Dear HR Executive:
A long while back I told a story in the HR Cafe about a "friend" of mine who had a nightmare new-job story. I lied. It was actually me.
Years ago I got an exciting new job with a company that had two offices. No one told me during the interview process which office I'd be in, so a couple days before my start date I called my future boss to ask him where I should report. He was flummoxed. He obviously hadn't thought about it.
Now, this was an important job at a serious company. How could they make such a blunder? How could they so completely deflate a new hire before he even started? I felt like a smitten girl who'd been invited out on a big dinner date, only to find the guy had forgotten to book a restaurant. He had no plan. He was winging it!
Onboarding. It's a term I first heard only a couple years ago. But I'm seeing it more and more in the literature and in press releases targeted to HR execs. Here's how Wikipedia defines it:
"Onboarding is the process of interviewing, hiring, orienting and successfully integrating new hires into the organization's culture. The best onboarding strategies will provide a fast track to meaningful, productive work and strong employee relationships."
That's a pretty good definition, but what's really important in onboarding is the integration piece. How do you get a new employee not just physically but emotionally "on board" with your company's values and culture?
In the past, companies got away with doing it badly. Today, I think it's a core competency that all good companies will spend a lot of time and energy developing. Why? Demographics. The talent pool has gotten shallow, and will continue to be for years to come. Which means we're all finding it extremely difficult to find good people. It's costing us all a fortune to locate good candidates and train them. Creating "onboarding" processes that increase the success rate of new hires is essential if we're going to remain competitive.
But it's not happening ...
According to B21's latest survey of 230 HR executives, we've got a long way to go. Here are the results:
Question: At your company, which is most true?
- We've invested heavily in a formal program to bring new employees up to speed rapidly and increase their chances of success -- 21%
- We've taken steps to help new employees get integrated, but we need to do more -- 69%
- We pretty much let new employees sink or swim -- 10%
I guess we can take comfort in the fact that only 10% of companies let people sink or swim. But it's a little surprising that only one company in five is really taking onboarding seriously. My reading of these results is that 70% of companies are pretty much doing it the way they always did. Maybe a meet-and-greet on day one. Take the person out to lunch. Sorry, but that's not onboarding. And you run a huge risk when you have a half-baked onboarding program -- the first impression you make with new employees is that you're a half-baked company.
Onboarding is an area where HR can take the lead on and score some quick points. It should be easy to "sell" your CEO on upgrading your orientation program for new employees. CEOs instantly "get" the importance of first impressions. And it should be a snap to persuade them that the staggering cost of new-hire turnover merits a little investment in a well-thought-out onboarding process.
Here's an article that should give you some direction. It's from a consultant named David Lee and it's entitled How to avoid the four deadliest onboarding mistakes. Read on.