They’ll need to complete paperwork, register for any human resources or IT training, enroll in benefits and so much more. And that’s just on the HR side – they’ll also meet their team members, be introduced to superiors or other key team members and slowly become familiar with their workstation. Some workplaces may use a buddy system, where newcomers are set up with a more tenured employee tasked with taking them under their wing. All of this can be daunting to a new employee who is already undergoing a major life change in starting a new job, so it’s absolutely vital that you take the time to make sure you’re onboarding them properly.

The first 45 days are crucial

Human Resources professionals know all too well that new employee onboarding is very important to the employee’s hire proficiency. The sheer volume of administrative tasks, paperwork and teaching of policies and procedures can be overwhelming if it isn’t done in a clear and approachable way. If these steps are rushed through, or piled on all at once, new employees can get discouraged or form the opinion that your company is disorganized and not supportive. Research has shown that as much as 20% of turnover happens within 45 days of a new employee’s start date. The initial weeks and months after a new team member joins your company are therefore arguably the most important to their long-term success.

Maintain the first impression

It should go without saying that your new hire already has a good impression of your company if they’ve accepted your offer and made the choice to come work for you. But that impression is fragile and much can go wrong from day one if your company doesn’t invest in making them feel welcome, engaged and prepared for what their job will entail. Hire proficiency can suffer for a number of reasons: new employees will feel incompetent from the get-go when they don’t have a grasp of the way your company operates, don’t fully feel a part of the team, and they’re almost left to fend for themselves. In order to maintain the good impression you’ve worked hard to give new employees, consider formalizing some employee onboarding initiatives that remain constant over the years, are easily repeatable for a range of functions and job titles and help your new employees feel like a valued team member from day one.

These initiatives can vary from company to company, but the goal is always the same: to give your new team members all the resources, equipment, introductions and information they’ll need to do well at their job. As mentioned before, a buddy program can go a long way toward doing this. Integrating the new team member into a smaller network of key people can give them a safety net to fall back on. Giving them opportunities to learn from colleagues and build positive relationships with team members will help them feel part of the team without overwhelming them. Failing to do this, however, can have ramifications on the employee and your company that go far beyond merely losing a team member.

The impact of poor onboarding

When you fail to integrate new employees into your company culture, they feel ostracized from the start. They’re already in a stressful position as the new person in the workplace. Adding even more stress to this process will contribute to feelings of remorse for taking the position – a sharp contrast to the optimism and excitement they may have felt when they initially accepted their job offer.

Further, 90% of new hires make up their minds about whether they want to stay at your company long-term or work elsewhere within their first six months. How can they make up their mind about your company so quickly? Improper onboarding plays a major role. The cost of constantly needing to recruit and re-onboard new hires is money that could’ve been spent getting things right, from the start, rather than re-doing the process. Do it often enough, and your company will form a reputation in the job market as having a revolving door of talent. Top talent will actively avoid working for you, if word gets out that the position you’re hiring for has been vacant for months, or even worse, has been staffed by three different people in under a year, all of whom have gone on to work elsewhere. Even worse is the speculation that comes with it: job-seekers will see the position constantly advertised on job boards, and wonder why you have so much trouble filling it. Not only can poor onboarding affect your bottom line, but it can also go a long way to tarnishing your reputation in the hiring world.

The impact of good onboarding

When you and your company take the time to properly onboard new team members, they’re able to perform to their potential much faster. Rather than spend time on tedious or unclear paperwork, they’re spending time getting acquainted with your company and contributing to overall productivity. As we learned in the previous section, poor onboarding is strongly correlated to employee turnover. Having a clear, concise and purposeful onboarding program will reduce turnover and make employees feel valued from day one, and will help to preserve their good first impression of the company. They’ll also feel less stressed, knowing they’re in a friendly environment that’s supporting them throughout the learning process and encouraging them to integrate without fear of failure or slowing things down.

All of this culminates in a more engaged, satisfied employee who can focus on the key functions of their job instead of the pitfalls of a faulty onboarding process. They’re able to make an impact much sooner and don’t feel as if they need to find somewhere else to work in order to do their job well.

How to onboard successfully

Don’t limit onboarding to just job-related functions. Incorporate the social side of the job as well. Getting to know co-workers and the workplace is just as important as getting to know Human Resources functions, policies and procedures. Having a team that a new hire can rely on will make them feel more integrated and part of something bigger.

Don’t forget about gratitude. Not just for accepting your job offer, but for the little things, too. If your new hire is doing something right, even if it’s minor, make sure to acknowledge it and congratulate them for getting a feel for things so quickly. If they’re doing the right things, but receiving no recognition for it, new hires might assume they’re doing things wrong and could allow doubt to creep in. Prevent this by being proactive with your praise.

Always be clear. By making yourself available and communicating regularly and clearly, you ensure your new hires have a direct source of information if they ever need it. Meet with them, check-in over email or maybe even have a weekly chat until you’re both confident that they’re getting the feel of things. Simply hiring someone then disappearing sends the wrong message.

Integrate them into your company’s culture. Introduce them, praise them and encourage them to take part in company social events or subcommittees. By giving them the chance to engage with your workplace beyond their job functions, you’re allowing them the social side of onboarding that so many companies miss. Give them opportunities to live your company’s values and vision, and they’ll become assimilated much faster than if you only hire them to perform specific tasks and nothing more.

Finally, train them properly and give them opportunities to sharpen their skills. Whether this is through feedback, formal training programs, coaching or mentorship, give them the chance to show you how committed they are to the company and their role. Many new hires will relish the chance to learn more on the job and will associate your company’s onboarding process with the chance to improve their skills and make a bigger impact than at their previous position.

No matter which industry you’re in, it’s important that you make sure your new hires feel valued, welcome and part of the team from day one, and the easiest and most effective way to do this is with a well-thought-out onboarding process.

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