It’s as true in learning as anywhere else: first impressions count. If you’re recruiting new team members, you want to ensure that the support you offer them sets the right tone from the very beginning. You want them to feel that they have made a great decision to join you – and their onboarding process plays a huge part in that. Yet all too often, it fails to make the necessary impact.
The Eye-Watering Truth
The statistics speak for themselves. Did you know that nearly one in three people leave organisations voluntarily or involuntarily before the end of their first year? And that 22% of those who do leave do so within their first six weeks?
The associated costs aren’t cheap. Losing an employee in their first year can cost your business as much as three times their salary. But aside from the financial considerations, there’s also the impact it can have on staff morale, team culture and the ability to meet your business needs. Let alone the missed opportunity to bring new blood and ideas into the organisation.
However you look at it, it’s in our all best interests to nurture and retain employees, especially in that first year. Particularly when you consider the difference that a great onboarding experience can make. The Towards Maturity 2014 Benchmark Study found that those who do it well retain on average 91% of staff and meet performance targets quicker than those who don’t.
So what is good onboarding? And more importantly, whose goals is it really meeting? We explored the issue last year in our ‘Onboarding For Results’ guide.
A Potential Mismatch?
In that report, we identified that a good onboarding experience really depends on your point of view. What the employer wants and what the new joiner needs are not necessarily the same thing.
Whilst the employer wants new joiners to feel motivated and at home, they are primarily concerned with getting them up to speed, and fast. Practically speaking, they want new joiners to achieve the required competency and compliance standards, and be productive as quickly as possible. Of course, the employee wants this too (no one wants to perform badly or get into trouble at work) but it’s not what matters most to begin with.
The employee wants to feel a sense of belonging and connection with others. They want to understand the company culture and feel part of it, to know what’s expected of them and where to go for help, to feel like they have potential and are (ultimately) satisfied in their role.
In other words, the employer is interested in efficient upskilling, and the employee is looking for empathy and support during what can be a challenging time. Towards Maturity and CG Kineo believe the secret of great onboarding is achieved by aligning the needs of the two. As Towards Maturity say in their Benchmarking Report, alignment is a two-way relationship:
“It is about understanding the needs of the business, developing strong relationships with the business and ensuring that all activity is committed to meeting those needs…
“When the balance is right, staff understand their role in the context of helping the business to achieve its goals; become motivated and engaged learners and progress their own career. The business thrives on a talent-centred learning culture where individual performance is valued and learners thrive when they understand, and are recognised, for their contribution to the overall goals of the business.”
So, how can you align both the new hire and organisational needs? Here we share some of our top tips for creating a great onboarding experience that works for everyone.
1. Get the Right Mix
Towards Maturity’s 2014 Benchmark Study found that creating blending learning solutions contributes significantly to the success of top performing organisations. However, 52% of organisations lack blended design skills which is presenting a real barrier to progress.
In our Onboarding guide, we recommend using an efficiency and empathy matrix to create a blended onboarding experience that balances the needs of the business (minimum time to competence and compliance) with the needs of the individual (feelings of belonging, of potential, of being valued).
The aim is to push into the top right quadrant of the matrix - high empathy, high efficiency - but finding the right blend is unique for every business. It depends on the numbers you’re recruiting and the time and budget available. Personal, one-to-one attention from a manager will rank high on the empathy list, but is less efficient if you’re providing it for every new recruit. A book of company values is efficient to deliver, but it needs to be contextualised and made meaningful before it can be either efficient or empathetic. Question what must be controlled (and consistent), and what can be free and benefit from the local, human touch.
2. Take Your Time
Onboarding shouldn’t be a one-off event. Nor should it just be about training. To maintain engagement and truly support new joiners we need to create an experience that encourages a sense of growth: in relations, behaviours, performance and understanding.
First separate information, resources and learning. Context and timing have to be king. What does someone most need? What are they likely to be able to really take in? What are you asking them to do? Is this really critical to their role? And if you can’t remember or don’t know - consult those that do, including your recent recruits.
Once you have your mix, spread it over weeks or months, not days. Plot a journey with meaningful goals for day 1, week 1, month 1 and beyond (up to a minimum of 100 days, with an ongoing development plan). It should be outcome focused on what you want the new joiner to achieve - whether that’s on the job, through job shadowing, in practice tasks or connecting learning to coaching conversations.
3. Make It Personal
Onboarding which lacks a personal touch is never going to score highly in the empathy stakes (or maintain engagement). Towards Maturity’s benchmarking report revealed that only 22% of organisations are developing programmes that work in a personalised context. All too often learners are asked to wade through a huge amount of generic and irrelevant material.
Anyone who is new to a job will have their own unique set of gaps in their knowledge and skills. Where we can, we need to personalise a new recruit’s onboarding process so these gaps can be identified and addressed at the most appropriate time for them and with the right support.
Find out what they would like to learn and get them involved in the process - by focusing on what an individual needs to know to assimilate into the business and do their job you avoid the frustration and confusion of information overload.
4. Involve the Right People
Let’s face it; there is always a lot to cover when a new person joins a role. No one should be left to digest all the information on their own. Managers, coaches and buddies are all vital support here, providing context and personal insights that help the new recruit apply the information to the immediate workplace.
Studies tell us that people managers and peers are key to successful onboarding. A major reason why newly hired employees struggle and ultimately leave is a failure to establish connections and build strong interpersonal relationships within the company.
5. Don’t Wait Until They’re Through The Door
All too often we wait until someone’s first day before starting their onboarding journey. But why wait? The best moment to connect with new joiners and tap into their emotions is before day 1 - assuage their nerves and make them feel welcome by sending out photos and descriptions of the team members they’ll be working with, access to a knowledge sharing repository where they can find out answers to FAQs and meet their peers. Even have their manager make a simple phone call and say ‘hello’.
Go one better and start the onboarding process pre-hire, so you can attract new talent who are most likely to fit in and stick around. Show off your company values and vision, share typical roles and career maps, and any other elements from your onboarding program which help to paint a picture of what it’s really like to work for you.
Onboarding is critical to driving engagement in learners, and ultimately can have a massive effect on retention rates too. Don't neglect your onboarding programme, and focus on using blended learning to improve outcomes.
If you want to discover more about how we could help you transform your onboarding using a blended programme, request a free consultation with a blends expert.