Employee preboarding: The missed opportunity

Employee preboarding: The missed opportunity

I spoke to a CHRO recently and she told me about their employee preboarding process in these terms: “We don’t want to get the fish on land just to leave it there for dead. That is how I feel about our employee preboarding process like it is today”.

Overoptimizing the hiring process and underoptimizing the preboarding process? 

Recruiters often sell the job to the candidates and they feel highly valued and engaged after they have signed the contract, only to feel like a commodity after contracts are signed because there was a lack of communication and follow-up.

This over-optimization is also shown in another statistic you can check in your own company; how many talent acquisition/recruiters work for every employee experience and people operations at your company? Just like it does not make sense to only have salespeople and without a customer team, it does not make sense to just get people in without ensuring that they are set up for success. In sales language, it leads to customer churn, in people operation/human capital terms it leads to employee turnover.

If employees do not feel that their expectations meet reality, they are likely to lose interest quickly. When surveyed, 61% of new hires state that they do not think their new job lives up to their expectations and feel cheated.  1

When your company has invested so much in hiring a new employee, it only makes sense to not leave them feeling like dead fish after contracts are signed.

However, it’s strange that so few companies stand out from the crowd and invest more in the employee preboarding experience.

Take the employee perspective

In the period leading up to the first day, it’s natural for employees to be a little anxious and nervous, perhaps even a little doubtful. Same as the first day of school. Everyone wants to feel like they’re joining a workplace that supports them and a company that looks forward to supporting them.

As part of these pre-first day jitters, employees create their own set of expectations for the new role. They might search online to learn about the company’s staff and perhaps even make contact with future colleagues. The days and weeks leading up to the first day is powerful. It’s a time when we forge ideas about how the new job will be and try to keep our nerves under control as we wonder how we’ll perform and fit in.

Scared Kumail Nanjiani GIF by Team Coco

Will they meet people that might become their friends? What will the career opportunities be like? What we don’t know are the untold stories about bad past work experiences, such as a difficult or ineffective manager or a dysfunctional culture that, troublingly, could also play out as a source of mild or more severe trauma.

But what if there is not a good preboarding experience before day one? It follows that any negative feelings might be dialed right up, leaving the positive ones lagging behind. This begs the question – why not control this and give employees what they crave?

Reduce no show rates with personalized automation

One of our clients in the airline industry struggled with employees signing a contract but never showing up for day one. They reduced the number of employee no-shows by 75% with the following change in the process; After conducting surveys, the airline business in question realized that while they had a highly sophisticated system of automating communication, tasks, and training to the new hires, they’d forgotten about the employee experience. Their process did not drive engagement and connection in the preboarding stage as it was too focused on the tasks.

In response, they changed the onboarding process slightly by automating two messages instructing HR or hiring managers to call the new hire to congratulate them on their new job and ask if they had any questions. This new practice created a sense of belonging to the company and made it real that there is actually a human being, perhaps even a team, waiting for the new hire’s arrival. This is a great example of automation in the Preppio solution to humanize the onboarding experience.

Other clients we work with have reduced no-show rates by asking new hires to add teammates on LinkedIn, listen to a podcast about the culture in the company (A CEO podcast episode is a good idea), or get a call from a buddy.

Test Preppio’s preboarding software on your phone:



It takes a village 

The whole company needs to adopt an onboarding mindset and preboarding is a critical component. The company should not let the excitement and enthusiasm and energy of all new hires go to waste. Creating perceptions and building actions to demonstrate that the company genuinely cares about a new hire starting requires some effort from the business’ internal stakeholders. This is not a mindset that pats managers on the back for checking off boxes. Rather, it’s a mindset that facilitates employee success by using tools to make it easy for all stakeholders to be onboarding champions.

The organization’s focus on its success, story, plans, and mission are great things to communicate, but even better is creating an onboarding experience that allows the new hire to be the hero of the story. In other words, the importance of ‘You’ in order for ‘Us’ to reach our mission!

The fact that “You were carefully selected from the vast numbers of people applying for the job, because of the fact that we believe you can help us” – is exactly how to speak to people that join. The first days should be about giving new hires confidence, connection, clarification, culture – not information overload.

In a research paper by Talya Bauer, our very own Chief Scientific Officer, competitive advantage was seen to strengthen in those organizations that capitalize on their talents. Talya found in one study that organizations judged to be the best onboarders have a retention rate of as high as 91 percent after the first year of employment compared to just 30 percent for the organizations assessed as the worst onboarders. Similarly, new hires who had good onboarding experiences achieved results of 71 percent for hires in the first year compared to only 17 percent for the poorest onboarders. 2

 

Aberdeen Group survey 2013

Preboarding checklists VS preboarding software?

 

Busy managers often forget to do the tasks on the checklist or things fall between the cracks. If managers and people operation teams do not have a system of checks and balances in place to ensure that critical things like ordering the equipment or setting up the desk are done in time, it will lead to bad results. It would be strange to not give the customer success department a CRM tool to ensure customers get a good onboarding experience, the same should apply for employee pre- and onboarding!

Check Checkmark GIF by MOST EXPENSIVEST

Do you have an onboarding system in place that makes sure your new hires feel cared for and set up for success when they arrive on day one? If you still are a bad HRIS onboarding module, spreadsheets, e-mails, or have a checklist that you hope people follow, you should consider using Preppio’s research-backed onboarding software. It is like a CRM for your people operation teams that go beyond the checklist and create a personalized WOW experience for new hires while making the job of being a hiring manager easier!

Test Preppio’s preboarding software on your phone:




The business case for onboarding

Globally, onboarding has evolved into a mature HR practice. Successful strategic onboarding is especially important given the increasing pace of change and mobility. Research has shown, time and time again, that onboarding has the power to influence whether new employees decide to stick with or leave an organization. So, what is the business case for onboarding and why does it matter?

80% of new employees decide whether or not to stay with their new organization within the first few months, yet most organizations are aware they don’t execute onboarding well.

In fact, when Gallup3 asked employees about onboarding, 88% indicated that they didn’t think their organization was good at onboarding. And those in charge agree with 76% of HR leaders reporting that they believe they are ineffectively onboarding their new employees.

The three top reasons managers gave for neglecting onboarding are:

  • 57% noted not having enough time
  • 55% noted the absence of tools to measure its effectiveness, and
  • 39% reported the lack of digital onboarding technology to automate the process was challenging

There’s a strong correlation between the approach a company adopts to its onboarding and the results achieved by employees and businesses. We acknowledge that the more maturity a company has around onboarding, the greater chance of it investing in sound strategic onboarding practices.

What is the business case of engagement onboarding? 

Acknowledging the role that ‘engagement’ plays is also a key stepping-stone to understanding the business case of onboarding. It’s a popular buzzword in the world of brand marketing and is a word commonly used to benchmark our relationship to the world around us. So too, its significance should not be underestimated in the context of the workplace. Consider the following:

1) The importance of engagement in relation to providing employees with a sense of purpose and
2) Why purpose is critical to driving healthy engagement levels.

Let’s put it another way. To be truly productive in our work, we have to be engaged. To be engaged we have to have a purpose. The challenge for both is resources. Without appropriate resources managers are forced to be task-focused rather than purpose-driven which essentially sabotages engagement. Once disengaged, productivity suffers. It’s a vicious cycle.

As the below diagram shows - culture, connection, clarification, and the WOW factor are major contributors to employee engagement levels.

Business case of onboarding

People generally have no problem doing mundane and repetitive tasks as long as it leads to other intrinsic rewards. These rewards could include connecting with customers and colleagues, making the world a better place, feelings of accomplishment, seeing their part in something bigger, or perhaps even career advancement in the long run.

Whatever the reward, a good onboarding process recognizes these factors and helps employees understand why they are doing, what they are doing.

Give your people the CEO treatment

As part of our research, we spoke to a CEO of a large airline who noted that the best investment he made in the early days of joining the organization was getting to know the business.

It’s a normal and valid concern to be worried about a leadership change, this is why listening to people and creating reports is key for new CEOs and leaders to be able to make the changes they want. The higher you are in an organization the more time and effort is required for that individual to get to know the business and its people.

The question is - shouldn’t the same apply to the rest of us? Under the middle tier of management down to the ranks of junior employees, and especially frontline customer-facing employees, we consistently see examples of onboarding executed at its worst.

So have a think about this. What would happen to the frontline worker if they received the CEO treatment during onboarding? Do you think this would increase the chances of them staying with your company for longer? With a dose of CEO treatment, would a frontline worker be more likely to become a manager and a highly engaged fan of the business?

We know it is impossible to give new hires the CEO treatment. This analogy is simply used to drive your understanding of the CEO treatment idea. Exceeding new hire expectations and ensuring that employees feel valued should be factored into the design of your onboarding program. By doing so, employees’ success rates will be maximized. By continuously asking how these success rates relate to business success you will build the business case to introduce strategic onboarding.

Onboarding is good for your brand

A brand is a promise. Part of this promise is the delivery of service and quality standards that meet or exceed customer expectations. This in turn is carefully managed over time to build customer loyalty and positive brand perceptions. All great brands strive to exceed customer expectations. So, what happens when a new hire who has had bad onboarding, is customer-facing?

Redhead Karen GIF by moodman

Due to the link between the customer experience and employee experience, great onboarding is the solution. Our goal is for organizations to adopt an “exceeding expectation” mindset for their brands by integrating this way of thinking early on in their onboarding program.

It’s also worth noting that the lifetime value of each hire goes beyond the duration of that individual’s employment with you. Consider the thousands of employees that come and go after only a short time. It’s likely that they will tell their friends and family about your business, and that conversations about your organization and your brand will be both positive and negative. Optimizing these experiences so that each new hire talks positively about your company no matter how long they stay, is key to creating good employer branding.

When it comes to front-line onboarding, one of the best-in-class companies is Pal’s Sudden Service. CEO Thomas Crosby once said:

"We realized that we are in the education business, just like any school or university."  

This mindset has led to designing and implementing an onboarding process that results in highly engaged employees who stay. At the Assistant Manager level, turnover is 1.4%. At the top end, Pal has lost just seven general managers in 33 years. Meanwhile on the front lines, turnover is lower than the average rate in the industry sitting at 32%. 4

It is easier to convince the organization to invest more in the people you are hiring!

 

Get free cost of new hire onboarding spreadsheet

Do you want to know the cost of onboarding a new hire to your company?

  • The average cost of onboarding a new hire is 30% to 70% of their annual salary
  • Recruiting and training are major costs, but time to productivity has the highest overall cost
  • Companies can save up thousands of dollars per new hire hired by maximizing the onboarding success