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Onboarding–helping new hires love their new jobs, part I

The big picture

The high cost of high employee turnover

With unemployment levels now below 5%, be aware that your employees will jump ship if they find a better position–unless they are especially happy working for your company. In fact, about 33% of your new hires will leave voluntarily or involuntarily before the end of their first year. This can create an enormous potential financial drain on your company resulting from things like management costs of hiring replacements, and lost ROI on training, compensation, and benefits paid to the departing employee. The only way to prevent such losses is a well-designed structured onboarding policy for new hires.

Onboarding includes orienting, assimilating, coaching and retraining employees. It isn’t realistic to assume that new hires should be able to hit the ground running, because no matter how effective your onboarding practices, employee productivity the first year is usually limited. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that the costs of bringing a new employee up to speed can range from 50 to 150% of their salary during the first year.

As discussed before, candidates are likely to accept your offer of employment without considering the potential downside–so be sure to give them an easy way to ‘bail’ if they have second thoughts during their orientation. Zappos, for example, offers up to $4K to new hires who feel this way. That sounds like a lot, but is a significant cost savings over the irretrievable investment resulting from unhappy employees quitting after several months to a year.

Successful onboarding increases employee retention and builds your brand

‘One-day-only onboarding’ orientation is nothing more than a band-aid since employees rarely decide whether to stay with a company after the first day. By contrast, those companies investing in a carefully structured, longer orientation period are rewarded with a three plus year 66% retention rate, according to the Department of Labor. Also, extending the length of onboarding/orientation provides new hires with valuable additional time for coaching and specialized training.

Successful programs share a predictable structure, consistent communication and, above all, management patience. A fourth critical element of success is leveraging new employee strengths before requiring they acquire new competencies. This approach results in a 32% reduction in employee attrition after six months of employment.

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Other benefits of onboarding

  • New hires happy with their onboarding experience will share their positive experience with others, including previous co-workers, boosting your recruiting efforts. It’s a wise strategy to ask new hires to make referrals from among their high performing former colleagues.
  • Research shows that effective onboarding programs improve initial new hire performance by over 11%.

Preboarding–

Beginning onboarding before the first day with e-packages loaded with valuable employee information significantly boosts first-year employee retention. Consider including things like a welcoming email, company videos, virtual tours of your facility, answers to FAQs, and information about your company’s history, vision/mission, and core values. Also, provide them with a description of the hardware and software that will be waiting for them on their first day.

During their first week, give them ample time to complete their benefits enrollment, taxes, and direct deposit information, especially if the volume of paperwork is too great to handle within a reasonable amount of time.

In Part II of this Insights article, I’ll discuss the details of onboarding programs from the first day of employment through the first year.

More Insights