The Great Resignation, or Great Reset, or Great Retirement. It feels like a Great Headache, especially in a tight IT labor market. As a result, many business leaders turn to employee retention strategies to stop the bleeding, especially as another “great” appears on the horizon – this time from those who have made the switch – The Great Regret.
One strategy getting much play in the media and HR circles of late is onboarding new employees. However, many recent new hires report that employee onboarding fell far short in even providing the basics they need to succeed – including understanding relationship building (71%), company culture (62%), how to use technology at their job (54%) and even their benefits (46%). Employee onboarding is more than paperwork, a quick orientation meeting, and a checklist. It can help retain employees, create a more engaged workforce, and boost individual performance if done correctly. First impressions always matter, and after all, do you want your company to become a “Great Regret” for a new employee because of a failed onboarding experience?
A Typical New Employee Onboarding Scenario
Let’s look at a typical start to a new hire’s onboarding journey. It’s your first day on the job. The day begins filled with hope and promise. The interviews were exhausting, lasting several days stretched over several months. Many were conducted virtually due to the pandemic. The final interview included an in-person onsite series of interviews and a tour. So naturally, you are nervous even though you are confident you made the right decision.
As you walk into the office for your first day, you notify the receptionist that you are here. He looks at you quizzically, not knowing who you are nor whom you are supposed to see. Then, he asks you to have a seat, and he will track down who should greet you.
“This is odd,” you think to yourself. “The interview process seemed relaxed, organized, and well-executed.” Twenty minutes go by, and no one has come to greet you yet and begin your onboarding. Finally, you approach the receptionist and ask, “Am I supposed to be meeting with HR first or my direct supervisor?”
“I’m not sure,” he replies. “I contacted HR, but they did not answer. So I left a message with the HR Generalist, who typically handles new hire paperwork. I am sure they will be here any moment.” So, you go back to the seat in the receiving area where you had been sitting and continue to wait. Anxiety starts to build into frustration. “I did get the right start date, didn’t I?” you think. You pull out your cell phone, access your emails, and search for the welcome email with your start date information. “Yep, I got the right day and time.”
After another 20 minutes, an employee comes in through the front doors. The receptionist stops them on their way past the front desk, “Dan! So glad you are here. I left a voice mail for you a bit ago about this person starting today. Are you supposed to do their onboarding, or is the hiring manager?”
Looking a little embarrassed, Dan says. “I’ll handle it,” and he turns to greet you, arms full of coat, coffee, umbrella, and thick, overstuffed computer bag. Fumbling with everything to free up a hand, Dan offers you a proper handshake and greets you. “Hi, I’m Dan, the HR Generalist. I hope you have not been waiting long.”
Mentally you are quite miffed and barely contain the thought, “waiting long? I have been waiting for nearly an hour now,” from coming out of your mouth. “Not too long,” you reply instead. “Very eager to get started for my first day.” Thus, the “Great Regret” begins.
This scenario plays out often in too many companies, from small independently owned businesses with under 20 employees to large publicly traded multi-national companies with over 60,000 employees globally. It does not matter if there is no HR presence, an HR department of one, or a large 100+ person HR department with certified professionals. This first-day scenario and the corresponding train-wreck of an onboarding experience that follows it can happen anywhere. An incident such as this starts the time clock ticking towards resignation day. Not what any business wants when they spend so much money, time, effort, and energy to recruit the right person for the position.
A compelling new employee onboarding program is a critical step in retaining employees. The only constant in business is change, and change is the most significant source of stress, worry, and concern for most people, regardless of career level. Therefore, the onboarding process should be designed to reduce the new employee’s stress, anxiety, and worry by transparently and effectively communicating with them. Effective communication is critical.
Since every company is different, you should customize your onboarding program to your company. Of course, it is necessary to complete the compliance forms (such as i-9s and w4s). However, meaningful information about the company culture, including the written rules (e.g., employee handbook, policies, and procedures) and the unwritten rules, are also critical. Yes – unwritten rules. Every company has them. They include how we communicate, make decisions, and the words we use. Using the wrong terminology can inadvertently send the wrong message and impact how your team will treat the new hire.
Then there is navigating the internal politics of the new company. Approach the wrong person out of order, and someone will be offended that you didn’t “follow the chain of command.” On the other hand, not communicating to the new hire that a chain of command exists sets them up for failure.
While every company is different, there are consistent things that can be done to ensure a smooth start to a new hire’s first day regardless of the career level or position into which they are hired.
The Typical Employee Onboarding Scenario – Revisited
Let’s look back at the scenario that we started with, only this time – let’s see how a strong onboarding strategy could have made a difference on an employee’s first day.
It’s your first day on the job. The day is filled with hope and promise. The interviews were exhausting, lasting several days, stretched over several months, and conducted virtually. The final interview included an in-person onsite series of interviews and a tour. You are nervous even though you are confident you made the right decision.
As you walk into the office building for your first day, you walk over to the receptionist to notify him that you are here. You hear your name called out before you cross halfway from the front door to the front desk. Stopping and looking in the direction of the voice, three people with big smiles approach. “Welcome! We are so glad you are here!” Hearty handshakes and brief introductions reveal that the Chief Human Resources Officer, your direct supervisor, and the Talent Acquisition Lead who guided you through the recruitment process were first to greet you. Brief pleasantries are traded, and the CHRO then directs everyone toward the HR offices to begin the onboarding process.
“We have a wonderful day in store for you,” says your Supervising Manager. “There will be many people to meet and information to share with you, but don’t worry. You will have plenty of time to take it all in. Change can be difficult, so we hope to make this as smooth a transition as possible for you. We are just so glad to have you here!”
SOURCE: Eagle Hill Onboarding Survey 2022
CONTRIBUTOR: Michael Maggiotto, Jr. PHR, SHRM-SCP, Head of Advisory at BEST Human Capital & Advisory Group
The Answer for Today and Tomorrow
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