Research reports that an employee’s most productive time in a new job is within their first six months of employment – meaning employers have a unique opportunity to train, engage and build relationships with their most recent hires during this honeymoon period. In a new world shaped by COVID-19, with employees switching jobs at record rates, this time is even more critical.
How to Improve Your Company’s Onboarding Experience
Onboarding should be a magical time for new employees who are still in the proverbial honeymoon period. But the reality doesn’t quite line up. Research tells us that often their first few months are a time filled with anxiety, confusion and stress.
We can mitigate a great deal of new hire anxiety and improve the experience – and increase employee loyalty and longevity – by rethinking early talent management in five key ways.
1. Help Employees Build Connections
Whether it’s a new hire lunch (in person or virtual), team-building activity or strategic introductions to team members, friendships and relationships are critical to retention. Use introductions to provide your new hires with access to employees at your company who would make good mentors. Providing mentoring support will give your new hires an additional layer of comfort at their new job, the possibility of mentor/mentee relationships that continue past new employee orientation and opportunities for ongoing learning, support and talent development.
2. Create a Communication Onboarding Process and Workflow Plan
Put a communication plan in place. This plan should include key touch points and planned communications, beginning on the employee’s first day. A good cadence is generally at two weeks, 30 days, 45 days and 60 days into their tenure.
Google’s analytics team has led the way in determining which factors have the highest positive impact on new hire productivity. For them, human resources (or people operations) is a science. They’re always testing to find ways to optimize their people, both in terms of happiness and performance. In fact, almost everything Google does is based on data, so it should come as no surprise they use data to gauge employee performance and improve productivity.
3. Encourage Managers to Engage with New Hires
A new employee’s manager is one of the most important people in the onboarding experience – and gaining their support may directly improve or undermine a new hire’s chances of success, as well as their long-term talent development. In a study that followed 409 college graduates through their first two years on the job, the degree of supervisor support that new employees felt had implications for role clarity, job satisfaction and even their salary over time. Another study found that supervisors can promote or inhibit newcomer adjustment through their supportive or obstructive behaviors. It’s critically important that effective onboarding programs consider not just the experience of the newcomer, but also that of the hiring managers.
Ask managers to share department and team goals, key performance metrics and their management style to help new hires understand key priorities and what to expect. A localized departmental version of onboarding will help your new hires immediately understand the focus and the priorities of their new department and team.
4 Ask for Feedback and Input
This is ultimately for your benefit, HR. Without the data from feedback, you have no way of measuring the success of your onboarding program, the increased investment you’ve asked for from your executive team or departmental success. It can also lessen the impact of your talent management and talent development processes and strategies.
One of the most obvious and beneficial ways to improve your onboarding program with data is to survey employees that went through your new hire training after one, six, and 12 months have passed. Use that survey data to identify the program components that worked, those that need improvement and areas where additional action is required.
5. Create a Pre-employment Onboarding Guide or Communication Campaign
A highly effective way of reducing ‘first day’ stress before your new hires even begin orientation is to get them fully engaged with the company. This is where technology support comes in.
Giving access to your internal employee site as soon as an offer is accepted is a great way to get new hires acclimated quickly. This should be a destination for incoming new employees to find everything they need to know about working at your company, including:
- Standard operating procedures
- What technology the company uses
- Your company values
- Fun off-the-clock tips
Onboarding has been treated as a single event rather than a process: new hires are passive participants in one- or two-day orientations. They receive information about policies and procedures, sign lots of paperwork and are given a tour if on site. But today’s talent economy requires forward-thinking companies to assess how they bring new employees into their company culture and get them up to speed, often virtually, so they can be productive as quickly as possible.
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