- Only 43 percent of employees report an onboarding experience that was more than a single day of orientation and basic benefits information.
- Poor onboarding leads to lower productivity, increased turnover and disengaged employees.
- A successful onboarding program is strategic, well-structured and personalized to the employee’s role.
- This article is for business owners who want to learn how onboarding impacts companies and how to create a better onboarding experience.
A successful onboarding process is well-structured and designed to help employees quickly adjust to a new role and organization. When done correctly, onboarding lays a strong foundation for the employer-employee relationship — one that increases employee engagement, reduces turnover and helps grow a strong business. However, companies that have poor onboarding procedures risk experiencing just the opposite.
In today’s business environment, where employees celebrate the flexibility offered through hybrid and remote roles, a robust onboarding plan is even more critical. To retain your workers, you’ll need to invest in a quality program. Here’s what that should — and shouldn’t — entail.
A reputation for a solid onboarding process could help your business recruit top talent in a competitive labor market.
How poor onboarding affects your team
Unfortunately, many employers don’t take the necessary steps to plan and implement an effective onboarding program. In fact, O.C. Tanner’s 2023 Global Culture Report found that only 43 percent of employees surveyed had an onboarding experience consisting of more than a one-day orientation and a packet of information on benefits. A poor onboarding process can cause a number of negative consequences for both the employee and the employer.
Without sufficient onboarding, employees may have trouble understanding what is expected of them and what success looks like in their role, which hinders their output. Poor onboarding can lead new hires to question why they joined the organization and how it will help them accomplish their career goals. That certainly isn’t motivating when it comes time to buckle down and tackle their new responsibilities. On the other hand, according to recruiting firm Hays, 51 percent of employees say they’d go “above and beyond” in their work if they had a good onboarding experience. [Check out the top ways to become more productive.]
Numerous studies have shown that the risk of employee turnover is highest early on in an employee’s tenure and sometimes occurs within a person’s first 45 days on the job. Without the right information and tools to set them up for success, newer employees are quick to leave for other opportunities. The competition to retain top talent is strong, and great workers aren’t going to stick around if a company doesn’t take the time to thoughtfully integrate them into the workplace dynamic.
Decreases employee engagement
After the initial hiring process, onboarding is one of the most critical parts of the employee experience. Employees who have a poor onboarding experience are several times more likely to be disengaged at work. Disengaged employees cost businesses money — approximately 18 percent of their salary, according to Gallup. They can also negatively impact workplace culture and co-workers’ morale.
Low employee confidence, lack of trust within the organization and missed revenue targets are among the other detrimental effects of not having a thorough onboarding program.
A 2020 survey from Workable found that remote onboarding and training was the biggest challenge related to hiring during the pandemic. It is still cited as a top concern today.
Best practices for successful onboarding
Successful onboarding starts with understanding its true purpose. Onboarding isn’t about just handing off the necessary paperwork. New employees need to feel a sense of belonging. They need to be welcomed, informed and well-prepared to do their best for your organization.
Study employee demographics.
There are currently four generations in the workforce. Meeting the wants and needs of each one is difficult. Plus, not all employees today work in the same office. Remote and hybrid hires have different needs than full-time in-person staffers. When you take demographics and other characteristics into account when welcoming new hires, that can have a positive impact on employee outcomes.
When planning each hire’s onboarding experience, consider the following:
- How employees prefer to receive information
- What devices they most commonly use
- What motivates them
- What information is most important to them and their role
- Their time zone and how it impacts their schedule
Provide a well-structured experience.
Orientation is an essential part of the onboarding experience, and it should be a well-structured one. Employees who attend a structured orientation program are more likely to remain at a company for multiple years. New hires should gain an understanding of the company culture and the behaviors that are celebrated in your workplace. A good program also addresses the overarching skills and knowledge necessary to be successful at the company, regardless of department or job function.
Be sure to address the procedures and expectations below:
- Times and procedures for clocking in and out.
- Expectations around availability when remote.
- In-office expectations, such as the number of days per week and which days are expected
- How performances are evaluated
- Where employees can share concerns or feedback about their experiences
In addition to facilitating a general company-wide onboarding process, train leaders on how to onboard new employees to their specific department or team.
Employees who feel like part of a team are more likely to feel engaged in their work. A good onboarding experience helps new hires make that connection early on. Ensure new employees know about team communication channels and any opportunities to connect with colleagues.
Here are some ways you can encourage connection during onboarding:
- Introduce new employees in a company or team communications channel, such as Slack or Microsoft Teams.
- Provide information on employee resource groups and how to get involved.
- Share a calendar of team-building activities, whether online or in-office.
According to onboarding company Click Boarding, 56 percent of new employees want a buddy or mentor. Consider implementing a buddy program for peer mentoring and training leaders on how to be a good mentor.
Take advantage of automation.
Automated onboarding powered by artificial intelligence is one way employers can provide a more seamless and structured onboarding process. Chatbots, for example, can support parts of employee onboarding by providing answers to basic questions and generating necessary document links.
There are also a number of ways to automate individualized emails and tasks for new hires. Companies can provide a series of welcome emails to break up information and training and offer key information specific to an employee and their role. Furthermore, in a remote or hybrid environment, particularly one where employees are spread across different time zones, automation helps ensure no detail is missed. [The best HR software solutions provide tools to automate and streamline the onboarding process.]
Here are a few ways automation can be used to enhance the employee onboarding process:
- Provide necessary training at a manageable pace.
- Sync online accounts and grant access to work tools.
- Assign onboarding buddies or mentors.
- Update and appropriately file required information.
Onboarding is an opportunity — not a checklist
Onboarding is a company’s opportunity to help employees connect to the organization in a more meaningful way — to learn about where they fit, how their role impacts the business, and what they can do to achieve optimal performance. View this time as a chance to engage new hires in the work environment rather than as a matter of completing required paperwork. Taking the time to create and implement a strategic onboarding process leads to higher employee engagement, reduced turnover and a more successful business overall, so you’ll be grateful you did.