Bringing on a new employee is a two-stage process. And each stage is equally important to ensure a successful and lasting hire. The first stage consists of recruiting and hiring the right candidate. The second involves orienting and integrating the new hire into the firm and the team with effective employee onboarding.
Many employers expend considerable time and resources on the first stage. Far fewer pay adequate attention to the second. In a survey conducted by the Gallup organization, only 12 percent of employees strongly agreed that their company does a good job of onboarding new employees. It’s not surprising, then, that the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports 31 percent of new hires are likely to leave within the first six months of being on the job. And up to 50 percent leave within the first 18 months.
SHRM estimates it costs six to nine months of an employee’s salary to replace them. That does not take into account the disruption and subsequent loss of productivity experienced by the rest of the team. Giving proper attention to the employee onboarding process just makes good fiscal sense and benefits everyone.
Onboarding vs. Orientation
In some workplaces, a hearty welcome aboard, a handshake and a donut are all a new hire can expect by way of employee onboarding. Once the festivities break up, they are left to sink or swim in their new position. More frequently, the new hire will be given an orientation that can vary in length from a few hours to a few days. During this orientation, they are introduced to other team members and are informed of the firm’s policies, processes and procedures. They may be assigned to another employee that they can go to with questions.
Onboarding, explains SHRM, involves more than just orienting the new hire to the workplace. It is an ongoing process designed to integrate the new employee into the firm and their team. It starts with the offer letter and continues through a series of “firsts” for the employee, guiding and supporting them through their first day on the job, their first meeting with their manager or supervisor, their first meeting with the rest of their team, their first staff meeting, their first project, their first employee evaluation process, and so forth. At each point in the process the unspoken messages are clear: We’re glad you’re here, we want you to succeed, we will help you to succeed, and we are all in this together.
Communication and Follow Up
It’s astounding how little communication and interaction new hires often receive. Employers seem to presume that since job duties and responsibilities were discussed during the hiring process, the employee should be able to hit the ground running from day one. No need for employee onboarding then, right? Even the most experienced, brightest, self-motivated employee needs time to adjust to a new work culture, learn the ropes, and form relationships with the rest of the team.
Once the employee has accepted the offer letter, follow up with a friendly email welcoming them to the firm. Provide them in advance with copies of the firm’s policies and procedures. Establish the date and time when they will start work. Tell them who is assigned to meet them when they arrive at the office. Give them an agenda outlining what activities they will participate in on their first day.
Before their arrival, ensure that their workspace is properly set up and stocked with the materials and equipment they will need to do their job. Be sure to include time in the agenda on the first day to have someone walk them through what devices and other technologies will need to be used, provide them with their log-in information, and tell them how to get help if they encounter a problem.
In the ensuing days and weeks, follow-up periodically to ask the employee how they are doing, if they feel stimulated and challenged by their work, if they have the resources they need to accomplish their assignments properly, and what questions or suggestions they have regarding their work or that of the firm. Also check in with members of the team to see how well the new employee is getting along with others. It is common for employee onboarding to lack initial assignments, especially if their managers are already busy. So new hires should have frequent check-ins to make sure they have enough work on their plate.
During the first six months to a year, it’s crucial that the new employee receive regular feedback and encouragement. You don’t want to micromanage. But you do want to reinforce desirable behaviors and work habits and to correct or discourage undesirable ones. This will help the employee to more successfully adapt and integrate into the firm’s culture. It also reinforces the message that management is paying attention and wants them to succeed.
This is especially the case whenever the employee is presented with a new “first.” Check in to ensure they are clear on what is expected of them, what processes or procedures they have to follow, and to assess how comfortable and confident they feel in accomplishing or complying with whatever is being asked of them.
All of the above goes double if the new hire is working primarily or wholly remotely. You need to make an extra effort to engage with them, provide feedback, and make them feel they are an equally-valued member of the team.
Devoting time and attention to proper employee onboarding is one of the surest ways to retain them for the long haul. It also increases the likelihood that the new hire will excel as a highly-engaged high performer. Think of it as an investment in your firm’s future success.
For more insights and tips on employee onboarding, listen to our podcast, “The Inside Scoop on Hiring and Retaining,” with Ken Roberts of Interior Talent.