Onboarding: Do We Know It All Yet?

Nov 20th 2013
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By Nicholas Roi, Managing Director, SilkRoad UK

This article was originally published on HR Zone, one of our UK sister sites.

You might think there's nothing new to learn about onboarding, but you'd be wrong. Onboarding is currently one of the most important business strategies, and many companies are still trying to perfect the process.

So it was with great interest that we read a recent survey report on onboarding by Aberdeen Group. By offering examples from 230 surveyed organizations, Aberdeen Group aimed to demonstrate best-practice onboarding.

Here's what the Aberdeen Group found.

Strategy is the key to success . . . 

According to the report, best-in-class companies display a number of common characteristics. Primarily, they're all very strategic in their approach to onboarding. They can be seen to align the objectives of their onboarding programs with the long-term goals of their business and have similarly put schemes in place to drive staff engagement and productivity.

More than that, every best-in-class organization has invested in some form of technology in order to centralize and aid the onboarding process.

. . . or is it technology?

This last point confirms what we believe – that a centralized process, supported by technology, is important for smooth onboarding. It enables every team member to be well prepared for a new employee's arrival, helps managers allocate and track onboarding roles, reduces the associated administrative burden, and eliminates process inconsistencies. It has been proven to reduce the time it takes for new hires to reach full productivity in their role and can even decrease staff turnover.

Yet it would be naive to assume that technology alone can secure success. As the report indicates, onboarding must also be measurable with key metrics defined and accountability made clear; there should be clear ownership of the program – an HR director, for example. Without these metrics, there would be no checks in place to ensure that the onboarding practice was being managed correctly.

Time is precious

Though the benefits of a successful onboarding program can be equated to staff engagement and job satisfaction, Aberdeen Group found that only 15 percent of companies continue with their onboarding programs past six months. Only 2 percent extend onboarding to a year and beyond, and yet 90 percent of businesses recognize that employees choose whether to remain with a company or move on within the first year.

The assertion is that companies should dedicate time throughout employees' first year and beyond, engaging with them and convincing them that the company objectives are aligned with their personal career goals. Doing this would contribute toward the lowering of staff turnover figures and would therefore increase profitability – hiring new employees is an expensive process. Aberdeen Group supports this suggestion with the fact that best-in-class organizations improved revenue per full-time employee by 17 percent.

A strategic future

Aberdeen Group also points out that best-in-class companies tend to focus on new-hire socialization. Socialization, whereby new employees are immediately introduced to colleagues in order to build rapport, has been a growing trend for some time now and has been shown to significantly improve staff morale.

But socialization isn't the only strategy being employed by businesses looking to improve their onboarding process. Gamification, in which new hires are taken through the company and their new role in the form of a game, is gaining traction as is cross-boarding, in which onboarding is linked directly with learning, requiring fewer tactical activities than traditional onboarding.

What Aberdeen Group's report confirms to us is that there's still plenty to learn about onboarding, and much of this can be gleaned from businesses already experiencing the benefits of strategically implemented onboarding programs. And while we can't definitively say what strategy will dominate onboarding in the next five, ten, or fifteen years, we can say with confidence that treating the onboarding process as a checklist of tasks will not result in happy, engaged, and therefore productive employees.


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