Earlier this month, Everwise hosted a popular webinar on “Employee Onboarding Done Right” with Kathi Enderes, Former Senior Director of Organizational Effectiveness at Kaiser Permanente. A human resources executive with over 20 years of global experience in talent, performance and change management for companies ranging from Fortune 50s to start-ups, Kathi has a passion for unlocking organizational and employee potential through effective use of technology. She takes an analytical, systems-thinking approach to identify issues, develop and implement solutions, and increase individual, team and organizational effectiveness. She offered to share her expertise with our community on the importance of setting up new employees for long-term success and how to create a more effective onboarding program. Here are key takeaways from the webinar:
Why onboarding matters
In today’s talent constrained environment, lots of effort is spent identifying, attracting and hiring the right people. But what happens once your valuable talent walks in the door? Designing the right program for your particular organization delivers real value to the business. Onboarding has a significant impact on talent outcome – 69% of employees are more likely to stay for at least three years after a great onboarding experience. It also results in 20% higher engagement, 50% higher retention and 54% higher productivity.
Onboarding is the employee’s first window into the culture and is the company’s first, and potentially last, opportunity to convey what the organization values and prioritizes. Not investing in employees upfront sends the wrong signal, one that can be difficult to overcome. Many smaller companies face an investment conundrum between impact and scalability. Premium learning programs such as multi-day coaching, retreats and offsites have tremendous impact for those who participate; however, companies are only able to invest in 10% of the employee population with those types programs. Scalable learning solutions such as an employee handbook and eLearning courses are affordable but yield less than desirable outcomes.
It’s important to find the right balance. New hires generally decide within the first few days whether they are going to fit into a new role and 4% decide to leave after a disastrous first day.
Designing the right program
The first step is to think about all the touchpoints and groups of people involved in bringing someone on board. Technology, finance, facilities, HR and more need to work together to get the new hire set up. If this isn’t carefully coordinated, it can lead to a bad new hire experience.
The process should be viewed from the perspective of the new employee. The most important questions to them are: Do I feel welcome? Can I do my job? and Do I belong here? And all three questions need to be positively answered for that employee to be productive in the new environment.
“Do I feel welcome?” addresses the basics – payroll, benefits, computer, phone, etc. – that a new employee needs in order to move forward to the next level of onboarding. While many companies will turn the benefits orientation into a long presentation, the same came be accomplished by letting new hires know where to go for information and who to reach out to for specifics.
“Can I do my job?” addresses skills the employee needs to build in order to perform well in their job. These tools and resources are essential to helping the new hire understand their new role. Facilitating goal meetings with the manager early on for the employee to understand what is expected of them and how their performance will be evaluated is a great way to set an employee up for success.
“Do I belong here?” has to do with collaboration, culture and connections. The best companies incorporate these elements throughout the preboarding and onboarding process, making sure that the person’s values align with those of the organization, providing a sense of belonging and establishing connections within the organization.
Onboarding best practices
“You want to make sure that your program fits the culture and environment that you’re building it for,” says Kathi. Whether you are starting out with a new program or trying to improve an existing one, here are three ways to make onboarding more effective.
Start early. Starting onboarding at offer acceptance can increase first-year retention by as much as 80%. Preboarding makes new hires feel welcome and connected. “You want to start with the new hire experience in mind and build something memorable in the time before the start to bring people over excited and ready to go,” says Kathi. For example, weekly videos of employees can help new hires understand the culture and environment before they arrive.
Automate the experience for a seamless onboarding experience. Without automation, onboarding is often labor intensive and inconsistent. Manual processes inhibit scalability, timeliness and personalization. With new technology, it’s easy to customize programs to suit the needs of the organization and to tailor the approach to how a new hire learns and establishes connections. Technology also plays a big part in making it scalable. “Determine how you can use onboarding to enable new hires to learn to be successful in their jobs faster,” says Kathi.
Make it social. Only 1 in 3 companies provide an onboarding buddy or mentor for a new hire. The social element makes the process memorable and also accelerates learning. “Finding ways to help establish group connections very early on helps make the new hires feel welcome,” says Kathi. A buddy or mentor also becomes a resource for feedback and guidance. New hires benefit from having their own support system and the wisdom of the crowd versus one individual to help them through the onboarding experience.
When you’re bringing in new people, it’s critical to set a positive tone. To ensure that you achieve that goal, stay close to new employees and ask for feedback, send timely requests and listen to feedback from new hires going though the process. Being agile in improving the new hire onboarding experience is important. By demonstrating that the company cares about its employees throughout the onboarding process, you are also reinforcing what a company values most – its employees, their opinions and their retention.
View a recording of the webinar here.