Psychologists claim that first impressions are formed within the first 30 seconds of a meeting, and that brief encounter will set the tone for how the relationship will ultimately develop. Surveys about employee onboarding processes seem to indicate that organizations aren’t putting their best foot forward.
One recent study claims that onboarding is a critical weakness for most organizations, with poor processes often stalling new-hire momentum and disengaging enthusiastic employees during their crucial first weeks on the job. The study by Kronos and the Human Capital Institute concludes that organizations must re-focus onboarding programs to better position new employees for long-term success.
A crucial mistake many companies make is confusing onboarding with orientation. Orientation is a one-time event that typically involves completing a bunch of paperwork. Onboarding is a series of events, including orientation, that should introduce new hires to the company culture, prepare them for expectations and provide them with some of the tools and insight they need to be successful.
However, the vast majority of HR professionals surveyed by Kronos say their onboarding practices miss the mark. Roughly three-quarters say their organizations strongly emphasize paperwork, reviewing rules and regulations, and administrative tasks such as issuing keys, access cards and office supplies. Only about one-third said they emphasize strategic activities such as peer mentoring, introduction to training resources and meetings with key stakeholders — activities that have been shown to increase employee satisfaction and contribute to long-term success.
The fact is, onboarding is not just some perfunctory activity requiring little thought or enthusiasm. Poor processes that create a negative impression can actually impact your bottom line. It can negatively affect employees’ outlook, enthusiasm and commitment, which can ultimately lead to inefficiency and high turnover rates. Studies show that roughly 33 percent of employees decide to stay onboard with a firm or jump ship within their first 30 days of employment.
Human resource professionals suggest a number of best practices to incorporate into the onboarding process to set the stage for a good work relationship and improve retention. Consider making the following tips part of your onboarding plan:
Be prepared. Have the new employee’s desk, computer, phone and email set up and ready to go on the first day. Stepping into a new job without any of the basics makes people feel that they aren’t valued, and that’s no way to begin a work relationship.
Make introductions. Send out a company-wide email introducing the new hire and encourage team members to be cordial. Have someone from HR — or better yet, the direct supervisor — give a tour of the office and make an introduction to coworkers. Consider planning a first-day lunch for the new employee with key coworkers and supervisors.
Go easy on the paperwork. It is unfortunately common to spend the entire first day at a new job wading through tax forms, payroll forms, non-disclosure agreements, employee handbooks and more. Consider spreading it over a few days. Better yet, consider using onboarding software through an HR portal so you can put all necessary forms online and assign due dates for completion.
Schedule training. Don’t expect new hires to hit the ground running. Schedule hands-on training to cover company rules, processes and expectations. They likely will also require training in your company’s core applications and IT policies. Make sure they have user guides, documentation and contact information for your help desk or managed services provider.
The humorist Will Rogers once noted that we never get a second chance to make a good first impression. The onboarding process is a key part of building a good relationship that benefits both the employee and the employer.