Onboarding new employees: why you’re starting too late (and ending too soon!)

October 23, 2019
Onboarding new employees

Most companies follow a thorough recruitment process with a relatively poor induction and onboarding experience. And the result is up to 20% of employee turnover happens within the first 45 days, and a third of new hires are looking for a new job within their first six months on the job.[1]

We know that the first few weeks and months after taking on a new employee are a crucial time for integrating them into their role within the company. But while it takes the typical employee eight months to reach full productivity, just one third of companies have onboarding programmes that last beyond a month, leaving new employees to largely figure things out for themselves.[2]

And despite the risks of losing a new employee being before they start (for example because of a strong counter offer to stay where they are), very few companies think to begin induction before the start date – potentially losing out on all the good work they’ve invested in their expensive and time-consuming recruitment process.

On the other hand, the benefits of proper onboarding are well-evidenced: employees who go through a structured programme are 60% more likely to be with the company after three years, and new employees at these companies are 50% more productive.[3] So the pros of both induction (the initial period covering the essentials to working at your company) and onboarding (the longer term training and support of new employees in their specific role) are very clear. Starting early and continuing later only extends these benefits and decreases the very evident risks of losing your carefully chosen candidates.

Starting induction early

If there is a week, month, or more before starting, have an induction plan for pre-starters. This should enable them to feel that they’re part of the team, for example, plan a lunch or drinks together with their co-workers to get to know people. It should foster their desire to be part of the company, for example, by getting their manager to talk to them about the strategies and opportunities for the future and the mission and values of the company. And the induction plan should make them feel valued, so for example, you might send a card or letter, or arrange a quick congratulatory phone call from the CEO or other executive. We’ve even seen companies where future team mates send a welcome self-recorded video!

A positive impression post job-offer reinforces a new member of the team that they’ve made the right choice and reduces the risk of them being counter offered or poached by another firm before they come on board.

Keep going

Day one onwards is a fairly intensive period of meeting people, getting to know the basics, and learning the fundamentals of the company and the job. This most often takes a week or two but can take up to a month or more.

But it doesn’t end there. Induction should segue into onboarding, a lengthier but less intensive period of training and integration. Companies with extended onboarding processes achieve full productivity of new employees 34% faster than those with very short inductions, which is a productivity gain of four months.[4]

And because they know how to do their jobs more effectively, the overall productivity during their working life is also higher: 11.5% higher than those who haven’t been properly onboarded.[5] What would a 10%+ increase in productivity across your workforce mean for profitability?

There are two main aspects to onboarding: training and development on the job, and integration into the culture of a company and a team. Both are just as important for productivity and retention.  So, for example, you might think about including a buddy or mentoring programme to your onboarding: this can help to make someone feel supported and welcome, and it can also help with their professional development. Having a programme of social events is good, but it’s also just as important for company culture to communicate vision, strategy, values and desired behaviours to employees regularly.  

The training and development side of things might take many forms: training on the job from colleagues or managers, or provision of external training, from online courses to networking opportunities. But whatever you choose to do, you should set the expectation that continual development is expected from everyone.

As a structured programme, onboarding should continue until new employees are at full effectiveness in their current roles. And when it’s time for a change in role, the same sort of process is essential in prepping people for their next opportunity with your business.

About the author

Duncan Cheatle is the founder and CEO of Learn Amp, an Employee Success Platform which makes “work life, work better”. The platform centres around three pillars of learning, engagement and performance. Find out more here.

Aside from founding Learn Amp, Duncan has spent over 15 years championing UK enterprise, working with hundreds of successful entrepreneurs through The Supper Club, which he set up in 2003 and now home to nearly 500 of Britain’s most innovative, high-growth entrepreneurs.

He was co-founder of StartUp Britain, launched by the Prime Minister in March 2011, and was a non-exec of the Start Up Loans Company for its first year. Duncan sits on the advisory board of the Sheffield University Management School.

[1] https://www.clickboarding.com/18-jaw-dropping-onboarding-stats-you-need-to-know/; https://hbr.org/2015/03/technology-can-save-onboarding-from-itself

[2] http://www.aberdeen.com/research/9865/RR-twentyfirst-century-onboarding.aspx/content.aspx; https://hbr.org/2015/03/technology-can-save-onboarding-from-itself

[3] https://www.contractrecruiter.com/employee-onboarding-matters/; http://www.urbanbound.com/blog/onboarding-infographic-statistics

[4] https://blog.atrivity.com/how-to-shorten-new-hire-time-to-productivity-with-90day-onboarding#targetText=Higher%20performance%20for%20business&targetText=It%20also%20helps%20reach%20productivity,than%20the%2090%2Dday%20process.

[5] https://blog.atrivity.com/how-to-shorten-new-hire-time-to-productivity-with-90day-onboarding#targetText=Higher%20performance%20for%20business&targetText=It%20also%20helps%20reach%20productivity,than%20the%2090%2Dday%20process.

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