Make Your Employee Onboarding An Engaging Success

Posted by Melissa Meunier on Mon, Sep 15, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

information, onboard, strategy

When a new employee starts their first day chances are they go through some type of orientation. The employee is bombarded with paperwork, documents about benefits and given a tour of the building and where the bathrooms are located. After a few days that employee is on their own and probably wondering if they made the right decision.

Companies may think that type of orientation program will set their new employee up for success. Unfortunately, they couldn’t be further from the truth. A deeper bond needs to be made with the employee and employer before the first day. Filling out paperwork and learning about your benefits is necessary; however, it should play a back seat to engagement, which can mean the difference between a long-term employee and one who leaves.

Did you know the first 90 days on the job is the most critical point for an employee in a new job? In many companies the engagement levels begin to drop after the first day of work when there is no connection. Organizations that have a well-planned and structured onboarding program in conjunction with an orientation process see greater success and avoid the drop in engagement.  An onboarding program can create an immediate connection starting with the interview, carrying through the onboarding period and beyond.


The Right Approach To A Wining Strategy

In a recent report from the SHRM Foundation Effective Practice Guidelines series, they cover onboarding new employees and maximizing their success. It speaks to the growing failure of new employee transitions, where “half of all hourly workers leave new jobs in the first four months, and half of senior outside hires fail within 18 months,” and the need for implementing a strong employee onboarding program to improve these statistics.

One step the report suggests to improve results is for HR to consider the type of approach to onboarding they will take: 

  • Informal onboarding refers to the process by which an employee learns about his or her new job without a specific organizational plan – sink or swim approach.
  • Formal onboarding is a structured approach with established policies and procedures to assist an employee in adjusting to his or her new job – structured approach.

The approach to an onboarding program is different across organizations and it is important to understand which one will serve the organization best, keeping in mind that a more formal and structured approach has the better outcome.

Authored by Tayla N. Bauer the SHRM report defines onboarding as having four distinct levels which Bauer calls the Four C’s© and considers them to be the building blocks of successful onboarding:

  • Compliance is the lowest level and includes teaching employees basic legal and policy-related rules and regulations.
  • Clarification refers to ensuring that employees understand their new jobs and all related expectations.
  • Culture is a broad category that includes providing employees with a sense of organizational norms— both formal and informal.
  • Connection refers to the vital interpersonal relationships and information networks that new employees must establish.

Depending on how organizations leverage the four building blocks, will determine its overall onboarding strategy and which one of these three levels they fall into:

  • Passive - approximately 30% of organizations work at this level
  • High Potential - about 50% of organizations
  • Proactive - only 20% of organizations reach this level

Onboarding Strategy Image


Short and Long-term Outcomes For Success

Signs of a successful onboarding program would be the short and long-term outcomes. The short-term outcome is centered on the employee’s adjustment – how well did they assimilate into the organization, culture, and with its people.

According to SHRM, researchers identified four major levers related to both the job role and the social environment that can maximize the short-term onboarding success. After the new candidate is selected and hired, the new employees will go through several adjustment periods: 

  1. Self-Efficacy – Starts with making the new employee comfortable and confident as they navigate their new environment.  A new employee that understands the job role, knows who to go to for what, and is aware of tools and training will likely be motivated and committed to the job.
  2. Role Clarity –An employee that understands their role and what is expected of them is the best indicator of how well-adjusted the new employee is.  Have the employee set goals with their manager that tie to strategic initiatives allows for less performance problems in the future.  
  3. Social Integration – New employees need to feel socially accepted amongst their peers.  Establishing work relationships through a “buddy” program or mentorship can quickly build acceptance and reduce turnover.
  4. Knowledge of Culture – This lever is key to engagement. Employees need to be guided and shown how to navigate the culture. From learning the language to the unique intricacies of the organization can have an impact on their adjustment and commitment. 

The long-term outcome ties to the bottom line. A good outcome would see an employee’s job performance, which includes attitude and commitment, positively affecting the company’s goals & initiatives.

When done correctly, the SHRM research shows successful onboarding can lead to higher job satisfaction, organizational commitment, increased performance, career effectiveness and lower stress levels.

For companies that want to improve the new hire experience, increase engagement and avoid turnover, it is important to understand what onboarding is not – it’s not about the paperwork, benefits or where to find the bathrooms. Onboarding is the process of helping employees adjust to their new job and transition into their new company quickly and smoothly…over time. 

Topics: onboarding

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