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What is Employee Onboarding in HR?

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Making a career change is undeniably scary and intimidating.  

Switching jobs ranks among the top 20 most stressful life events on the Holmes-Rahe Stress scale just after the death of a close friend. As a result, HR professionals aim to smooth this process and help new hires feel welcomed by following a carefully structured onboarding plan.  

By definition, employee onboarding is introducing a new employee to the company, its values, and work culture 

The goal is to integrate the new employee into the workflow and operations of the company over several months so that they can become productive members of the organization.   

What is Onboarding?

Often referred to as organizational entry and socializing, employee onboarding introduces a new hire to the company. As the name suggests, onboarding is about successfully bringing new employees on board.    

Relatively small investments by organizations that acknowledge the value of a quality onboarding program can lead to great returns. The study “From Capability to Profitability: Realizing the Value of People Management” from leading consulting firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the World Federation of People Management Associations (WFPMA) found that the onboarding process is the second biggest contributor to a company’s economic success and revenue growth.   

Although there are different approaches to this delicate process, the desired outcome is always to achieve long-lasting results through employee retention. If employees are proud of their affiliation with the company, they are more likely to stay long-term.   

An effective employee onboarding program will:  

  • Retain new employees  
  • Reduce turnover rates  
  • Accelerate ramp-up time  
  • Strengthen company culture  
  • Increase employee engagement and productivity  
  • Increase job satisfaction  
  • Attract talent easily  

According to Shortlister’s recruitment statistics article, a great onboarding process can improve employee retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%.   

What Are Onboarding Activities?

The comprehensive onboarding process entails all the activities that start after a job offer is accepted to fully acclimate the employee. It is essential to have a step-by-step checklist for all the activities that matter to each individual company.   

Some of the formal activities that new employees can expect on the first day or in the pre-boarding process are:   

  • Introduction to the stakeholders   
  • Meeting the managers and coworkers  
  • Tour of the office and facilities   
  • Filling in new hire paperwork   
  • Review employee handbook  
  • Introduction to the code of conduct, key policies, and work culture  
  • Review employee’s position profile, responsibilities, and expectations   
  • Job Training   
  • A 30–60–90-180-day development plan  
  • Software training  
  • Setting up equipment, accounts, and security of IT assets   
  • Introduction to benefits plan  

  
However, the onboarding process should not only be about filling out paperwork and boring meetings. Besides the traditional joining formalities, getting employees excited about being a part of an organization is crucial in ensuring they adapt quickly.   

Some informal and fun strategies that businesses incorporate into their onboarding program are:   

  • Welcome kit or gift   
  • Company lunch  
  • Ice breaker games for new hires  
  • Welcome introductory email to announce the recent hire  
  • The mentorship/buddy system   
  • Fun employee handbook  

Research data shows that gamifying the onboarding process facilitates social integration, especially among the younger generations. 

Key Elements of Employee Onboarding

Dedicating ample time and effort to recruit the right applicant, investing in an ATS, and creating a quality candidate experience are all efforts toward selecting the best candidate in the talent pool. However, those efforts will be wasted if the new hire leaves the company soon after joining.  

HR should improve the recruitment pipeline and create a robust onboarding program. Some key elements of an efficient employee onboarding plan are to enable, enlighten, and impassion the employee.

1) Enable

By providing new employees with the tools and resources they need early on, they can assimilate to their position in the organizational structure and learn the skills and behaviors needed to meet their job performance requirements.  

Nowadays, HR teams use onboarding software that can lay out a structured plan and serve as a roadmap to track the progress of new hires. Even remote workers have a robust onboarding plan with this innovative software solution.  

When the administrative process is automated, new hires can focus on tasks related to their role more manageable. Many onboarding-related tasks can be streamlined, such as benefits and payroll enrollment, software and equipment set-up, coaching, and support.  

It is in the organization’s best interest to provide all the necessary tools to enable a new hire to become a productive employee.     

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2) Enlighten

The first days of adjustment for a new employee can be overwhelming.  

They may question if choosing one organization over another was the correct decision. Talent managers need to reassure and enlighten new employees about the opportunities within the company by discussing potential career progression and long-term learning prospects.   

When management effectively communicates the importance of the role and recognizes the skills and strengths a new employee brings to the organization; they will become more engaged.  

By encouraging employees to apply their personal strengths to the job, they become more committed, connected, and likely to stay.   

3) Impassion

The final element of employee onboarding is also the hardest to achieve – impassion for them in their new job. The biggest driver of passion for one’s job is making employees feel they are a good match with the organization.  

They find meaning in their work and feel valued and appreciated.   

The outcome of engaged and motivated employees is reflected in many ways that benefit the business. When employees feel pride in their work, they are more likely to recommend the company to others, work overtime, stay loyal, and foster a positive and driven work culture. Employees are the engines that keep an organization running, so their satisfaction is fundamental to creating a thriving company.    

The performance management process is vital in establishing good communication with a new hire. Formal interviews where they receive feedback and areas of improvement should be conducted for the first 30-90-180 days.  

HR professionals should proactively check in with new hires and gather their feedback. This data can continuously improve the onboarding process by discussing the employee’s experience and expectations.    

What Is the Onboarding Process for a New Employee?

Changing jobs should be an opportunity for new employees to learn, grow, evolve, and align with the organization’s goals. HR professionals can choose from a range of approaches to convert a new hire from an outsider to an insider.  

There is no one-size-fits-all approach, as it needs to be modified based on the individual and the role.   

HR must identify the new hire and any potential obstacles in their onboarding journey and prepare to eliminate any issues. Possible ideas to consider are the employee’s learning style, tech-savviness, location, which generation they belong to, and career level.    

It is crucial to keep in mind that each generation may have different expectations from their new job 

For example, Baby Boomers value healthcare and retirement options. At the same time, Gen Z may need instant feedback, assistance with student debt, or mental health support. By adequately identifying every new employee, HR can assist them and better meet their expectations.    

Some broader objectives organizations can follow to have a proactive onboarding process have been defined.   

Dr. Tayla Bauer from the SHRM Foundation identified the building blocks of successful onboarding, often referred to as the four C’s. There are four distinct levels of onboarding, from least to most effective:    

  1. Compliance – The lowest level includes covering paperwork and administrative tasks involved with a new hire. The objective is for HR to teach the employee fundamental legal and policy-related issues.   
  2. Clarification – HR ensures the new employee understands their role and expectations. The goal is to have clearly defined objectives that the new employee, their manager, and team members understand.   
  3. Culture – The focus is on explaining the organizational norms. HR can accomplish this by describing how things are done, how they fit within the organization and their work impact. The new hires must be exposed to formal and informal norms and values.   
  4. Connection – The highest level where employees develop interpersonal relationships with other organization members and feel like part of the team.  

HR’s task is to introduce new employees to all their coworkers and ensure they are included in all formal and informal activities, such as company lunches. As mentioned, the buddy system, where an employee is assigned a mentor who can answer and assist with any questions, will lead to a more effective onboarding process.     

The pitfall of many organizations is the practice of passive onboarding, where only the compliance level and some clarification levels are covered. To achieve proactive onboarding, organizations must cover all four C’s.    

How Long Does Onboarding Take?

Each employee is different and may have a different timeline for their onboarding journey.  

Although research and conventional wisdom both suggest that employees get about 90 days to prove themselves in a new job, according to SHRM, there is no clear timeline on how long this process lasts.  

Employee onboarding should not be confused with employee orientation.  

Employee orientation is a one-time event where the general focus is on the employee’s role and broad company details. Usually conducted in a classroom or online during the first week, the aim is to provide the recruit with all the basic employment information.   

On the other hand, employee onboarding is a journey that can last up to 3-12 months. It starts before the employee’s first day and is an ongoing effort. The timeline for the first 180 days looks something like this:   

  • Pre-boarding: Preparation for onboarding, pre-start paperwork, and communicate first-day logistics with the recruit.  
  • First day: New employee welcome and introductions to teams, management, and other stakeholders.  
  • First week: Orientation, training, setting attainable 90-day goals.  
  • First 90 days: Check-in performance review and gather feedback.  
  • First 180 days: Check-in performance review and gather feedback.  

After the first year, the employee transitions from onboarding to retention, employee satisfaction, and continuous development. The employee is expected to be thoroughly acclimated and able to independently lead projects, collaborate, and be a productive member of the company.     

On a Final Note 

First impressions matter. Therefore, optimizing the onboarding process and improving the employee experience is a powerful strategy that should not be overlooked. The search for quality candidates in today’s highly competitive market is relentless. Through the strategic use of onboarding, businesses can maximize the success of their talent management system and gain a significant advantage.  

Written by Shortlister Editorial Team
Written by Shortlister Editorial Team

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