By Ali Hackett, founder of Meet and Engage
Recruiters found the best candidates; interviewers whittled them down; offers were made; offers were accepted. For many firms struggling to hire sought-after skilled people, the relief from successfully appointing someone can almost seem palpable. But the harsh reality is that when new joiners sign on the dotted line, this merely marks the ‘start’ (rather than the end) of the hiring process – a fact too many organisations get wrong.
For what’s at the heart of corporate life is often a lack of attention to, and appreciation for, the onboarding process. We live in times where employees – especially new entrants to the workplace – value culture and their emotional and mental fit with an organisation just as much as their career there; where the experience they derive from work and their workplace is central. And yet for many, the experience of their first day, week, or few months is not the warm embrace they expected; and the cost to employers could be very high.
Don’t deny the costs of poor onboarding
According to research, companies habitually lose 17% of all new hires within the first three months. Although some of this can be explained by people realising the job wasn’t what they had expected, a poll by Gallup found just 12% of people rated their employer highly when it came to onboarding new employees. Another recent survey found 23% of people who quit a role said they did-so because there wasn’t enough clear, upfront guidance about what their responsibilities were; with 21% saying there was not enough training to get them up to speed quickly enough. In short, during the crucial window of opportunity employers have to turn newbies into advocates (to make a good impression and create engagement and emotional buy-in) many are failing.
With the average cost of replacing an employee being the equivalent of 6-9 months’ worth that person’s salary, the bottom-line impact of such high employee turnover can be huge. And this often doesn’t include the significant disruption (including heaping more work on others), this causes to everyone else and their engagement levels.
Can automation provide the answer?
That’s why having a structured onboarding strategy – one that starts long before new employees even turn up on their first day – is increasingly being recognised as business-essential. Onboarding platforms like Timeline now have the power to automate the entire process and allow companies to deliver personalised journeys for new employees. These platforms can control the flow of initial welcome messages, which can then gently ramp up to providing information they might find useful – what to expect on day one; useful contacts; virtual tours; etc.
Because emotional wellbeing is now so uppermost for employees, onboarding platforms can also play a role in building people’s confidence – for instance new starters can be invited to view videos featuring the team they will work with, or even take part in live group chat events where they can speak to new colleagues and ask any question they like – without feeling awkward. Chatbots can be programmed to answer more common questions, allowing new employees to dip in and access helpful information when they choose. Even after they have joined, these tools can be used to keep new team members informed and help them to settle in over the coming months.
Make people feel valued
In essence, technology-based onboarding creates a way of making new team members feel valued. The benefits of doing what might appear to be small interventions can be huge. Research by Glassdoor found organisations with strong onboarding processes boost new hire retention by a whopping 82%, as well as productivity by 70%. Why? Because when employees feel they matter, they are more engaged, and when they are engaged they bring more energy to an organisation.
The key is not to see the use of onboarding technology as a de-personalising or de-humanising activity. Employees understand that processes are needed; and if they see it enhances their at-work experience, it’s much less likely to be regarded with suspicion. But the real benefit of technology is that it changes behaviours. Once companies adopt these processes, it gradually starts to become part of business as usual, and when that happens, it becomes culturally embedded too. That’s when new employees will really start to put down roots.