Successful onboarding means not only getting people off to the right start but also maintaining that momentum to get the most out of your investment in new talent. Get onboarding right and you and your new hires will reap the benefits. Get it wrong and you count the cost. So, what are the obstacles to successful onboarding and how do you overcome them?
Onboarding is not just about first impressions (although those certainly count). Onboarding is the first phase of a continuous process of individual and group development that adds value to the organization and realizes the full potential of those you’ve hired.
But for many organizations, onboarding is far from plain sailing. It’s estimated that up to 28% of new hires quit within 90 days of starting a new job because of a poor onboarding experience. That’s a quarter of your investment in new people gone in a quarter of the year. What’s more, to underline the importance of successful onboarding, a survey found that 9 out of 10 new hires would quit within a month if the job didn’t meet their expectations. Remember too that it costs on average 33% of an employee’s annual salary to replace him or her.
Yet, in 2017 the Work Institute’s Retention Report found that 75% of the reasons why employees leave are preventable. So, it’s not inevitable that you lose people. The trick is to figure out why they might leave and pre-empt it. That’s the first challenge of onboarding.
The second is to be proactive: giving them reasons to stay. That means preparing a successful onboarding program that addresses the fundamental challenges at the start, continues employee development through a culture of learning, and responds to new challenges thrown up during periods of disruption such as the current pandemic and the continuing technological revolution.
In times of uncertainty, all norms are challenged. But even so, there are challenges associated with onboarding that need to be addressed regardless of the external business climate. It’s worth considering the perennial obstacles that can prevent onboarding success.
Hiring and training should be considered investments, but it’s remarkable how little time, effort, and money organizations invest in meaningful and successful onboarding. Most companies don’t even evaluate the success or otherwise of their programs or consider feedback from those who’ve gone through the onboarding process. With nothing to benchmark, onboarding programs fail to evolve or take advantage of onboarding differently through new technology or elearning. Failure to pay due attention to onboarding not only exposes you to potential losses in financial and people-power terms but makes it harder to realize potential. You need to see onboarding as a vital stage in a more continuous process of training, reskilling, and general development and resource accordingly.
2. What am I doing here?
Onboarding is often seen as the start of an employee’s relationship with an organization. In fact, that starts with the hiring process where promises are made and certain expectations are set. If onboarding is not considered as part of a continuum from hiring to career development a critical disconnect between hiring and onboarding will occur resulting in a lack of role clarity. Successful onboarding then must be tailored to the role and expectations of new hires, on a personalized level. It must find the balance between the need from an HR point of view to complete administrative tasks such as induction and orientation and allowing time for the new hires to find their feet working in their new job. New employees have a strong sense of the job they’ve come to do and unnecessary obstacles or changes to their roles can lead to a level of dissatisfaction that can cause them to leave within months of arriving.
3. The need for speed
Most hiring is to fulfill a need for increased employee numbers and to fill a marked skills gap. That often means people are hired en masse. It’s not just the new employees who are anxious to get going on the job, but also their teams and managers who have been already waiting for the hiring process to be complete. Yet, you have to find a balance in onboarding between the demands of the business and the need to prepare employees for their new environment and give them the support they need to get up to speed. Technology and digital content can provide extra support in the workflow and allow onboarding and starting work to coexist. This way you establish a healthy link between learning and work and promote the idea of just-in-time learning that will continue as an employee’s role evolves and his or her career takes off.
4. Just too much information
Balance is a key indicator of onboarding success. The need for speed can result in a deluge of information during the first few days of starting a job. This not only results in an (often literal) headache for new employees, it also undermines the impact, quality, and value of that information. The goal for effective onboarding is to deliver the right information at the right time in the right place and for the right target. Using technology to onboard employees online at their pace rather than HR’s can prevent information overload by using a self-serve model while tracking progress, and allowing onboarding and starting work to happen simultaneously.
5. Lack of employee engagement and motivation
Meeting these perennial challenges is designed to avoid another common one: a lack of engagement and motivation. As we’ve seen if you lose new hires early you may have lost them forever. Your onboarding program can’t be seen to stall, nor can new hires feel a sense of drift. Onboarding needs to be personal and relevant. It must be supported by managers and peers so that new hires don’t feel isolated or abandoned. Onboarding has to be inclusive and promote integration. An onboarding process that allows it to take place alongside work and within the workflow is more likely to motivate learners. A program that makes support continuously available as it’s needed and uses technology to monitor and record progress can increase new hire engagement.
6. Train, retain, and retrain
Too often onboarding is regarded as a discrete, one-off event and, worse, a box-ticking exercise that needs to be completed as painlessly as possible. Instead, we need to consider onboarding as a key stage in a journey to mature development. Onboarding should be about promoting a culture of learning and development, a continuous process that is part of an employee’s work for as long as he or she stays with the organization. Onboarding is not simply about form filling and meeting your managers and peers, it’s about setting expectations and promoting an ethos of development which includes the opportunity to upskill and reskill as an organization demands and individuals desire.
Added to the perennial obstacles that attend onboarding are new ones that arise out of changes to the larger economy and to work practices. Today, organizations may need to respond to new demands by hiring large numbers of staff at a single go. Those staff may be casual or temporary but will still need some form of onboarding. Increasingly there’s a need to onboard teams in different geographies. And many new hires will be working remotely.
In these new circumstances, there’s a need to do onboarding differently. This may involve employing batch onboarding where large numbers of employees are onboarded together without succumbing to a one-size-fits-all approach. Here, as with the perennial onboarding challenges, online, digital onboarding is increasingly seen as an effective solution.
Once you have hired the right people you need to provide them with the best start to their careers. But the workforce and our ways of working are changing fast. As such, now is the time to reimagine onboarding programs and processes to respond to this new environment—especially if you’re remotely onboarding employees.
Effective onboarding has never been more critical. Get in touch to find out how Learning Pool can streamline your onboarding process.
Peter has been part of Learning Pool for 9 years. He’s responsible for making sure our customers get the very best from our service and is renowned for his attention to detail and endless patience!
When not at work, Pete enjoys spending time with his family and is a keen photographer, capturing stunning landscapes from around Ireland and beyond.
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