I estimate there will be a lot of ‘first days’ for staff in January 2014, if the volume of assessment testing for recruitment that we did leading up to Christmas is anything to go by. But consider these facts:
- Half of all senior external hires fail within 18 months in a new position;
- Almost 1/3 of all new hires employed for less than 6 months are already job searching;
- According to the US Dept of Labour, a total of 25% of the working population undergoes a career transition each year.
This level of churn comes at a cost. Estimates of direct and indirect costs for a failed executive-level hire can be as high as $2.7 million (Watkins, 2003). And for each employee who moves on, there is many others in the extended network – peers, bosses, and direct reports whose performance is also influenced. One of the important ways that HR can positively impact on this level of churn is through the strategic use of a process known as onboarding.
What is Onboarding?
Employee onboarding is the process of getting new hires positively adjusted to the role, social, and cultural aspects of their new jobs as quickly and smoothly as possible. It is a process through which new hires learn the knowledge, skills, and behaviours required to function effectively within an organisation. The bottom line is that the sooner we can bring people up to speed in their roles and wider organisation, the more expediently they will contribute.
Conventional wisdom is that a new hire will take approximately 6 months before they can meaningfully contribute (Watkins, 2003). I suspect that for most organisations, a 6 month lag time before seeing a return on a new hire is untenable, particularly in the NZ economy when 97.2% of us employ less than 20 staff (MBIE Fact Sheet, 2013). One of the important ways that HR can accelerate the adjustment process for new hires is by having an onboarding programme that is given a profile inside the business and supported by key staff.
While the specifics of an onboarding programme can vary organisation to organisation, the below is offered as a guide for HR managers to proactively manage their onboarding efforts.
Top Tips for Supporting Staff Onboarding
- Make good use of the pre-start to get the workspace organised, to schedule key meetings, and for sharing useful organisational and team information (i.e., team bio’s, blogs, key organisational reading).
- Give your onboarding programme a brand/logo/tagline that communicates the experience and gives it importance/profile.
- Customise your onboarding programme to reflect individual need; onboarding is not a one-size fits all.
- Personalise the first day, including a formal announcement of entry
- Create an onboarding plan detailing key projects, firsts, objectives, and deliverables that are expected by your new hire.
- Monitor progress over time using milestones; 30 – 60 – 90 – 120 days up to 1-year post-entry.
- Identify 2-3 quick wins that your new hire can take responsibility for in order to build credibility and establish momentum (note: a quick win must be a meaningful win, not necessarily a big win).
- Involve your new hire in projects that will require working cross-functionally.
- Include organisational role models as mentors and coaches. Remember a relatively small set of connections is far better than a lot of superficial acquaintances.
- Be prepared to provide initial structure and direction to your new hire. Remember, most people if thrown in the deep end to ‘sink or swim’ will sink.
- Use technology to facilitate the onboarding process, including the flow of information.