There was a time when orientation days were the extent of an official welcome to new recruits. But while filling them in on how things are done still plays an important role, HR departments now need to do more if they are to secure the loyalty and reap the potential that new, talented employees promise. It’s called Employee Onboarding.
Employee onboarding is designed to achieve one thing – get newcomers in tune with a company’s culture, values and philosophy, which are now arguably the most crucial aspects of corporate identity. In essence, it’s about explaining ‘why’ a company operates rather than ‘how’.
Of course, the concept has been around for a while now, but is much more than simply a recruitment whim. In fact, in a digital age dominated by social media, its significance has only grown. Little surprise that so many of the world’s biggest brands – including Google, IBM, Facebook and Yahoo – have embraced the idea, and invested considerably in it.
But as with any investment, there has to be a return on the investment. So, what exactly does employee onboarding offer in terms of benefits?
What Is Employee Onboarding?
Experience Academy founder Michel Falcon describes employee onboarding as “the design of what your employees feel, see and hear after they have been hired” adding that “while training does have a role within onboarding, it doesn’t represent the entire scope of the process”.
Some of the most friendly programmes come from LinkedIn, which welcomes new arrivals with a special swag-bag, and New York-based cosmetics and skin care company Birchbox, which places sweets and chocolates on a handcrafted welcome flags on each their desks.
More imaginative employee onboarding programmes include Deloitte’s, which has new employees lock horns over a specially devised board game aimed at forging relationships between strangers as much as explaining corporate policy, and US clothing brand Zappos, which has offered new employees $2,000 in quit money during their 4-week training programme if the employee feels they don’t want to continue with the company.
It’s a calculated gamble though, with Zappos explaining it is designed to identify employees that “believe in our long term vision and want to be a part of our culture”. Less than 1% of recruits end up taking the offer.
Benefits of Onboarding
- It Can Save Millions In Recruitment – New arrivals can have stuttering starts in their new roles, but what is often accepted as understandable can actually cost companies considerably in the long run. In fact, a 2008 study estimated that US and UK companies lose as much as $37 billion per year in what is termed ‘job misunderstandings’. Employee onboarding provides a tonic by preparing new hires to hit the ground running, maximizing their performance in both the short and long term.
- Counters Negative Feedback – When employees feel mistreated or have the hump after an executive decision, they can turn to social media to badmouth their employers. In one survey in the US, about a third of company executives admitted they knew of colleagues who have done this. The problem? Well, just as a great experience can enhance a company’s reputation and attract new clients, anything that might damage a reputation could cause real damage. But if employees are onboard with the company philosophy, then they are less likely to react so destructively.
- Motivating Through Engagement – Engagement has long been recognised as a significant motivator at work. Employees that feel engaged are more likely to feel part of the ‘corporate family’ and, therefore, work harder. A key trait of an effective employee onboarding programme is that it offers support as much as an instructive guide. Eyeglass manufacturer Warby Parker sends an “electronic welcome packet”, which includes a heads up on what to expect during their first day, week and month.
- Promotes Higher Employee Retention Rates – It’s no secret that revolving door recruitment trends can be highly damaging to a company, impacting negatively on such important aspects as customer service, productivity and increased staff training costs. Establishing a high employee retention rate can be a difficult challenge, but employee onboarding can successfully improve long-term retention, with – according to a 2007 study – employees 58% more likely to remain in the company after the 3-year threshold.
It may be true that employee onboarding can be costly, but it is an investment that can reap as much as 10 times in ROI, while also strengthening performance and reducing losses.
But perhaps most significantly, it can also build a stronger, more focused team that promotes not just your products but your culture and unique identity as well.
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