As they say, “first impressions matter.”

Your new hire onboarding process is a critical element of your employee experience. The first impressions you create for employees determine how long they stay and how productive they’ll be.

Do you have a structured and inclusive onboarding process?

Employee onboarding surveys

Software provider BambooHR, which targets small businesses, conducted an employee onboarding survey with 1,000 U.S. workers. BambooHR’s findings included a sobering result: 31% of people have left a job within the first six months and of those, more than half left within the first three months.

Poor onboarding practices contributed to employees leaving a job so soon. In the survey:

  • 23% of respondents said they wanted to “receive clear guidelines to what responsibilities were”
  • 21% wanted “more effective training”
  • 17% percent said “a friendly smile or helpful co-worker would have made all the difference”

The lack of a structured and welcoming onboarding process results in the high costs associated with employee turnover.

According to a report titled “2017 Retention Report: Trends, Reasons & Recommendations” by Work Institute (registration required), the cost of employee turnover is estimated at 33% of a worker’s annual salary.

This does not factor in soft costs associated with remaining employees’ decreased productivity (e.g., to train and onboard replacements) and weakened morale.

On the one hand, a poor onboarding experience can lead to unhappiness and employee departures. On the flipside, positive onboarding experiences make employees happy with their decision to take a job.

According to the IBM WorkTrends 2016 Global Survey, a positive onboarding experience resulted in 79% of respondents saying they were happy with their job decision. With a negative onboarding experience, only 42% of respondents reported happiness with the decision.

Source: IBM Smarter Workforce Institute, “Five Ways to Improve Employee Onboarding and Reduce New Hire Regrets”

New hire onboarding: advice to HR leaders

SHRM’s New Employee Onboarding Guide provides a rich collection of articles, links and downloads, covering the onboarding lifecycle from first day to first year and beyond. We assembled a set of tips that you can apply to your organization’s onboarding process.

Start the onboarding process early

The onboarding process begins well before an employee’s first day. 

An article from SHRM titled “Onboarding Key to Retaining, Engaging Talent” states, “83 percent of the highest performing organizations began onboarding prior to the new hire’s first day on the job,” according to research from Aberdeen.

In the article, Ben Peterson, CEO of BambooHR, says that if you don’t begin the onboarding process before an employee starts, then you’re already behind. According to Peterson, “Rather than having a stack of papers waiting for their signature, send them out to the employee beforehand, for electronic signature. Give them their benefits selection. Find the technology to help you automate the paper-pushing process.”

Organize employees into onboarding groups or classes

A group of first year college students arrive on campus. They’ll graduate in the year 2023, so they’re the “Class of ‘23.” They’ll attend orientation and take classes with one another over the next four years. They’ll lean on each other for support. After graduation, they’ll stay in touch and perhaps work together.

New employees can be organized in a similar fashion — you could create onboarding groups, such as “Sales Representatives, Q4 2019” or “New Employees, 2H 2019.”

In an article at Human Resource Executive, Teryluz Andreu, North America culture and engagement leader at Aon, calls this grouping a “cadre of peers.” According to Andreu, “This supportive system of peers creates that sense of affiliation that is very important for younger colleagues. They feel like they are coming into the company as a class.”

Account for Gen Z in the onboarding process

Your hiring and engagement practices will need to factor in the wants and needs of Gen Z and that includes onboarding. The procedures you used to onboard Baby Boomers and Gen X may not work for millennials and Gen Z.

A blog post from Kronos titled “3 keys to onboarding Gen Z, millennials and beyond” featured direct onboarding advice from a member of Gen Z: Kronos Summer Intern, Megan Grenier.  In the post, Grenier asks, “How have traditional HR practices evolved? Are they meeting the needs of these digitally dynamic generations we now have in the workplace?“

To paraphrase, the three keys to onboarding Gen Z, according to Grenier, are:

  1. Being clear on preferred communications channels (e.g., text, email, phone)
  2. Explicitly inviting Gen Z to ask questions
  3. Clearly and specifically outlining the expectations of the Gen Z employee

Use technology to aid and optimize the process

While technology is not a silver bullet, it can be useful in aiding or optimizing the onboarding process. 

In a SearchHRSoftware article titled “Onboarding tools grow in importance for retention, performance,” Asha Aravindakshan, operations director for global talent at Ashoka, uses software from FinancialForce to improve the onboarding process.

According to the article, “Aravindakshan said the software eliminated 10 different paper forms and checklists for new employees and made her job easier, partly by providing online answers to many questions about the company’s benefits and policies.”

My Ally recently released an AI-powered new hire onboarding solution for enterprise clients. It reduces new employee churn rate, improves the experience for new employees, and automates tedious tasks that plague hiring managers.

Onboarding use case: Warby Parker

Warby Parker is an online retailer of glasses and sunglasses.

An article at First Round Review details how the company makes employee experience a top priority. A portion of the article covers Warby Parker’s onboarding process.

Dave Gilboa, co-founder and co-CEO of the company, is quoted in the article as saying, “You have to make people feel special and welcome from the very first moment they interact with your organization.”

Three of the pillars of Warby Parker’s onboarding methodology are:

  1. Don’t just sweat the details – be original
  2. Make new employees the most approachable people in the office.
  3. Make training an executive priority

The company’s two co-founders are directly involved in the onboarding process. As the article notes, when a company’s values are communicated by a co-founder, it holds far more weight than if they were written on a wall.