Think Onboarding is a Waste of Time? Only if You’re Doing it Wrong

May 11, 2017 Rosemary Haefner


We know the importance of a first impression. Onboarding is often the first interaction an individual has with their employer when they start a new job, and an employee’s experience in their first few weeks of employment sets the tone for what they can expect throughout their tenure. With a strong onboarding strategy, you can create an engaging, positive work experience for your employees from day one.

Unfortunately, onboarding oftentimes gets overlooked. Employers are busy and are forced to consider onboarding as a “check the box” task to get through as quickly as possible. We recently conducted a survey that found proper onboarding has tangible, positive effects on the business and deserves more attention.

We asked employers that use a structured onboarding process what effects they think it’s had, and they reported that their employees are more engaged (49 percent), more confident (46 percent) and have greater trust in the organization (45 percent). Employers have also seen greater efficiencies (44 percent), as well as higher productivity (42 percent) and morale (38 percent). Thirty-one percent of employers have even seen lower employee turnover, an important metric that often affects a business’ bottom line.

Despite these substantial benefits, we also found over a third (36 percent) of employers do not have a structured onboarding process. I often hear clients ask which components should be included in an onboarding plan, and hear them worry about time constraints. Onboarding doesn’t have to be tedious and time-consuming, you just need to find the right approach. Here are a few tips for creating an impactful onboarding plan: 

  • Introduce new hires to key members of the company. Of course your new hire should obviously meet and know everyone on their immediate team, but think bigger: introduce them to key players across the organization. Set up introductions with employees from different teams so your new hire will find it easier to build relationships across the company, learn more about workplace culture and get a broader view of the company’s direction and growth opportunities.
  • Set clear expectations. Schedule time to meet with your new hire individually on day one, and at least once more during the first week. In this meeting, discuss management styles, expectations of the role and goals of the team. Aim for transparency: the more a new hire learns about how their responsibilities ladder up to the larger goals of the organization, the more driven and engaged they will be in their job. Make sure expectations and metrics are clear as this prevents confusion down the road.
  • Encourage ongoing individual training. Forty-nine percent of employers provide an overview of processes and how things work to their new hires. While this is crucial information, it’s important to remember that training is also an ongoing process – to maximize your employee’s potential, encourage them to seek out a mentor, take advantage of on-the-job training programs or shadow a member of their team.

You’ll notice one element missing in this list of important components: new hire paperwork. Although it may be the first thing you think of when you see the word onboarding, it’s only part of the equation in today’s world of automation.

The importance of automation

Automation can play a strong role in an onboarding program, especially if your business has reached a size where manual processes are taking up more and more time. We’ve come to expect that everything that can be automated, should be. When it’s not, it creates a lesser experience for everyone involved. Onboarding software allows you to do most of the administrative duties (read: paperwork) and scheduling of onboarding automatically, which allows new hires to focus on succeeding in their new role. I encourage our clients to do as much of this paperwork collection before the new hire starts – a “pre-boarding” of sorts – and use technology to collect it as quickly and seamlessly as possible.

Automation not only adds to a richer employee onboarding experience, it can also free up manager time and help employers avoid costly consequences. Nearly half (47 percent) of HR managers say they electronically capture some onboarding information, while 14 percent don’t use technology to capture onboarding information. The data speaks for us here. Manual collection and processing takes time: Fifty-two percent of HR and hiring managers spend more than three hours per employee manually collecting and processing onboarding information, while 26 percent spend more than five hours. When collecting manually, a quarter of employers noticed required documentation was missing, and others reported heavier workloads for HR (23 percent), delayed start dates (22 percent) and higher stress levels for HR (22 percent). Fifteen percent of employers had no record that the employee read and acknowledged company policies and other information, with some candidates even walking away from positions because the process took too long.

Onboarding is a key step to starting your new hire’s relationship with your company off on the right foot. The benefits of a structured process are numerous – increased employee engagement and trust, efficiencies, higher productivity and morale. When employers put together a thoughtful plan, and add in the special sauce of automation, they can expect to reap these rewards and hold onto their talent.

Get tips on how to use technology during the onboarding process.

Rosemary Haefner is the chief human resources officer of CareerBuilder. 

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