6 Signs Your Onboarding Strategy Needs a Makeover


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Are your onboarding processes in need of an overhaul? How do you know? Keep an eye out for these telltale signs.

Article 5 Minutes
6 Signs Your Onboarding Strategy Needs a Makeover

Onboarding a new employee is one of the most vital activities the HR department oversees. Done effectively, it ensures new hires can quickly become effective, productive employees who will remain loyal to the company for years to come.

Yet many organizations still fail at this. According to Gallup, just 12% of employees strongly agree their onboarding process does a good job of getting them ready for life in the company.

This can mean new hires are less motivated, unaware of key elements of how the organization works, and will feel less involved in the business. All of this means they'll be less productive and more likely to leave quickly, leaving you to waste time and money starting the process all over again.

So how do you know if your onboarding programs are working effectively? Here are six signs to look out for, and what you can do about them.

1. You have a high turnover rate

The biggest red flag for any onboarding process is a high turnover rate among new hires. As many as one in five employees will leave within the first two months, and the blame for this can't always be put on poor hiring practices. Often, it's the initial experiences of life within the company that drive people away.

High turnover rates are an indicator that new employees aren't engaged with the company and don't believe it will fit their values or expectations, and can be particularly problematic for roles where the fight for talent is fierce. It's therefore a reminder that successfully finding the right candidate is just the start of the work; you still need to impress them once they've come through the door.

2. Your program is too short or basic

For many businesses, onboarding may involve little more than giving new hires a tour of the office, a presentation on the company values and a stack of policies and guides to read through. According to the Human Capital Institute, most organizations' onboarding processes only last a week before employees are dropped into the day-to-day job.

To change this, onboarding must be viewed as a long-term investment. The best programs will last at least 90 days, but you should have plans to keep checking in for up to a year to ensure new recruits have found their feet and are able to be as productive as possible. This ensures employees feel supported and part of the company's culture for the long-term.

3. Everyone goes through the same process

Maintaining a one-size-fits-all approach to onboarding can also hinder your employees' performance. The hiring process will have focused heavily on each candidate's unique skills, interests and personality, so reverting to a standard format where everyone receives the same formal introduction and training modules will undermine this and do nothing to make the individual feel welcome.

Tailoring onboarding processes to each person's skills or role is a must. This should start with prioritizing what they'll need to know - for instance, there's no point making them go through customer contact policies if they're working in a purely internal role. But beyond this, personalizing the program with activities and materials that match their interests can go a long way to making people feel like a welcome addition to the team.

4.  Your induction doesn't cover social aspects

Many onboarding processes remain highly process-based, with little info about the company culture or social aspects - yet for many employees, especially younger workers, these are the most important aspects of their career.

Having a strong focus on the social element also helps people overcome some of the most common worries about starting in a new environment. For instance, one in three people (33%) say they dread adapting to office politics more than learning protocol or filling out paperwork, so helping them navigate this can be hugely useful. Consider assigning a mentor or buddy to help - 87% of organizations that do this say it's effective in speeding up a new hire’s proficiency.

5. There's still a lot of paperwork

Is the first day of a new hire's job spent filling out forms, before being presented with a stack of written training materials? If so, you need to rethink your strategy, as this gives off a poor first impression and can leave employees feeling the company isn't forward-thinking or progressive.

While some documentation will be necessary, you can simplify and modernize the process by allowing new hires to enter key details digitally before they even start as part of a preboarding process. On a wider level, replacing old user manuals with more interactive, multimedia alternatives helps keep new hires motivated and engaged with the material.

6. You haven't reviewed your onboarding for years

Finally, a major sign that you need to overhaul your onboarding is simply if you haven't reviewed this in a while. Even if you're still using last year's employee handbook, this is likely to have become outdated in a few areas, while one in ten firms are still using materials that are at least three years out of date.

Regularly reviewing your policies is about more than ensuring your new hires aren't working off old or irrelevant information. It also allows you to highlight any changes in the company culture and embrace new technology that could make the process easier and more fun for users.

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