Want a great onboarding experience? Understand your audience

Want a great onboarding experience? Understand your audience

HR buzzwords such as onboarding have become widespread in many workplaces. But as a manager, you know that this term is more than just industry jargon - it describes the essential process of bringing new hires up to speed in your organization. An effective onboarding process can positively impact your company's profile with customers, boost the quality of your products and services, improve safety, reduce turnover and absenteeism, and increase profitability.

If you feel that your company's onboarding program doesn't deliver the results you expect, it's time for an overhaul. In this guide, we'll help you implement onboarding strategies that support your organizational goals and values while creating a happy, productive workforce.

The case for a new onboarding approach

Many companies downplay the need for a solid new hire program, but effective onboarding directly influences an employee's success - or lack thereof - at your organization. According to Gallup, only 12% of workers think their companies do a good job of onboarding new workers. The report suggests that this onboarding gap directly contributes to an estimated 50% average turnover rate for employees in their first 18 months on the job.

Transactional vs. transformative onboarding

For effective employee onboarding, you need to flip the script from a series of transactions to a transformative process that incorporates training, education, culture, and values along with the practicalities. A typical transactional onboarding plan covers a few brief points:

  • Policies and procedures
  • Benefits and salary
  • Tax and payroll forms
  • Legal paperwork such as noncompete agreements

While it's important to include these key areas, the ideal employee onboarding program takes an efficient approach to the basics in favor of devoting more time to strengthening the bond that you want new employees to develop with your company. Consider implementing these common transformative onboarding strategies:

  • Invite focused guest speakers from each department to discuss aspects of company culture and values.
  • Pair new employees with mentors who will meet with them consistently in their first 90 days to provide encouragement, guidance, and support.
  • Work with each new hire to set goals for their first 90/180 days with your company, collaborating with the employee's manager to link the training and onboarding process to the organization's broader talent strategy.
  • Have a home base in place for new workers, including an office or workstation with plug-and-play tech so they can hit the ground running.
  • Incorporate feedback and participation from employees at all levels, from other new hires to members of senior leadership.

“The ideal employee onboarding program takes an efficient approach to the basics in favor of devoting more time to strengthening the bond that you want new employees to develop with your company.”

Generational differences in onboarding expectations

To make sure your onboarding plan connects with new team members, you should consider generational preferences and concerns while understanding that these expectations won't necessarily apply to everyone in a particular age group. Here are some general guidelines for addressing generational differences in your onboarding program:

  • Boomers (born 1946 to 1964): This age group may expect and appreciate a traditional employee onboarding experience. Although many boomers are familiar with social media and tech tools used in the workplace, some new hires may require additional support in this area to thrive.
  • Generation X (born 1965 to 1980): Members of Gen X are used to figuring things out on their own thanks to the relatively hands-off parenting approach of the 1970s and 1980s. As a result, they're independent thinkers and prefer on-the-job training to digital modules and paperwork.
  • Millennials (born 1981 to 1996): Flexibility is key with a Millennial workforce. Although pop culture tends to depict this age group as college students, most have been employed for decades and many are caring for both school-age children and aging parents. Members of this generation increasingly bring their socially conscious mindsets to their roles, so it's smart to emphasize opportunities to give back to the community at your workplace.
  • Generation Z (born 1997 to 2012): As the older members of Gen Z enter the workforce, you can cater to these digital natives with fast and easy onboarding processes. For example, consider providing paperwork through an online app or portal so they can get organized before their first day on the job.

These guidelines serve as a starting point, but you can refine your onboarding process by asking each new hire directly about their preferred learning style when they begin a new role.

Capitalizing on culture

Employees want to work for companies that share their values. Hiring for culture fit lets you develop a productive, engaged workforce with long-term potential. However, it's important to ensure that new hire expectations don't lead to culture shock. For example, if you emphasize strong community outreach as part of the core values to attract candidates, make sure you highlight how your statements about company culture translate to action. The onboarding process lets you offer opportunities for employees to get involved in values-based initiatives.

When you ramp up your onboarding game, don't forget to emphasize your new program within your recruitment marketing efforts by promoting it through your career site, social media pages, and other communication channels. Paying attention to the needs of your workforce before they even apply can dramatically increase your ability to build and retain a strong team.

More tips for hiring managers:

Effective onboarding is part of a successful employee recruitment strategy.

Businesses can benefit from pre-onboarding new hires before the first day.

Onboard the right candidates by reviewing resume red flags.

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