Learning trends

No second chance to make a first impression: the power of onboarding

Read in 2 minutes Modified on
First Impression and Onboarding

Do you remember your first day as a new recruit in a new organization? There’s a good chance that you were taken through a long list of HR policies and IT requirements, or other tedious activities. According to new recruits, onboarding programs can often be boring, and at worst inexistent. The crucial impact of the integration phase isn’t always taken seriously, and while compliance training is important, it’s a tiny part of what makes for a successful onboarding program.

According to Aberdeen, there are four building blocks necessary to achieve an engaging onboarding with lasting effects on the newcomer: Compliance, Clarification, Culture and Connection.

By focusing too much on only one of these aspects, organizations are missing a unique opportunity to make a lasting impression on new hires.

Looking at onboarding as a business stake

Ironically, it seems as though business leaders are well aware of the importance of onboarding: 79 percent of them say that it is both an urgent and important priority (Deloitte HumanCapital Trends, 2014)
However, there is a disconnect between this largely shared belief and the reality of onboarding programs, since only 32% of companies currently have a formal onboarding (Abeerden research report, 2014). Quality is often lacking as well, as both managers and employees are not satisfied with the quality and effectiveness of integration plans in their organizations.
There is a lot at stake here, as 70% of new hires decide to stay or leave an organization within the first 6 months (HIC 2012). Considering the high cost of losing an employee in their first year (ranging from one to three times their salary), it’s in every organization’s best interest to invest on onboarding programs that work.
Indeed, the positive effects of onboarding go well beyond the first few weeks of integration of a new employee – it has long term impact. A well designed onboarding program can increase the chance of retaining an employee for at least 3 years by 69% (Aberdeen group 2013).

The role of L&D departments in making onboarding great

L&D departments have to seize this opportunity to engage & retain employees. Of course, onboarding is not the same as training; but training is an essential part of onboarding, and can determine its success.

For a new comer to succeed in his job, he needs clarity, confidence and appropriate skills. Therefore, training for onboarding programs should blend courses on the organization as a whole, as well as on specific job expectations. Customization is key to make sure that new employees feel personally welcomed in the organization.

Creating a network between employees within the organization is also a key goal for any onboarding program; meeting the right people and establishing relationships is important to the employee well being and will help them do their best work faster. In large corporations, networking can be hampered by the physical distance between employees. Digital training can come to rescue here, and help newcomers meet, network and stay in touch with each other through online communities.

As onboarding is increasingly seen as a business stake, it’s essential that L&D departments show the value they can bring into improving the quality of onboarding programs. This will benefit newcomers and the organization as a whole through increased engagement and retention rates.