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Starting Off on the Right Foot: The Importance of Onboarding New Hires

A formal onboarding process can improve employee retention and performance by conveying cultural norms, speeding up time to productivity, and helping employees better understand the employer's brand. Here is an introduction to some of the benefits of formally onboarding new hires.
onboarding new hires

New hire onboarding is an essential part of the recruiting and workforce management process. According to one study released by the Society for Human Resource Management, half of all hourly employees quit within four months of starting a new position and half of the outside senior level hires fail within eighteen months. A formal onboarding process can help improve retention and performance by communicating cultural norms, clarifying expectations for performance, and helping improve internal communications and relationships. Here’s a closer look at some essential elements of a new hire onboarding program.

The First Six Months: Establishing a Formal Process

The first six months can be critical for a new employee in terms of forming the impressions that impact retention and performance. Establishing a clear, formal onboarding process helps set each new employee up for success by helping them navigate the corporate environment and understand what it takes to succeed in their new position. A formal onboarding and orientation process may include written materials, orientation courses and presentations from HR and managers, meetings with internal stakeholders, shadowing and training periods, and ongoing mentorship.

Communicating Cultural Norms

Each business has its own organizational culture. The more clearly an employee understands what is expected of them and what it takes to succeed within the organization, the more likely they are to become a productive and satisfied employee. Communicating cultural norms includes sharing written formal policies, and explaining why they are important and how they’re enforced. It also involves explaining the organizational structure, outlining internal processes and communications protocols, and ensuring that the employee understands what steps he or she should take to approach specific challenges. Finally, successful onboarding also requires communicating the intangible factors of the work environment, such as the expectation that employees work longer days or that taking part of company social events is considered important.

Shortening the Time to Productivity

Conventional wisdom suggests that it takes weeks or months for an employee to get up to speed in a new position. But high velocity onboarding programs can drastically reduce the time to productivity. One of the most important aspects of this is communicating the responsibilities of the position, the expectations and metrics for success, the reporting lines, and processes associated with the position. One-on-one time with the employee’s manager to answer questions, help the employee understand their role in the big picture, and providing necessary training can also help increase productivity earlier in employment. Spending time explaining team dynamics, team processes, and norms of communication is also a helpful way to underscore employee success.

Fulfilling Brand Promise and Differentiation

Your onboarding process should help establish this firmly, and give employees the tools and knowledge needed to represent these in the market. Best practices include communicating these values and unique selling points. Provide clear examples of how each position would represent these values as part of their role, from a vice president of sales interacting with key clients to an assistant representing the brand on the phone. Finally, site visits or themed presentations that show successful examples of company branding can reinforce these points.

Training, Development, and Performance

As your company develops an onboarding program, it will include both standardized components and specialized adaptations for individual employees and positions. Your onboarding process should have the flexibility to provide specialized training to help each employee succeed in his or her specific position. In addition, consider building in support that provides a development plan incorporating mentorship, future training opportunities, and growth assignments. Managers, mentors, and HR staff can then support the employee as they grow.


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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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