Making your Onboarding Programme Effective

Imagine yourself as a new employee joining an organization and walking into the office on day one. You enter the office at 8 am. At the front-desk you are asked for the purpose of your visit. You explain that you are ‘the new guy’ and this happens to be your first day at the job.

After waiting for some time, someone from personnel comes to get you. You are pointed to a workstation at the far end of the office.

You cross the office floor maze and reach your place, only to find an entangled bunch of cables and other knick-knacks that don’t belong to you. You wait for someone to show up for the next two hours, but when no one does, you just ask around to find out where your manager sits and walk up to him, saying ‘Hi there, remember me… the guy you interviewed, well, this happens to be my first day so I just dropped in to say hi.’

Does this sound familiar? Let’s hope not.

This was in fact a glimpse of the start of an Onboarding Programme, the first day which is the most crucial time for organizations to make a first impression on a new hire and gain commitment.

An Onboarding Programme helps form the foundation of an employer-employee relationship by easing the transition of the employee from their previous organization to the new one. It helps the new hires understand the kind of organization they have associated with and gives them an opportunity to get acquainted to the people they will be working with.

It also helps reinforce the decision they made to join the organization and gives them the clarity, skills and confidence to ensure they can do what they have been hired for.

From a long term perspective, an effective Onboarding Programme ensures:

– Lower staff turnover leading to lower recruitments costs and less disruption to your business and customers.

– Improved staff morale, camaraderie, and loyalty leading to increased production.

– Faster speed to competency and therefore faster results.

According to a recent study, a shocking 31% of employees quit within the first six months of employment and the “exit rate” for new hires is as high as 17% for one week to three months after starting on the job. Alarmingly, one out of every six new employees have considered quitting due to poor Onboarding.

One of the biggest issues with Onboarding Programmes is that in most cases there are no clear objectives; only a series of well intentioned, beautiful presentations, monologues and departmental interactions that are packaged well!

Also, Onboarding material tends to get outdated as organizations grow and evolve in the marketplace. Now, keeping your organization’s Onboarding/orientation programme in mind, try and answer these questions:

• Are you prepared for the first day and week for an individual or a group of new hires?

• Does your Onboarding Programme have clearly defined objectives? What are they?

• Does it have an expected outcome? If yes, what are the measurement parameters?

• Does your orientation tie into what the new hire(s) will be doing one year down the line? Is there a revisiting of the Onboarding expectations at any time during the first year to check progress?

If you are able to articulate the answers with ease, you are probably on the right track. But if not, you need to have a serious look at your Onboarding Programme’s effectiveness and costs; both real and opportunity.

Common problems with Onboarding Programmes are:

– A lack of planning for the first day, the first week and the first month of the new hire.

– No clear objectives of the Onboarding Programme.

– Information overload and business numbers that don’t make any sense to the new hires.

– Death by presentation.

– Monologues by the senior management.

– Outdated content.

– Little focus on the competencies required for the new hire.

– Generic content, with little relevance to the new employees’ role.

– No plan to map the Onboarding Programme to a 6 month/1 year journey for the new hire.

– A lack of measurement of the programme’s effectiveness.

– No follow-up; the new hires being left to fend for themselves.

– High cost of Onboarding due to a lack of standardization.

These are some steps that organizations can take to make their Onboarding Programme more effective:

– Be prepared and have an agenda for the first day that includes a mix of formal meetings and informal chats with key people in the department and the organization in general.

– Ensure that the new hire’s manager is ready for them; that they have time set aside on the first day and during the first week to discuss the role for which the hiring has been done.

– Have clear objectives for the Onboarding Programme that can be revisited and measured.

– For a group Onboarding, design a programme that speaks to all participants equally, although their roles in the organization may vary.

– Standardize and update key materials, templates and resources required to ease reproducibility.

– Train your presenters to come across as people who care for the new employee and not machines rattling off company figures from a slide-deck.

– For critical positions, have an individual Onboarding Programme that interlinks with the proposed career path for the new hire.

– Prepare a plan to engage with the new employees after the formal Onboarding is over.

– Measure the impact of the training programme through means like retention, speed to competence, learning curve assessment, and loop feedback to improve the next Onboarding.

– Create a system to upgrade the content on a regular basis.

– Seek to reduce the overall cost of the Onboarding program by streamlining and standardizing the process as far as possible.

Amandeep Grover is a Senior Consultant at Performance Development Services. He is a Dale Carnegie certified trainer with experience of developing people at all levels in organizations. He specializes in partnering with individuals and focus-groups to help them improve behavior, break down barriers and enhance capability through sustained coaching and mentoring. Performance Development Services (PDS) works with individuals and organizations to bring about positive change in behavior and performance.

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