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How better onboarding can boost employee effectiveness

By 03/07/2018June 22nd, 2021Employee Management, Recruitment

Onboarding is viewed by many as an essential business function. However, not all companies have an established onboarding process in place – and those that do are often dissatisfied with it. When you think of the primary goal of onboarding – to minimise the time to the effectiveness of a new employee – it’s a wonder some companies don’t take it more seriously.  

A recent study by the Harvard Business Review found that 22% of companies had no formal onboarding programme, whilst 49% only rated their onboarding procedure as ‘somewhat successful’.

Yet it’s not just about the missed opportunity, as inefficient and ineffective onboarding can have a significant negative impact. In a survey of HR managers by job site CareerBuilder, 16% said poor or non-existent onboarding lowers their company’s productivity, 14% said it brings on greater inefficiencies, and 12% said it leads to higher employee turnover.

By contrast, successful onboarding has a positive effect – both in terms of productivity and employee retention. Research by the Aberdeen Group shows that organisations with a standard onboarding process experience 54% greater new hire productivity and 50% greater new hire retention. This was backed up further by a report from Korn Ferry stated that 98% of executives believed onboarding programmes to be key to employee retention.

What’s the underlying cause?

So why is the onboarding process so inconsistent across different companies? There are many possible reasons, but normally problems arise when it is left to managers to ‘design’ and run their own onboarding process. If they are unaware of the impact of poor onboarding, they won’t regard it as important.

Busy managers may de-prioritise the process, which results in a last minute and haphazard approach, resulting in a poor experience for the new employee. Put yourself in the shoes of that new employee. Think no laptop, email, phone or even a desk on your first day. Your manager has booked a client meeting and is out of the office. Or your new team thought you weren’t due to start for another couple of weeks.

In recent years, HR has rightly stepped-in to provide a more standardised framework to support managers. Even a basic onboarding checklist which ensures the obvious things are done well can make a huge difference. First impressions count and a new employee is already feeling outside of their comfort zone when joining a new organisation, so it is a good opportunity to make them feel valued and part of the team.

If onboarding is something you need to take seriously, here are our top tips to ensure your onboarding process really delivers – and where technology can help.


Start onboarding in advance

It’s a mistake to think that onboarding should only start when the new hire walks through the door. Actually, there’s plenty you can do in advance – such as setting up a system that automatically sends welcoming emails to newcomers and reminds them to bring necessary documents on their first day – security card, passport, driving license etc.

You can also share basic information about the company and planned onboarding activities for day one, and provide directions to the office.

In addition, you should talk to the new hire’s manager in advance, so he or she knows what’s expected of the incoming employee. You can also ensure your new hire’s workstation, and the devices they’ll need, are properly prepared. This initial preparation will smooth the path for your new employee and help them to hit the ground running.

Meet the team quickly

There’s nothing more dispiriting for a new employee than feeling lonely and disconnected at work, so it’s important to introduce your new hire to their team as soon as possible.

Don’t wait until you can get everyone in a room together, as that creates an unnecessary delay. Technology means that you can easily arrange a conference call or Skype meeting as soon as possible, so your new hire can start getting to know their colleagues quickly, maybe even before day one. Indeed, some new employees may attend an immersion day, prior to their official start date, to meet their new colleagues.

Make it a two-way process

There are likely to be multiple people involved in the onboarding process – the new employee, HR, line managers, team members, IT etc – so it makes sense to link everyone up on an electronic tool that enables collaboration and the sharing of information. It may also provide the checklist of onboarding tasks that need to be completed with an itinerary.

This type of collaborative approach allows you to set out exactly what needs to be done, when, and by whom. Then everyone – including your new starter – can be kept in the loop, as it’s easy to track progress and quickly fill any gaps.

An HR system can support this process and may enable you to gauge how a new employee is feeling through feedback mechanisms, such as a daily Pulse survey. You may decide to take this on a step further and hold formal feedback sessions and set-up an onboarding engagement survey. The feedback not only helps you monitor your new hires but will provide invaluable insights to help you further improve your onboarding programmes.

Track your training

Lots of information must be read and understood during the onboarding process, but is your new hire taking everything in?

One way of assessing this is through a training system, which periodically provides tests to assess your new employee’s level of comprehension, and automatically submits results for manager review. A comments field can allow the line manager to keep in touch with the new employee and offer feedback, whilst automated messages will remind both parties about upcoming face-to-face progress meetings.

After training is complete, some systems will calculate overall scores and provide a learning assessment to help with future development.

Manage information sensibly

It’s confusing and disorienting for any new starter to be presented with a huge amount of information on their first day. Equally, being left with little or no data on their role and requirements can make people feel unsettled.

You can avoid both scenarios, by using technology to ensure the right details are sent at the right time – in easily digestible chunks. You could also set up a personal onboarding dashboard where information can be accessed when necessary – this could include employee handbook and company benefits information, as well as guides to using relevant software and equipment. You can release new information onto the dashboard as necessary, accompanied by email notifications.  

In summary

Onboarding is a vital process for any business. Do it well and you significantly reduce the time it takes your new employee to start making the contribution you’ve hired them to make – boosting your business’ performance and in-turn improving your chances of retaining them longer-term.

Do it badly, however, and you could end up with a disenfranchised and unproductive employee who is likely to leave their position quickly – saddling you with the expense and time of needing to hire someone else.

Putting some time and effort into offering a standardised onboarding process can not only reduce costs but also have a major impact on productivity.

Natural HR

About Natural HR

Natural HR is a cloud-based HR software company for growing businesses with 100+ employees. Since launching in 2010, we’ve been building a comprehensive suite of HR functionality that equips the small to medium-sized enterprise with everything needed to build an effective and efficient HR operation.