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Onboarding - Critically Important, but Often Not Well Executed

Kronos recently conducted joint research with the Human Capital Institute to investigate how well organizations are doing with onboarding new employees and internal transfers.  The study,  New Hire Momentum: Driving the Onboarding Experience, included more than 350 human resources (HR) leaders at U.S. organizations of all sizes and industries.  One key takeaway is that organizations need to design their programs to  emphasize high-impact training and development activities instead of administrative new-hire paperwork to better position new employees (and the business) for long-term success.

I've always found onboarding to be an interesting challenge.  If you put your new employee shoes on and think about your first days and weeks on a new job, you can quickly empathize with what an emotional experience it is.  Even if you are a super star from a skills and expertise perspective, you are ignorant about the most basic ways of operating in a new workplace.  From the location of bathrooms to who to call when your laptop won't connect, you're a novice.  And that's the easy stuff.  Understanding all the unwritten rules of the culture and beginning to build your network is much more daunting.

As a people manager, I've tried to keep that empathy at the forefront when onboarding new employees.  I start with "pre-boarding" steps.  There are often several weeks that will pass between the acceptance of an offer and a new employee's first day.  I'll send a welcome gift and several messages between offer acceptance and that first day to let the person know we're planning for his/her arrival.  Where possible, I'll invite that new person to a company event before they start so they can meet people in a casual environment.  Once the new employee starts their employment, I'll provide detailed guidance and support in the form of introductory meetings with key stakeholders, documentation of "getting started" goals, and lots of proactive check ins.

You can find lots more recommendations for improving your onboarding approach in the full research report findings here.

Highlights of the findings include:

  • 76% of the respondents say onboarding practices are underutilized at their organization
  • Nearly two-thirds (60 percent) of survey respondents say the top purpose of onboarding is to integrate employees into the organization's culture, such as the way business is conducted and how the employee's performance contributes to organizational success. However, the focus on culture makes up an average of just 30 percent in onboarding programs.
  • Reviewing rules and regulations (75 percent), the company overview (73 percent), resource orientation - such as technology, workstation, and building introductions (62 percent) - and empowering employees to self-service new hire forms (62 percent) were scored by HR leaders as the most important onboarding activities.
  • Conversely, far fewer respondents highly rated strategic activities linked to helping the employee succeed long-term, such as peer mentoring (32 percent), assessment of future training needs (37 percent), access to self-paced training resources (42 percent), and meetings with key stakeholders/teams (47 percent.)
  • Onboarding internal hires - often referred to as trans-boarding - is even more challenging: about a quarter (24 percent) of organizations have no strategy for trans-boarding either managerial and non-managerial internal hires.

What about your organization?  How well are you managing onboarding?  Do new employees feel there is a plan to welcome and incorporate them into your culture? Do they feel set up for success?

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

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