Rethinking New Hire Onboarding

Alexandra Levit, People Results
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The world of work is changing, and talent acquisition is no exception. At this week’s SilkRoad Connections conference, IDC Research Director Kyle Lagunas discussed the impact that social and mobile technologies have had on the candidate experience.

Increasingly, candidates are our customers, hiring processes are collaborative, and talent acquisition and marketing are attracting top talent and managing company reputations via a powerful employer brand. We are part of one global economy, using one global talent pool, and leveraging a myriad of data sources to make decisions.

However, recruiting has traditionally been a cost center and measures of success have been focused on efficiency. Those organizations that have embraced more modern recruiting practices are grappling with old metrics. Today’s most effective hiring organizations are leveraging talent analytics to optimize recruiting efforts for a competitive advantage.

Moving Beyond the Administrative

Onboarding is so much more than an administrative checklist. It’s a critical juncture in HCM between the talent acquisition and talent management processes. According to a recent IDC survey, 77 percent of organizations say that onboarding is at least “very important,” yet statistics on the level of sophistication of current efforts don’t bear this out.

After the recruitment and offer phases, most organizations go into radio silence mode until a candidate’s first day. Lagunas said that 63 percent of new hires completed forms online prior to their first day, but only 37 percent received calls from their hiring managers and 25 percent received a detailed schedule for their first week. Only 15 percent of employers asked for candidate feedback prior to start date and 17 percent provided multiple communication channels (access to a new hire portal, etc.). In order to elevate onboarding, Lagunas suggested solidifying answers to the following questions:

  • When will onboarding start? Don’t leave everything for Day 1. Pre-onboarding is now a best practice.
  • How long will onboarding last? It often extends beyond the first day and even beyond the first month.
  • What kind of impression will we make? How do we want employees to feel? Challenged, appreciated, amped up? Pre-hire and the first day or two are the ideal times to shape these emotions.
  • How will we support socialization? We need to connect new hires to an organization’s mission and values, and foster meaningful connections with co-workers.
  • What role does everyone play? In addition to HR, what should hiring managers, business unit leaders, and executives be doing to facilitate assimilation?

Activate Talent from Day 0

The new hire adjustment phase is high stakes and high stress, and in fact, 51 percent of senior hires fail within 18 months. Lagunas offered three strategies for activating talent right from the start:

Get them connected: We need to move beyond awkward introductions. Lagunas discussed the breach of belongingness, which means that when we feel like we belong, we are more comfortable asking for help. Therefore, it’s up to HR and hiring managers to facilitate in-depth meetings with co-workers so that new employees can apply their years of experience to new projects and responsibilities. If we help them assimilate into our cultures, they’ll ask more questions, gain confidence, and are more likely to have successful long-term careers in the organization.

Empower with purpose: One of the strongest drivers of engagement is an employee’s feeling that their role has meaning and is not just a job. Organizational purpose goes beyond the mission statement and beyond the fulfillment of commercial and operational goals. The challenge for HR is having a clearly articulated purpose and communicating that from the first. Lagunas reminded us that the work doesn’t need to be changing the world, it just needs to be personally important to employees (i.e. “we offer you the opportunity to master skills and grow your influence”).

 Apply modern measures: In order to take onboarding to the next level, we must elevate the story beyond employee engagement. Our responsibility today is to deliver critical, talent-related insights to the business, and current HR measurement is not especially effective in showcasing this. Much of it is inconsistent and anecdotal, and according to Lagunas, 1 in 5 HR organizations aren’t tracking anything with respect on onboarding! So what measures should we be using? Given that the goal of talent activation is to maximize the contribution of top talent immediately, let’s track whether new hires are achieving more business results at Day 30 this year than they did last year.

What is your organization doing to revolutionize onboarding?

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