Do You Have An On-Boarding Program For Your New Employees?

Posted: 2/18/2015

By: Jill Reynolds, Quantix President and CEO

On-boarding a new employee is critical to the overall success of the organization. At any given time, 25% of the workforce is in transition, whether it is a new job with a new company, a promotion or transfer. This means one quarter of all employees are in need of on-boarding activities. On-boarding is often associated with orientation. However, they are similar but different; on-boarding is more comprehensive and should involve activities throughout the first six months to a year of employment. The highest turnover rate is with employees in their first 18 months of employment, and half of senior-level employees hired from outside the company will quit (or be fired) within 18 months. Changing your thinking to a more long-term approach to on-boarding practices can help to reduce your company's employee turnover during their initial tenure.

Orientation vs. On-Boarding

Orientation should be a baseline introduction to company policies, the physical office, workstations and personnel that is important for the function of their role. It should also contain basic training in order to get the employee to a minimum level of functionality as soon as possible. On-boarding is different, it is a slower process your new employee experiences while getting adjusted to the collaborative and performance aspects of their job and discovering attitudes, knowledge, skill and behaviors to function effectively in your organization.

On-boarding is not a one-time event, but an ongoing process. Can you really expect a new employee to learn everything they need to know about your company and how to function productively in their job in only a few weeks? The SHRM Foundation recently published an article by Talya Baue, in this article she identified the four distinct levels of on-boarding, called The Four C's.

  1. Compliance is the lowest level and includes teaching employees basic legal and policy-related rules and regulations.
  2. Clarification refers to ensuring that employees understand their new jobs and all related expectations.
  3. Culture is a broad category that includes providing employees with a sense of organizational norms- both formal and informal.
  4. Connection refers to the vital interpersonal relationships and information networks that new employees must establish.

Image Credit: InjuryFree, Inc.

Employees need to be fully integrated, not just slotted for their new roles. Facilitating introductions to new colleagues can start collaborative learning that reinforces formalized trainings. Keep things simple. New employees are typically overloaded with information in their first week on the job and bombarded with trainings that aren't relevant for the initial tasks they perform. For example, if you are training an employee on your company's CRM, start with the basics. Teach them how to navigate the system and input and extract data they will be using in their few weeks on the job. Teaching them system functionality they won't be using for several weeks or months can't possibly be retained. Break the training into segments appropriate for the progression of their activities so they can have a hands-on learning experience.

Setting goals, milestones and holding new hires accountable is a key component to on-boarding success. Milestones, such as 30, 60, 90 and 120 days on the job set the proper expectations for everyone. New employees may not be fluent in your company's unique language and jargon, so be clear and specific about activities milestones. Also, don't allow your new hire to unintentionally participate in behaviors that other employees would be reprimanded for. Letting these things slide because "they don't know better" merely postpones future corrective actions.

While a standardized process is important, be sure to allow for individualized on-boarding for each new hire. Even if you are on-boarding more than one new employee at a time, not everyone learns at the same speed and in the same way. Provide opportunities for one-on-one training and interaction tailored to the employee's learning pace and style. Chad Halverson, with When I Work said, "Your employees don't work in a vacuum after they've been trained, so make the experience a social one. Not only will this help the actual on-the-job training, it will allow employees to build social bonds, connect to the company and begin to adjust their own long-term goals with their new positions in mind."

Orientation is a procedure, on-boarding is an investment of time and talent. Improving your on-boarding program yields a recognizable ROI which is talent retention. Your on-boarding program is the first, and in many ways, the only opportunity you have to get your new employees on the right track.