A 2014 survey by BambooHR found that 16 to 17 percent of employees leave their new company within the first three months on the job. About one-fifth of those people said they wanted “more effective training” than what they received. This survey echoes many others in supporting the importance of a good onboarding program to employee – and organizational – success.
Onboarding is the development of the skills, knowledge and behaviors to succeed in a new job. It includes not just helping new hires become productive quickly but also acclimating them to the culture of the organization and helping them feel personally invested in its mission. A comprehensive training strategy also starts before an employee is hired, according to Ron Zamir, president and CEO of Allen Communication.
“There’s a lot of hype around technologies now that are trying to do pre-boarding, connecting the onboarding to the hiring process,” he says, but “your brand is the best tool you have.” Google and Starbucks are examples of companies with strong employer brands that “really start their onboarding process well before an employee [starts].”
Once an employee is hired, though, it takes more than a strong brand to engage them, help them become productive quickly and retain them beyond those first three months on the job. The biggest onboarding challenge organizations face, Zamir says, “is that they don’t really have the bandwidth to focus on an employee; they focus more on their job or their tasks.”
That’s where technology can come in handy, especially in a large organization that onboards large numbers of new employees at a time. For example, Dell Boomi, a business unit of Dell that specializes in cloud-based platform integration, recently created an onboarding solution accelerator for its own onboarding program and then offered it to its customers. The accelerator connects disparate systems and people to create a better onboarding experience.
“It’s very important for us to make sure that our employees have frictionless onboarding,” says Div Manickam, group product and solutions marketing manager, “that they are super excited for a long and productive relationship, and they feel confident that they are in the right place and that their expectations are met by the experience that they get in the first 30 days.” In fact, that’s why employee satisfaction is one of the key metrics Dell Boomi uses to measure onboarding program effectiveness.
Zamir says that this type of integrated, continuous onboarding program is key to success. When an organization “takes all those disparate pieces and creates a process around it,” he says, the new employees experience an “almost seamless” process. And by providing a blend of “high-impact group activities,” online resources and communications, and one-on-one coaching or mentoring, organizations can scale that seamless process across a large number of new hires. The result, Zamir says, is lowered turnover and better succession planning. As employees become more engaged with their work, more confident in their position and more committed to the organization, they are more interested in and better prepared for moving into supervisory and management positions.
Even after those first three months of initial onboarding, onboarding should continue. It begins again, Zamir says, when an employee takes on a new responsibility, when they work in another department or are promoted to a new position, and even when they move to a different organization but remain a brand ambassador for your company thanks to the great experience they had as an employee.
“Poor onboarding has really high costs,” says Manickam. When your company is growing quickly – as so many are – “those costs can become very expensive very fast.” Creating a structured, strategic onboarding program that not only teaches your new hires how to do their jobs but also how to engage with your company and its brand will pay dividends.