It is no secret that hiring in today’s workforce climate is incredibly difficult. Workers are expecting higher wages, labor shortages are widespread, and employees who are hired and then trained are more likely to leave for a better paying job. It is also no secret that the cost of turnover is high – likely higher than many employers even realize. Thus, employers need to find more ways to engage and retain their employees early on in the new hire process, and structured onboarding programs are one way they are able to achieve this goal.
Every successful onboarding program begins before an offer of employment is made. Many organizations who have trouble developing a high-quality talent pool ensure that their outreach and communication prior to hiring meets the needs of those who are applying for the job. Applicants often need to be able to see themselves working within an organization’s workplace, performing the jobs for which they are applying, and working together with the organization’s existing employees. Facility tours and job shadowing are effective in helping applicants accomplish this task by helping them see themselves in the role for which they are applying.
A structured onboarding program helps employers to attract and retain good talent. By engaging employees early on in the onboarding program through forging connections and building trust, the organization will ultimately decrease turnover in the future. When the realization is made that an organization’s onboarding program needs a good makeover, it takes both buy-in from key stakeholders at the top, department heads, and HR representatives in order to guarantee that all aspects of the organization will be covered throughout the process. Not only is it important to include key stakeholders, department heads, and HR representatives, it is also important to include managers to get their buy-in, as they will be essential to the success of the structured onboarding process.
New employees should know immediately what is expected of them and the manager’s role is to convey that information while being consistent from one new employee to the next. One of the biggest mistakes organizations make is assuming that new employees already understand how to do their jobs and are ready to work on their first day of employment. This is a signal to the new employee that the organization does not care about their success, ultimately leading them to voluntarily terminate their employment with the new employer.
Employers should strive to make new employee orientation one of the first steps to their structured onboarding process. Depending on the type and size of an organization, this may last a week, or maybe even a month. The first 90-days are crucial in the employee’s lifecycle within the organization. This is their time to prove themselves, as well as the organization’s chance to make an impression on the new employee allowing for the possibility of greater retention. It is also important to note, the sooner an employee understands the day-to-day operations of the organization, the sooner they are able to begin adding to the bottom-line results.
In addition to new employee orientation and good first impressions, new employees want to know what career progression opportunities may be available for them within their new job. Many new employees may have had numerous, short-term, dead-end jobs prior to coming to work for the new employer. It is important to develop career paths for each job within the organization, as applicable. Some jobs will not have a career path as there may be no lateral, or vertical movement possible for the type of role. Employees who see and feel themselves growing within the organization are much more likely to stay with that organization.
Technology may play a vital role in an effective and efficient structured onboarding process. While the employee is working on portions of the onboarding process that involves the use of technology for training, it will allow for human capital loss to be minimized. However, there is still no replacement for the face-to-face onboarding where a manager, or mentor, is working with a new employee. Each department within the organization should be required to be involved in the structured onboarding process so that the new employee better understands how their job fits into the bigger picture of the organization as a whole. So, a combination of both technology-based training and face-to-face mentoring is the best solution for a successful structured onboarding program.
Engaging employees early on is important. It is important to show new employees how they are able to contribute to the success of the organization. Rotational training programs allow new employees to stay motivated and engaged by learning additional information about different aspects of an organization while exhibiting their questions and ideas throughout each area. Rotational programs may be costly, however, their benefit of decreasing turnover in the grand scheme of things, far outweighs the cost of implementing a rotational program.
A structured onboarding program allows employees to understand what will be expected of them before their first day as well as how their job fits within the organization as a whole. Employers should highly consider taking a look at their existing onboarding efforts to ensure that employees are engaged from the very beginning. This will ultimately increase engagement between employees, increase retention, and ultimately add to the bottom-line results of the organization.
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Written by: Patrick McKenna, SHRM-CP