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Six Ways to Improve New Employee Onboarding

After years of having the upper hand in the hiring equation, companies are now challenged to find employees with the right education, training and experience in the face of a skills gap fueled by rapid technological change. Every sector of American business is affected. No one is immune.

And even when you do find an individual who is a perfect fit, you’re not out of the woods. Studies show 31 percent of new hires quit within six months, and more than 16 percent quit in the very first week! That’s a dismal return considering the time and money invested in finding that new hire, but a harsh reality about the competitiveness over human capital in the new economy. Talented, qualified individuals aren’t inclined to settle—they have no problem moving on to a place where they feel they can make a difference.

Experts will point to a flawed onboarding process as a likely culprit. If your organization has a checklist attitude about welcoming new hires into the fold, they’re right. After all, employees are people—human beings who have a need to feel valued. You have a small window of opportunity to make new employees feel welcome, and more importantly, like they fit into your organization.
Onboarding should:

  • Help new hires build relationships
  • Acquire a lay-of-the-land about your organization and insights they need to successfully perform their job
  • Integrate into the organization
  • Nurture passion for the work and loyalty

Here are six guidelines to help you get started.

  1. Connect EarlyOnboarding should begin before a new hire starts. Reach out to your new employees well before their first day. Offer to answer any questions they may have. Consider sending an electronic welcome kit with a personalized message from the company CEO, department head or their direct supervisor. The kit could include helpful details about parking and where to sign in, along with an itinerary for their first day, and an e-vite to a welcome breakfast or coffee break.
  2. Have Everything in Place Nothing kills a new employee’s enthusiasm about their new job faster than showing up the first day to discover there has been zero preparation for their arrival. Make sure their assigned workspace is clean and uncluttered. Have a phone and computer installed before their arrival with initial login credentials ready to go. Provide a department or company roster with extensions, emails and other contact info. Thoughtful details like this let the person know you are glad they are part of the team.
  3. Be Friendly Remember, first impressions cut both ways. The way a new employee is welcomed into the company on the very first day can have far-reaching consequences. It’s no longer enough for the HR staff to act as official greeters. Thirty-three percent of new hires say they want their manager—not an HR rep or colleague—to be their guide to the company and their new job. Make sure veteran employees understand they are responsible, too, for making new employees feel welcome. Failure to do so can mean your new employee may be a short-timer. With replacement costs ranging between 20 to 213 percent of an employee’s annual salary (depending on the complexity of the job), you can’t afford not to make this a priority.
  4. Create a Clear Plan for SuccessSet your new employees up for success, not failure. A lot of know-how can be absorbed through day-to-day osmosis, but it’s unrealistic to expect a newbie to perform all the nuances of their job exceptionally well without some kind of road map. Research shows that, more than anything, new employees want clear guidelines about expectations and defined goals. When you provide them with anything less, you risk pushing them out the door.
  5. Give New Employees Time Onboarding isn’t a one-off event like an employee orientation. It is an ongoing process of assimilating into a new role and company culture. Define milestone goals for the first week, first month, first 90 days, first year. Check in with new employees regularly for a two-way conversation to discuss how they are transitioning into their new role, department and company culture.
  6. Ask for FeedbackThen analyze it and use it to improve your onboarding process. You can gather valuable insights through surveys, interviews or informal conversations. Don’t ask for this feedback right away. Often, it any takes new employees some time to realize what they wished they would have learned at the onset of their onboarding and what they liked about the process. Take this valuable feedback and combine it with other metrics such as new hire turnover rates, cost-to-hire data, length and cost of onboarding, etc.

    Paying attention to all of these areas will help you retain great talent by making them feel valued through a positive onboarding process that sets the stage for a productive, mutually-beneficial, long-term relationship.

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