The process of employee engagement begins during the search and interview stages but really kicks off in earnest when s/he formally reports for work. For every new hire, irrespective of seniority, location and role, the first few days are vital. This is the time when s/he meets new colleagues, peers and team members and starts to get a feel for the new workplace, its culture and policies. What the organization, represented mainly by the Hiring Manager (and assisted by HR and other support functions), does to make the first few days smooth, easy and memorable for new hires is the essence of “Onboarding”.
Here are two data points quoted in https://blog.octanner.com/editor-picks/an-onboarding-checklist-for-success-infographic that reinforce the importance of onboarding:
- Up to 20% of turnover happens within the first 45 days of employment; and
- 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experience great onboarding.
Although organizations have been paying a lot more attention to on-boarding because they realize how critical the early days are to forge strong bonds between the new hire and the organization, the process needs to be constantly reviewed and tweaked as the workforce becomes more multicultural, multilingual and gender-diverse. The fact that work forces now include a mix of generations makes the task more challenging simply because employees from different generations have different degrees of comfort with digital technology, sticking to rules etc. On-boarding is important not just for senior hires; even more junior recruits need to be on-boarded with care and diligence.
On-boarding programs must be efficient, effective and personalized. Hiring Managers must take the lead in ensuring a pleasant on-boarding experience for the new hire(s). This needs Hiring Managers to do the following:
- Paint an honest picture of the organization’s culture and ways of working during the interviewing phase, so that new hires do not experience dissonance caused by a reality that is different from what s/he expected.
- Ensure that the new hire is made to feel welcome. This means having office seating, stationery, configured laptop and mobile phone, email id, etc. ready.
- Introduce the new hire to his/her colleagues, managers and reports. If a buddy or mentoring system exists, facilitating such introductions should also be part of the onboarding process.
After allowing new hires a day or two to get physically settled in, Hiring Managers must spend enough time briefing the new hires on the business strategy, organizational culture, team goals, KRAs/expectations etc. Needless to say, what is covered and the level of detail will depend on the new hire’s role and seniority. Relevant documents must be shared to allow the new hire to study them and ask questions, offer suggestions etc. In fact, this is a great way for the Hiring Manager to walk the talk by showing the new hire that the organization values new ideas or that open and honest communication is encouraged.
According to research, “companies that invest in on-boarding experience 2.5 times the revenue growth and 1.9 times the profit margin of companies that don’t. (source)
Just as there is a lot of effort taken to harmonize other processes globally, on-boarding too needs to be standardized across all locations, so that new hires everywhere will have a similar experience. It may therefore be useful to have people from the HR team specialize in on-boarding. Empower them to build networks across other support functions in the organization so that they can get things done quickly. If your organization operates across countries, find out what they do so you can adopt and adapt best practices.
Here are some practices that can easily improve your organization’s on-boarding processes:
- The Hiring Manager must ensure that someone from the HR team is specifically available to meet the new hire when s/he reports to the reception and helps in completing all administrative formalities (e.g. ID, biometric access, business cards, IT systems and access, bank accounts for payroll, application for corporate credit cards, cafeteria cards, parking slots etc.). Obviously, the specific tasks will depend on the new hire’s seniority, role etc.
- The HR point of contact must escort the new hire to his/her Hiring Manager’s desk/room.
- Hiring managers must ensure that they personally meet the new hire on the first day. If a personal meeting is unavoidable, a call is essential, and must be followed by a personal meeting at the earliest opportunity.
- Ideally, on the first day itself, the Hiring Manager must send out an introductory email to people in the organization who will eventually become key members of the new hire’s professional network. This should be done after the new hire’s email has been activated so that s/he can respond and start integrating with the organization.
- After the new hire has spent a couple of weeks in their role, the Hiring Manager must meet with him/her to find out how they’re settling in and if there’s something more they need. Having been told of any “gaps”, the Hiring Manager must make all reasonable attempts to plug them. If there are specific reasons why such gaps cannot be filled, s/he must close the loop with the executive. This might not sound like a big deal, but is an example of the “honest and open communication” that the candidate was told to expect.
You can read some truly fascinating statistics about on-boarding here.
An ancient saying reminds us that even a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. So also, the journey of employee engagement begins with on-boarding. It would be naïve to expect high levels of engagement (and hence, loyalty and performance) from employees whose on-boarding experience was disappointing.