In a strong job market, an organization trying to hire new talent might feel like having a candidate accept an offer is a victory on its own—getting them in the door is half the battle, right? From that moment forward, the battle for employee engagement and retention continues. The key to success is a strong, consistent onboarding process, starting from offer acceptance to a new hire’s first day and continuing in the months to follow.
Many organizations assume that onboarding happens by osmosis. Their version of onboarding is showing a new employee their desk, handing them some business cards, setting up an email address, and sending them on their way. This doesn’t offer a warm welcome or do much to accelerate a new hire’s time to productivity, let alone inspire any kind of commitment to the organization or passion for the work being done. Employees are no longer just cogs in the company wheel. An engaged employee is an employee who delivers results and serves as a brand ambassador for the company—outcomes that no organization can afford to lose at the hands of a poor onboarding experience.
Developing and following a comprehensive onboarding process provides a solid foundation for new hires and helps them feel like part of the organization from the moment they accept the offer. This may include introducing the new employee to different departments and providing an overview of how their domains intersect, connecting them with their primary contacts, and discussing and describing the culture and standard expectations of behavior and deliverables. Ideally, this would be consistent across the organization, but the size and age of a company will impact what onboarding looks like in practice. Both large and small companies need to develop organized and consistent processes, even if it is an enormous challenge.
Understanding the importance of onboarding is critical because employees, at every level, who aren’t onboarded well typically aren’t as satisfied in the job. Spending too much of their time trying to figure things out —when other people assume they know what to do—can be frustrating and demotivating. It also sends the message that no one is really looking out for their professional development or wellbeing at the organization. Without proper onboarding, there are likely few conversations around how things are going, how the manager is doing, or how the employee likes to be managed. If these conversations are missing, employees don’t develop the strong relationships that are the foundation of a successful and productive team. As they say, “People join organizations—and leave managers.”
If onboarding isn’t a commitment at the organization—leadership hasn’t demonstrated and communicated the value and the success it will bring to engagement— managers should ask HR for methods to develop a more robust onboarding experience. Employees need regular check-ins and an overview of key learning areas. Managing people is challenging and onboarding can enhance the original relationship between colleagues, which enhances long-term organizational success.
At any level, when a weak onboarding experience conveys that the employee is just a cog in the wheel rather than an integral and valued member of the organization, the company loses. It is well worth the time and money to establish a process and provide manager training around onboarding, as it results in new employees who are more effective and actively contributing to the team sooner.