This article is part three of our article series on talent life cycle. You can find the links to the previous two articles at the bottom of this article.

Did you know that 22% of employee turnover happens within the first 45 days of employment? What a shocker. Or, is it?

Many firms commit the mistake of expecting employees to get in the game and up to speed within the first week or two. That’s practically the length of most onboarding processes in place.

Research, however, shows that a successful onboarding process takes more than 14 days or more than 45 days. It should take at least 90 days. According to the book, The First 90 Days, it takes around 12 to 13 weeks (roughly 90 days) for an employee to start adding value to a team. This means that the first 12 weeks are an investment to train the new hire.

The logic behind a longer onboarding process is pretty simple. It takes long to adjust to a new environment. It takes some time to learn the ins and outs. It takes some time to learn different tools and processes, especially new, unfamiliar ones.

Firms spend tremendous time and effort on the recruitment and hiring process but forget to give make sure new hires stay engaged. All other things held equal, onboarding is, arguably, the most important measure to ensure you retain good talent.

We’ve already talked about building trust from the get go and the things to consider when assessing job candidates. In this post, we’ll share some pointers for better onboarding.

Pointers for Better Employee Onboarding

What is the purpose of onboarding? According to Training Industry, the purpose of onboarding is “to develop within newly hired or transferred employees the necessary skills, knowledge, and behaviors to become effective contributors to an organization”.

Therefore, onboarding is so much more than making sure the new hire has their equipment or workstation setup. Proper onboarding can give you benefits that will last for years. So, how must you do it?

Start with why.

Do you want culturally fit employees? Then, you have to make them understand the same things that you do. Culture fit is a big thing for many organizations. Take the case of Zappos. Tony Hsieh said they would fire an employee who does not fit in their culture, even if the employee is a top performer.

Why does fit matter? Briefly, employees who understand your firm’s’ goals or vision are motivated to work with you to reach those goals. They are not just motivated, but they are empowered by the mere fact that they share the same visions as your firm’s.

As a business leader, then, how do you inspire action?

A popular talk on TED about inspiring action comes to mind. This talk is from leadership expert, Simon Sinek.

[ted id=848 lang=en]

Adapting Sinek’s insights, it’s imperative that you give new hires a crash-course on your business and make them see what you believe and believe what you believe. You can start with the basics: Company history, your culture, values, and target customers among others.

Finally, you can talk about things like why certain decisions are made, how they are made, why certain projects came before others and everything in between. Not only do you give your new hires a glimpse at your vision, you are also living up to your principle of transparency (which is vital in establishing trust).

Put up a mentorship system.

It’s great to have someone to help you learn the ropes, right? Maybe it’s a terrific idea to set up a mentor or “buddy” that the new hire could turn to for questions.

It’s quite difficult to ask questions, especially for someone new (and if they are shy). Connecting them, however, with someone who is dedicated to answering questions might be helpful for them.

Mentoring sessions can have massive effects on the success of new hires. One study found that mentoring connections that employees made in their onboarding process were related to their productivity and confidence levels five years later.

Build a genuine relationship with them.

Your relationship with the new hire, as their direct manager, is an important factor for whether they are engaged or not.

Work to establish a genuine relationship with your new employees starting from day one. Your goal is to get more connected to them.

As you build your relationship with them, explain your goals for them for their first two weeks. Show them what role they play in ensuring the company’s success.

But for you to be taken seriously, they have to have a genuine regard for you. You can only achieve this by building genuine relationships.

Remember that the goal of your time together is to get them inspired and excited to start adding value.

Help them get connected.

Understand that this is a new job for your new hires; joining a new team can be intimidating. Many people have a hard time reaching out and forming those connections.

Here’s where you must come in. Good leaders know how to help others create connections. You can do this by organizing activities for everyone to get to know each other.

Or you can go out for lunch as a team, go out for drinks as a team, or have some icebreaker games to get to know each other in the team.

One study found that people who hadn’t established meaningful connections with co-workers were less likely to seek out information, which is critical to success for new employees. Therefore, make it your goal to help your team members get connected.

Let them express themselves authentically.

According to MIT Sloan Management Review, the traditional approach to onboarding is all wrong. That is it, it’s all wrong.

The article from MIT talks about how most onboarding processes indoctrinates employees into the company culture and end up forcing the values onto them. In effect, this kind of approach to onboarding restricts new employees from fully and authentically express themselves.

What does expression have to do with productivity? Well, when an employee is authentic, they’ll have a higher self-esteem. This is because, according to psychology, people want others to see them as they see themselves.

Here’s a quote from the article, Reinventing Employee Onboarding”, by the MIT Sloan Management Review:

However, we have found that the traditional methods of onboarding have some serious weaknesses.

They assume that organizational values are something to be taught to and adopted by newcomers. This creates a tension: When newcomers are “processed” to accept an organization’s identity, they are expected to downplay their own identities, at least while they are at work.

But subordinating one’s identity and unique perspectives may not be optimal in the long run for either the organization or the individual employee because suppressing one’s identity is upsetting and psychologically depleting.

If you have time, read the article in full.

Check in on them frequently (especially at the beginning).

You want to check in as much as you possibly can, even if you think you’ve done enough checking in, you likely haven’t.

This is especially important at the beginning. Your check in process could look something like this:

  • End of day 1
  • End of day 3
  • End of week 1
  • End of week 2
  • 30 days later
  • 60 days later
  • 90 days later

You want to be pretty aggressive at the beginning to make sure that new hires are comfortable and are integrating themselves okay. After the first week or two, you should still check in, but not as frequently.

The key is that you want to be looking for ways to improve the onboarding process for the next person that joins the company.

Bringing It All Together

Onboarding is an important part of the talent life cycle. It serves the purpose of ‘developing within newly hired or transferred employees the necessary skills, knowledge and behaviors to become effective contributors to an organization’. And that requires more than making sure the new hire has their equipment or workstation setup. When done properly, onboarding can give firms benefits that will last for years – employee loyalty, motivation, and greater productivity.

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to onboarding, but there is much to learn from historical data and experiences of other firms. But asking why you do what you do, and showing your new employees why they are with your firm in the first place is the right place to start. Then forge genuine relationship them and let them be themselves in the workplace.

How do you onboard new employees? Any tips or tricks you could share with us? Let us know in the comments!

This article is the third leg of a six-part series on acing lifecycle recruiting. Check out tips on the remaining stages — employee assessment and selection, onboarding, training and development, performance management, and succession planning —  on the succeeding parts of this series.

Part 1: Talent Life Cycle 101: Talent Cannot Live Where There Is No Trust
Part 2: Talent Life Cycle 101: 4 Points to Consider When Assessing Candidates



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