Reimagine Onboarding

May 30, 2013 Michael George

In the first part of our Reimagine HR series we focused on ways to reimagine finding, attracting and hiring top talent. We talked about what it means to become a talent company, the need to build an agile strategy in a global era of talent, ways your employee portal can help to create a more engaged and effective workforce, the keys to effective talent planning, new ways of sourcing talent to fill key roles, referral programs that deliver, and how leading organizations are able hire purple squirrels.

Now that you’ve planned for, located, enticed and landed your star candidates, it’s time to get them up to speed and down to work. It’s time to onboard them.

Onboarding stats

I find it interesting that employee onboarding, like no other talent management function, has been redefined so many times over the past several years. I will concede that performance management has had its share of scrutiny over the past decade, but the function itself – managing employee performance against a set of expectations – has largely gone unchanged despite new ways of collecting more meaningful feedback.

Onboarding – the idea of what it is and the value it can offer the organization – has closely mirrored the changes in the technologies that enable it. What I mean by that is in the early days of HCM technology, process automation was the value proposition. While “saving HR time to be more strategic” was always in play, the main selling point of the technology was that it delivered efficiency, and more importantly, automation to the onboarding function thus ensuring critical steps in the process were not overlooked (and new employees felt they were, at a minimum, expected on their first day).

The story in the early days was all about creating a first impression, a first day or a first week that would set the wheels of glorious employee productivity in motion for years to come. To justify investment in onboarding technology we would contrast the unfortunate new hire who sat at an empty desk staring at the employee handbook for a few hours (or days) with that of a bright-eyed go-getter with all of the necessary tools (computer, technology access, business cards, etc.) assigned, delivered and operational when they showed up on day one. The HCM technology allowed us to apply rules and triggers to business processes like equipment procurement, IT security requests, and other orientation activities like meeting with the new manager or team members.

HR then realized an employee’s first impression of the organization was actually forged long before the first day on the job and thus onboarding moved into the talent acquisition world, where the technology supported the ability to automate and process pre-employment documentation (assessments, pre-screen questionnaires, benefits enrolment, etc.) to further ensure everything was just right on day one – no excuses for new employees not coming out of the gate as a highly engaged contributors. After all, the business benefit of improved onboarding was always thought to be a reduction in the resources, effort and time it took to get a new hire “productive.”

Today, despite the attention on strategic onboarding, many organizations are unable to measure the impact of their efforts that go beyond traditional orientation (aimed at getting employees up to speed quickly). These strategic initiatives seek to assimilate new employees into the company and culture using innovative social or mobile technologies to connect, collaborate and share. While feeling confident they are creating a better employee experience, HR leaders continue to struggle with how to connect the dots between their onboarding initiatives and bottom line business results.

According to new research from Aberdeen Group (Onboarding 2013: A New Look at New Hires) one reason might be the length the company’s onboarding program.

From the report: “Traditional new hire programs last for one week or, in some cases, a single day. These short-term strategies fail to improve areas such as retention, productivity and engagement. Aberdeen research found that 90% of organizations believe that employees make the decision to stay within their first year. Organizations thus have one year to make a positive impression on top talent, but many do not take advantage of this long-term opportunity.”

In fact, Aberdeen reports that best-in-class organization measure things like first-year employee retention, 12-month performance milestones, and year-over-year improvement in hiring manager satisfaction to judge the success of their onboarding programs.

Over the next several weeks, we’ll take a deeper look at ways you can reimagine the onboarding process in your organization, take the long view to realize business outcomes, and begin to understand how emerging onboarding strategies like cross-boarding, and new technologies like mobile geosensing can help you reimagine onboarding from an HR event to a strategic business practice.

We hope you continue to read, follow along an offer your insights as we go.

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