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What is New Hire Onboarding?

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New hire onboarding is usually defined as the mechanism through which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors in order to become effective organizational members and insiders. The onboarding process as a whole and the philosophies that encompass it  tend to radically differ from organization to organization. And yet, generally speaking, new hires are usually left unsatisfied by their onboarding experience.

According to the most recent Gallup research on the state of the American workplace, only 12 percent of the more than 195,000 U.S. employees surveyed agreed with the proposition that their organization does a “great job” of onboarding.  With more and more organizations engaging in virtual onboarding amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we decided to highlight some of the common elements and characteristics that we find to be crucial for a successful onboarding process across the whole of our client base.

What follows is a basic onboarding checklist that all organizations should look to incorporate into their digital age onboarding process.

Introduce Policies and Benefits When Onboarding New Employees Prior to Day One

The goal of any onboarding program should be to settle new hires into their roles quickly, efficiently and with as high a degree of positive engagement as possible. And yet, more often than not, new hire onboarding typically begins with the monotony of a conference room, a stack of papers and hours of signing/reading. Many organizations fail to take advantage of the period of time that occurs between when a candidate accepts an offer of employment, and their first day on the job.

Also known as the “pre-boarding” stage, this period offers organizations a unique opportunity to eliminate administrative tasks while introducing new hires to organizational policies and benefits from the comfort of their homes.

Although far from the most exciting part of the onboarding experience, policies and benefits are an essential component to understanding company culture and acceptable behavior. When paired with a powerful SaaS portal, pre-boarding engagement sets the tone for a positive, educational and rewarding onboarding experience.

Define Roles and Responsibilities During Employee Onboarding

Role clarity refers to the extent to which new hires understand the tasks and responsibilities associated with their position. Not only is role clarity a psychological precursor for new hire buy-in, but it is an absolute requirement before new hire productivity can be achieved. Organizations that struggle to communicate to new hires the what, where, when, who and how behind their role are failing to heed one of the most consistent predictors of new hire satisfaction and commitment.

As role clarity proves most effective when viewed through the lens of performance expectations, organizations should consider clarifying roles in tandem with the use of a goal-setting framework. It is here that the objectives and key results methodology (i.e., OKRs) that we have previously discussed with regard to performance management proves instrumental in helping align new hires.  As a bidirectional exercise in goal-setting, OKRs provide clarity and encourage new hires to develop positional objectives that are in harmony with an organization’s overall strategic vision. This information should be presented to new hires by management (not HR!), and sooner rather than later (somewhere within the first 30 days of onboarding is a good rule of thumb).

Incorporate Position-Specific Training in the Onboarding Process

Many HR stakeholders tend to view position-specific training and onboarding as two separate elements of the productivity formula – the former a long-term investment in employee development, the latter an exercise in integration focused on company policy and culture. As such, it’s not uncommon for organizations to treat these two elements as separate components of the talent experience.

While it is true that there exists a degree of separation between each element (as eventually new hire onboarding ends), a successful onboarding process in the interim depends on the degree to which HR and management can achieve a smooth and complementary co-existence between the two.

Although position-specific training is likely to be a long-term skill development endeavor, the primacy of role clarity (see the section above) necessitates that targeted training begins in the initial stages of onboarding.

Similar to a new hire’s introduction to policies and benefits, organizations can (and should) begin delivering tailored training materials to employees in the pre-boarding period. As even the most experienced new hires will be in need of an introduction to the tasks and processes that will come to define their position/role, interactive video and e-learning content are essential resources in the quest for productivity – particularly in remote onboarding scenarios.

Familiarize Employees with Organizational Culture During New Hire Onboarding

Once new hires have completed their administrative tasks and been introduced to their positional responsibilities, it’s time for onboarding to get social. Full assimilation into organizational culture (much like positional training) is an ongoing, lengthy process. And yet, successful new hire onboarding requires a broad and socially infused crash course on the topic.

While it’s true that each and every phase of onboarding will present new hires with the opportunity to absorb company culture through osmosis, the most efficient way to present and nurture culture in new hires is to encourage the development of networks.

Whether through mentorship programs, onboarding “buddies,” or both formal and informal team building activities (e.g., ice breakers, organized lunches, after office drinks, etc.), network building proves effective in stimulating positive engagement while stymying new hire loneliness before it can start.

As many new hires will be onboarding virtually in these uncertain times, onboarding portals can help organizations make new hires feel at home by introducing them to their managers and team members prior to day one. Remember, whether digital or in person, facetime matters. Those organizations that make a concerted effort to encourage network building will position new hires to develop the social fabric needed to not only understand organizational culture, but to quickly contribute to it.

To Conclude…

With most new hires deciding to stay or leave within the first six months of employment, getting the onboarding experience right or wrong can make or break an organization – particularly amid pandemic uncertainty.

As a provider of a best-in-class SaaS onboarding solution to some of the world’s most dynamic enterprise organizations, we recognize that the candidate experience doesn’t end when an offer is signed. To learn more about the steps our clients are taking to ensure a successful onboarding process  in the face of COVID-19, don’t hesitate to reach out today. In the meantime, discover more onboarding insights with our free onboarding infographic.

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