One of the most commonly cited reports when it comes to studying the relationship between onboarding and employee retention was published by the Wynhurst Group. In its decade-old study, the firm found that 58 percent of newly hired employees stayed at their company for three years or more if they completed a structured onboarding program.

Despite this correlation between onboarding and retention, many organizations continue to drag their feet on building structured onboarding frameworks. Studies show that it usually takes a newly hired employee eight months to reach full productivity, but less than 40 percent of organizations extend their onboarding programs beyond the first month.

What Makes Onboarding Ineffective?

One of the biggest drivers of poor onboarding is the disconnect between what employees want to learn and what they actually learn during onboarding. Many organizations continue to mistake onboarding with orientation. Orientation is essentially bringing the employee up to speed with company policies, department responsibilities, points of contact and so on.

Onboarding, on the other hand, is job-related. Over three-fourths of new employees in one survey said on-the-job training was the most important part of onboarding, while over half said it was having a buddy or mentor to work with. The pedagogical approach that firms adopt for their onboarding sessions could, thus, make or break its effectiveness.

Switching to On-the-Job Training

Employee onboarding continues to be a theoretical pursuit in many organizations. While it is important to provide your new employees with the context and background of their roles, theoretical training on other aspects of their job is not only likely to be ineffective but could also bring morale down.

Providing on-the-job training where you pair your new employee with a colleague in a similar work function achieves two goals. Firstly, it enables the learners to bypass the traditional learning curve to achieve efficiency in their role. More importantly, the paired colleague serves as a buddy to help the employee integrate faster with the rest of the team.

Investing in the Right Resources

It is important to pick the right learning tools for each component of the onboarding process. It’s not uncommon for large corporations to let individual teams pick the tool to onboard their employees with. While this approach offers greater flexibility in identifying the perfect onboarding system, it can be counterproductive for two reasons. Firstly, individual team managers may not have the requisite expertise to identify the best pedagogical tool for onboarding. More importantly, the absence of company-wide software makes it impossible to benchmark onboarding performance and take remedial measures.

Cost is sometimes a factor. Onboarding tools cost as much as $5,000 per year, according to Allowing teams to pick their own onboarding tools could allow smaller teams with lower budgets to select free or low-cost alternatives, but such tools may not always be the best ones. Also, your organization could end up subscribing to several plans for the same platform through different teams. It could be more cost-effective to consolidate this buying process.

Continual Training

Onboarding is seldom a one-time activity. It is not realistic to expect your new employees to gain everything that they need to know within the first few weeks of joining the company. Continuous training not only makes employees more efficient, but it can also bring attrition down significantly. Pal’s Sudden Service, a Tennessee-based fast food restaurant, has an attrition rate of 1.4 percent – perhaps the lowest in the industry. The company attributes its high retention partly to its integration of onboarding with regular training, which is accompanied by quizzes three times a month. Employees who score 100 percent more than four times become coaches to train and retrain their colleagues. This system has proven to be effective at keeping employees highly trained while bringing turnover down at this 33-year-old organization.

Improving the effectiveness of onboarding can have tremendous impact on your bottom line. Effective onboarding brings down attrition, which can save your organization hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in hiring and training. In addition, it improves employee morale, which is essential to improving productivity.