New Employee Onboarding Framework

By: Talya N. Bauer, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Advisor, Preppio

This article on "New Employee onboarding framework to maximize employee success" is an excerpt from an upcoming book on employee onboarding written by Talya Bauer, Ph. D., and Amin Fard.

The new employee onboarding framework 

A decade ago, I first developed the 4 C’s of onboarding framework. This was work that was published by the SHRM Foundation (Society for Human Resource Management). The 4 C’s have since evolved into the 5 C’s of Onboarding: Compliance, Clarification, Confidence, Connection, and Culture. Further to this, and to add a layer of practicality, I’ve added a 6th C, called Check-back.

While each of the 6 C’s is an important component of onboarding, the higher up the scale your organization is able to go, the more effective your onboarding program becomes.

This framework will instruct you on how to get the best out of your employees and for each individual to get the best out of themselves in their jobs. The best onboarding solutions have the employee experience at their core. 

 

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How my interest in employee onboarding started

I have been studying the onboarding process for 25 years. In fact, my Ph.D. dissertation at Purdue University included a study of new college graduates entering a variety of jobs. I surveyed college graduates across campus before they graduated and several times after they’d started their new jobs.

My work looked at a set of predictions specific to different stages and behaviors, and the relationship of these to important outcomes such as new employee performance, job satisfaction, and retention. This included what happened during the recruitment process, what the manager did while the new employee was being onboarded, and what the new employee did themselves.

After spending 12 months following new employees into their new jobs and studying their onboarding successes and failures, many of my predictions turned out to be true. In fact, over the past two and half decades, I have been amazed at how powerful the onboarding process is, and the direct impact onboarding has on these important outcomes.

30 years on

Over the last three decades that I have been studying onboarding, a lot has changed. Onboarding began as what we now think of as orientation programs to complete paperwork and to orient new employees in their jobs. These orientations were rarely considered a source of competitive advantage. That changed as onboarding became the increasingly hot talent management topic that it is today.

My own research, and that of many other academics, has consistently shown that effective onboarding leads to faster adjustment, better job attitudes, more customer referrals, better performance, and stronger retention. But that’s only the case if it is done right.

As more and more organizations focused on onboarding and began considering the need to rethink their onboarding process, best practices began to be discovered and shared. That’s great news for those interested in helping employees and organizations to create vibrant and effective workplaces together.

You can learn more about my 5 keys to success in this article here where I dive a bit deeper into the onboarding process.

What’s to gain?

When onboarding goes well, individuals and organizations thrive. When onboarding goes poorly, the negative outcomes can be equally powerful with high levels of dissatisfaction, low engagement, poor performance, and high turnover. The statistics are sobering with half of all hourly workers leaving their new jobs within the first 120 days, and half of all senior outside hires fail within 18 months in a new position.

All it takes is understanding which tools or levers are available to the organization to help new employees thrive. As I conducted research and reviewed what worked and what didn’t, I realized that the key levers could be identified and broken down into core components.

Relationships matter

They matter primarily because relationships connect us as human beings. Few would actively disagree with such a statement. However, successful relationships require intention and effort. Interestingly, when it comes to onboarding, many organizations assume that a new employee’s need to belong and to connect with colleagues will happen with time. It might – but then again, it might not. By helping organizations to develop proactive and strategic onboarding approaches that cultivate a sense of connection and belonging for new employees, these relationships are not left to chance.

Season 7 Nbc GIF by The Office

The manager holds a special key to the connection process. In research I conducted with a colleague, we found that being unable to establish meaningful connections with co-workers led new engineers to seek less information. However, if the new engineer and his or her manager were able to connect, the newcomer could overcome this hurdle even in the face of conflict with co-workers. In other words, the relationship the new employee has with his or her manager was crucial to establishing a sense of belongingness in the organization and this relationship enabled them to freely seek information from the supervisor. Hence, these employees were positioned to succeed in the organization.

The sink-or-swim mentality is a thing of the past

It’s a risky strategy to rely on new employees to “sink or swim” when it comes to connecting with their co-workers and managers. Organizations can help new employees maximize success by engaging in onboarding best practices. These are based on research, consulting, and observations regarding new employee success that consistently show that when you invest in new employees, they invest back into their co-workers, customers, and the organization.

 

Employee Onboarding Checklist

What experience do you offer your new hires in their first 90 days? Take a look at Talya Bauer PhD.'s Onboarding Checklist to see if you have covered the basics.


The evolution of the onboarding framework from 4 C’s to the 6 C’s 

Organizations that focus on the 6 C’s demonstrate more successful onboarding and business outcomes than those that do not.

Compliance - first the housekeeping

Compliance refers to the mandatory actionable of all new employees such as completing paperwork, the badging process, and provisioning tasks like equipping new employees with computers and phones as well as a workspace. Organizations, even those that claim they do not have a formal onboarding program, must be compliant to stay in business. Due to this, many employees spend their first day on the job filling out forms. This is a missed opportunity.

Organizations spend millions of hours and billions of dollars working through the recruitment funnel to attract candidates, identify qualified candidates, assess candidates, and then finally hire them with the hope that they join the organization. The irony is that they spend much less time thinking about ways to improve the employee experience.

Clarification of employee roles and expectations

Clarification refers to how well new employees understand their roles and performance expectations. Of course, organizations hire new employees to do specific jobs so clarifying what they need to be doing, how to do it, and how the organization functions in terms of rules and policies, is important.

We also know that structure and clarity are important for individual and team success, but spending time learning these basics isn’t the most exciting way to spend your time when you’re new. It’s important to build in ways to help new employees understand what is expected of them and to make them feel equipped and supported in their decision to join your organization and give them confidence in their ability to do a good job. This feeds into the next ‘C’.
Building new employee confidence

 

Helping employees build meaningful connections

 

Connection refers to how accepted and valued new employees feel. When new employees feel connected to their colleagues, they feel safe. Research has consistently shown that a sense of connection leads to various positive individual and organizational outcomes. When new employees feel connected and safe, they ask questions and try new things. Additionally, they engage more fully with their co-workers, their role, and the organization with a greater sense of appreciation. It is a factor that helps new employees feel that they made the right decision to join the organization.

Gallup has consistently found that having a close friend at work is related to a 50% boost in job satisfaction and that those employees with a best friend at work were seven times more likely to fully engage with their work. This starts with onboarding. If new employees feel alone and isolated on their first day, it can be challenging to recover, as researchers found at Microsoft.

Building employee Confidence

Confidence refers to employees’ feelings about doing the job well and their competence to tackle new challenges. It is a state of mind. While an organization cannot directly help new employees feel better about themselves, they can design onboarding experiences that help build up employees rather than tearing them down. When employees feel more confident, they are more likely to feel good about those around them as well as the choice to join your organization.

Research conducted by Dan Cable 1 and his colleagues found that when onboarding focuses on the value of the new employee and encourages him/her to share themselves at work, it can immediately increase performance and retention.

Shared cultures are always evolving

Culture2 refers to how well new employees understand the norms, values, stories, and symbols of their new organization. Onboarding is one of the key ways through which organizational culture is formed, maintained, and changed. When I was working at Google we focused on onboarding as a KPI in People Operations because the number of new employees at Google was forecast to double within 18 months. That turned out to be true. It was imperative that we identified what the Google culture was and how this growth would impact it. One important consideration was acknowledging the stories about how the company was founded yet respecting that its norms, missions, and goals were constantly evolving.

Onboarding is a great way to teach your people about what matters within your organization. It is also a great way to learn about how your organization can evolve for the better and learn about the contributions of new employees to the organization’s future.

Onboarding check-backs are critical for long-term success.

Checkback refers to onboarding feedback. The data you receive about the employee experience will be invaluable. As you can see, there are big benefits to executing onboarding in a purposeful and planful manner. Yet even the best onboarding plans sometimes don’t turn out the way we hope. This is one reason why it is so important for all onboarding programs to include the sixth C of Check-back. 

The only way to know if your onboarding programs are working is to ask new employees. Schedule a check-back time with new employees even before they start, and be sure to let them know what you’ll be wanting to know. You should also survey managers and other stakeholders to assess what is working, what should be repeated for future newcomers, and what needs to be adjusted to ensure a world-class onboarding experience. The Check-back insights will help you benchmark results, find problems, and improve areas that need attention. These will support your business case to drive change in the organization and iterate and improve areas that need attention.

 

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This blog is an excerpt from a chapter in the upcoming book written by Talya Bauer Ph. D, and Amin Fard on employee onboarding. It comes with all the resources you need to revamp your employee onboarding from the ground up.



Reboarding/onboarding - Cheat-Sheet

Time is not on anyone’s side these days, so we’ve created a Cheat Sheet from our Reboarding Webinar to accompany the recording, key points of which we share here:

Benefits of onboarding/reboarding
When this process is done intentionally, we get employees with better attitudes at work, more confident employees, and those with greater role clarity.
Employees feel more accepted, have higher job satisfaction and higher job commitment.
Onboarding gives us more engaged employees, higher referrals, higher safety behavior (fewer accidents), better performance, and longer retention

✔What does Compliance mean?
That’s right. This is not the fun part about starting a new job. Compliance refers to signing legal documents/contracts, tax forms, rules/policies/procedures that may also be available in the employee handbook.
Compliance includes provisioning such as issuing passwords, email logins, system logins, intranet, and collaborative tools that your organization might use.
Provisioning also includes badging, meeting room systems, and availability, knowing the space such as the location of restrooms and other facilities.

✔The importance of Confidence & Best Practice
Onboarding done well taps into the ‘effective zone’ which leads to positive behavior too.
Confidence breeds a new level of curiosity. People are more likely to ask questions and engage in their own clarification process. If we design things that make people more confident, they will be more effective.
Promote confidence by giving employees challenging experiences and situations they need to overcome for longer-term confidence building.

✔The Importance of Clarity & Best Practice
Support the work-family balancing act. Larger corporations have always been good at this. Today, we’re seeing this expectation from smaller businesses.
Communicate to the right people, at the right time, in the right way.
Clarify key points and messaging repeatedly. Distractions and stress require repeated communication. Be creative in the way you present information more than once.

✔The Importance of Connection & Best Practice
Very few companies tap into connection effectively and productively.
The rise of the human. Emotions are permitted. Kids and pets in Zoom calls are today’s norm.
Gallup Polls have found that having a best friend/colleague at work is the number one predictor of someone staying long term in an organization.
What are you putting in place given the trajectory of WFH?
Employers are rebuilding trust through communication. Saying and thinking through what you need to do and having the understanding from your employees, about why things are being done as they are.
If your organization has skilled communicators and can get your messages across effectively, you’re ahead of the pack.

✔The Importance of Culture & Best Practice
Different ways of working demand that onboarding practices adjust in order to support evolving workplace cultures. How is your culture being affected?
What are your goals for the culture of the company?
What is it that makes you different qualitatively from other organizations?
Be sure to adjust your rules and policies to reflect the new cultural norm in your organization and outside of it, in a healthy and positive way.
Apply the 6C’s to your reboarding and onboarding practices.

✔Onboarding best practice tips:
Successful onboarding occurs over time. Give your team up to a year to deliver an effective program. And remember, employee onboarding is more than orientation, and an employee onboarding checklist
Strategic onboarding requires multiple interventions. It’s not a single event. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Onboarding should be supported by multiple resources. Think through the opportunities you have with the stakeholders involved. Inspire and engage.
Automation will take your new onboarding program to a whole new level.
Time is saved, consistency is achieved, employee engagement converts to higher retention, productivity, and ultimately profits.

Do you want an obligation-free, one-on-one workshop to help you rewrite your onboarding messaging?

Sign up for our newsletter and get expert advice and join our employee onboarding community.

If you’d like to listen to Talya Bauer and Amin Fard’s Reboarding Webinar in full, click through to it here.


Top 6 Employee Onboarding Challenges

Top 6 employee onboarding challenges to help you identify your company’s roadblocks when designing your new employee onboarding process!

Onboarding challenges are not just getting the paperwork, new hire orientation, and employee training - but the A-Z of employee experience from the contract is signed and the first 3-12 months in the new job. 

Challenge #1: Low Investment in employee onboarding

Onboarding is becoming a strategic growth area. This is particularly the case in companies that need to attract and retain top talent, with a high level of maturity, where HR’s focus is shifting from compliance to experience. The companies that will benefit over time are those that are open to the broad and beneficial outcomes that deeply considered recruiting solutions offer. This strategic approach reinforces that onboarding is an investment that can solve many of the people challenges that come later in the employee journey. 

Challenge #2: Haphazard onboarding and managers failing to give a great experience

The onboarding process is usually left to local managers to handle. Some give new hires a WOW experience, others can fall embarrassingly and drastically short. Unsurprisingly, it’s easier for HR to create a new and consistent onboarding process than to rely on managers, who often end up being none other than a headache for HR. Managers are busy and are rarely trained to give new hires the positive employee onboarding experience they need, to kick-start early employee engagement that in turn will drive a sustainable career with your company. How can you expect to get a good company culture, when the employee's first days and weeks are not optimized by the manager to create the right habits? Preppio’s science-backed, automated onboarding software takes the guess-work out achieving employee success and company profitability.

Are you looking to your human resources or your technological resources to resolve this employee onboarding issue?

 

Employee Onboarding Checklist

What experience do you offer your new hires in their first 90 days? Take a look at Talya Bauer PhD.'s Onboarding Checklist to see if you have covered the basics.


 

Challenge #3: Disconnect between hiring and onboarding processes

Talent acquisition is a key function in business and has always had our full attention. It follows that companies invest considerable time and resources in the selection and recruiting process, which is a stark comparison to the new hire’s first weeks and months in the job often. This disconnect is an issue if we acknowledge that employees make up their minds about liking a new job and move into the post-evaluation process as early as the day they sign an agreement with you. We can categorically conclude is that onboarding matters


What experience do you offer your new hires in their first 90 days? Take a look at Talya Bauer PhD. employee onboarding checklist to see if you have covered the basics.

Challenge #4: Lack of employee engagement

If there is one word that comes up time and time again, it’s engagement. It’s a quality that has a far-reaching impact on new hires and those responsible for implementing the onboarding process. Low engagement leads to low productivity, HR and operations inconsistency, poor connection with peers, and challenging workplace relationships on the job. When we consider that 70% of an employee’s experience is related to their direct manager, we can see why it’s important to recognize their role in this process, and that educating, coaching, and supporting managers is key if we are to build positive and lasting relationships amongst team members. Only then will we see and feel real change. 

Are your managers driving new hire engagement, and how? 

Challenge #5: On-the job-training of frontline employees is unsatisfactory

Onboarding high volumes of knowledge-workers and frontline workers is a real-world challenge in corporations the world over. This applies to any customer-facing brand - think national retail franchises, utilities, telecoms, and infrastructure companies. HR can create a great onboarding process, but because they simply do not have the time and resources to provide the experience that new employees expect and deserve. The outcome is not only a worrying variation in results but one leaving local managers to do the work and finding themselves without the time and knowledge needed to give a great and consistent experience to all. 

As a manager, how are you ensuring that your entire staff is up to speed?

Challenge # 6: The orchestration between stakeholders often fails 

Identifying who is involved in each employee’s day-to-day, who their reports are, and who should be pulled into the ecosystem of communication requires asking the right questions and understanding the responsibilities of individual employees. Communication channels must be integrated, enhancing consistency and keeping everyone on the same page. Identifying key team players and their responsibilities in the employee onboarding process can be facilitated with ease using onboarding software. That way all new hires are appropriately supported, getting to work with higher productivity levels, while managers are freed up to get their jobs done too.

Do you know who your stakeholders are and do you have a system that ensures that things do not fall between the cracks? 

 

Employee Onboarding Checklist

What experience do you offer your new hires in their first 90 days? Take a look at Talya Bauer PhD.'s Onboarding Checklist to see if you have covered the basics.



Case Study: How Lyse Succeeded at Virtual Onboarding in a Remote World

Lyse is a Norwegian Group operating within the fields of energy, telecommunications and electricity grid. The groups consist of 10 subsidiaries which are wholly owned companies with over 1200 employees.

The Onboarding Problem

  • It often takes time for new employees to get to productivity. 
  • Fragmented and inconsistency in the onboarding
  • Turnover in the first 30 days

"Preppio has been crucial for us to support, inform and onboard new hires and their managers during social distancing and work from home."

Marte Mellemstrand

HR Coordinator

The Solution

  • Their goal is to implement an onboarding process that would get new hires up to speed quicker.
  • Help managers give all new hires an onboarding experience that was standardized within the different business units.
  • Give new hires confidence, connection, and integrate into the culture.

Read the case study to learn how Lyse succeeded with their employee onboarding

Get the Full Case Study

Is Your Employee Onboarding Process Failing?

Is Your Employee Onboarding Process Failing? Here is Why and Best Practices

By Amin Fard, CEO Preppio

Learn how to transform your new hire onboarding with scientifically-driven onboarding best practices that result in reducing the cost of turnover and increased employee engagement, even in a remote work environment.

Download our Free Guide on how to choose the best onboarding software to help you deliver a world-class onboarding experience by clicking on the link below

Free guide to choose the best onboarding software

Outdated new employee onboarding checklists and programs often result in employee retention issues and staff turnover, According to Gallup only 12% of new hires state that their company does a good job of onboarding, strange when we think of how much we are investing in hiring the same people. With social distancing and remote onboarding, it is even harder for HR and managers to give a consistent and good onboarding experience to new employees.

Why do some new hires fail during onboarding while others succeed?

We spend a lot of time and resources on finding the perfect new person for our company, yet paradoxically, a lot of companies invest minimally when it comes to the onboarding experience of their future employees once the contract is signed. We think of the recruiting process as nature and the onboarding process as nurture. A person you hire comes with a certain “nature”, experience, capabilities, and personal skills, but the onboarding experience is where we have an opportunity to nurture the person into our culture, mindset or a given skill set/and role. Both are equally important for a successful employee onboarding program, so let’s have a look at how to overcome the challenges of mastering both areas. The employee onboarding process in most organizations has for too long been overlooked and outdated or left to local managers or a busy HR department with no one really owning the onboarding process. "Death by PowerPoint" during new hire orientation day or sending an onboarding checklist to hiring managers once and hoping they follow it years later, often results in employee retention issues and staff turnover. 

Overcoming the Challenge of Remote Onboarding

Finding good ‘employee-to-job fit’ is more difficult than ever in the current climate where so much employee communications have moved online to platforms like Teams, Zoom, or Workplace by Facebook. Put yourself in the shoes of the new employee to remember the anticipation, nerves, and loneliness most new hires experience when entering a new organization. Such emotions are only heightened in a world where it’s more difficult to meet face-to-face and interact with others during your first time in a new job. Now more than ever the nurture part of hiring is critical to ensure successful employee onboarding, and happy employees. But what does nurturing look like in a virtual world? Most companies already have digital learning platforms and one-size-fits-all e-learning systems, however, many such systems fail to meet the needs and expectations of today’s incoming employees.

Science-based Onboarding is More Important Than Ever

According to Talya Bauer Phd, the foremost authority on employee onboarding who authored the widely used 5 C’s (now 6) of Onboarding, for new hires onboarding is so much more than the paperwork or the Compliance. It is vital for the socialization of people in the Culture, building meaningful Connections, developing employee Confidence, and Clarification throughout the onboarding process. Check back is the latest addition to her framework, and it is all about listening to the new hires and continuously improving the experience over time.

Is Your Employee Onboarding Process Failing?

Companies that lack a structured and science-based onboarding process perform worse on important metrics like employee engagement, time to productivity. According to survey results from staffing agency Robert Half & Associates 22% of new hires that quit, do so within the first 45 days. Even more critical is the turnover in deskless and hourly workforce where a study by Krauss, A. D. (2010) showed that 50% of hourly workers quit within 120 first days.

According to SHRM, 69 percent of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experienced great onboarding experience, Clearly, it hurts the bottom line to leave your employee onboarding to chance!

Inconsistent onboarding process or a ‘sink or swim’ mindset for your new hires has never worked well, but in today’s landscape, this type of approach to onboarding can be detrimental and may result in new hires feeling overwhelmed and alone. This is especially true for experienced hires who in such circumstances come to miss the safety net of co-workers to lean on from previous jobs.

Onboarding Experience is at an All-Time Low

Through our research of recent new hires who had recently started their new job in restaurants, call centers, and offices, we learned that employee onboarding experience is at an all-time low due to social distancing and work from home.

You too have probably experienced that onboarding employees are much harder with the recent changes in how we work and interact. A significant part of onboarding happens by people interacting with each other. With many employees working from home or being onboarded remotely, we need more standardized onboarding processes that take each new employee through one, consistent and engaging onboarding experience that motivates the new employee, and ensures they are seen and properly followed upon by others. This way we can build productive employees who instantly feel as if they are part of the organization.

Download our Free Guide on how to choose the best onboarding software to help you deliver a world-class onboarding experience by clicking on the link below

Free guide to choose the best onboarding software

The Good News

A poor onboarding process is not affecting the unwanted turnover typical in the first months as much as it was before the pandemic. Employees and the organizations know they are in strange times, expectations to onboarding in 2020 are low. At the same time, this is also an opportunity to go above and beyond to improve your new employee experience.

It doesn’t have to take much. Sending a new employee welcome kit from their co-worker or meeting their manager and co-workers for a Zoom- lunch on the first day are examples of small efforts that can make a big impact when expectations are low.

The Bad News

Poor onboarding experiences often boils down to simple things like failure to assign responsibility for a new hire’s success. Managers don’t know what to do or are too busy. HR also lags behind in terms of adapting and upgrading onboarding processes to ensure they are in line with today’s expectations and organizational needs. The outcome is that new employees often are left to their own devices, trying to navigate new territory with no clear map or guidance.

Three key areas that are hurting organizations due to bad remote onboarding:

  1. Unproductive new hires, and time spent getting them up to speed
    • New hires spend a lot of time doing nothing of value or sitting alone with no work to do. 
    • New hires struggle to find help to get work done because they don’t know who to speak with.
    • New hires leaving a bad customer service experience for end customers in the first weeks and months without anyone being there to give them feedback and training
  2. New hires failing and feeling unhappy at work
    • New hires don’t feel a sense of accomplishment due to a lack of on the job learning and support.
    • Finding it hard to succeed at work while feeling like a failure goes both ways, employees feel it, and managers say they made the wrong decision as the person is not independent enough to succeed.
    • New hire work on things that do not result in tangible results for the organization and not directed towards long term success
  3. Culture and employee engagement
    • Lack of community, connection, and socialization for new hires. 
    • A bad start when it comes to culture leads to bad habits that the person will bring with them throughout their life span at an organization.
    • A poor start leads to bad habits that the person will bring with them throughout their life span at an organization.
  4. Lack of clarification, confidence, and connection
    • Recruiters and hiring managers are not good at clarifying the situation, how the company works, and what is expected of the new hires to succeed. Extra important in these different pandemic times.
    • Building confidence is the key to ensuring onboarding success. Small simple tasks that new hires can do on their own have been forgotten and managers have been busier. This leaves new hires with no work or work they are not able to do.
    • Connection is lacking as employees are not feeling like part of their team, do not know about (or believe in) the company mission. This usually happens when they have not been properly introduced to their new co-workers and the company story in the pre-boarding and first weeks on the job.

Quick Pro Tips for Great New Employee Onboarding

  1. Automation is key: HR and hiring managers should not spend their time sending a lot of information manually to each new hire in order to give them the best onboarding experience. Without clear communication onboarding often fails. Sending the right message at the right time and doing so automatically is the secret to success. According to the internal communication company, Poppulo 50% of management emails are not opened by people that work behind a desk and 70% of emails are not opened in deskless workforces. Imagine if you could push onboarding information to new hires, managers, and other onboarding stakeholders in the channels they use most and use software that can automate it for you.
  2. Actionable tips by using automation of onboarding:
    • Send a CEO video to all new hires so they get more invested in the mission of the company in the critical pre-boarding phase.
    • Use SMS during pre-boarding and chat messages in the employee communication platform, because if no one reads the messages you might as well not have sent it.
    • New hires have a lot of questions and some of them might be embarrassing to ask. Is it allowed to date a colleague? What happens if I am late to work? What is the dress code? Information overload happens when sending a long e-mail with too much info. Imagine if you could send bite-sized messages over time to ensure that employees actually retain the information. You could also use an onboarding chatbot in Workplace from Facebook, Microsoft Teams, or Slack where new hires can get answers quickly.
  3. Use a Science and Data-Based Approach: Implementing the 6 C's of onboarding framework and onboarding process is key to ensure onboarding success. According to a study by Brandon Hall Group in 2015 Companies with the top maturity level in employee, onboarding are twice as likely to increase employee engagement versus companies that focus with a lower level of maturity.
    • Build Confidence and connection by giving new hires simple tasks like introducing themselves in Workplace from Facebook or Microsoft teams as part of their onboarding process. Their colleges will greet them and create a social bond, even if done remotely.
    • Clarify the work, progress, and ensure the new hire is aware of what is expected of them. Good habits are created early on!
    • What gets measured gets managed. It can be scary to learn how little employees absorb the critical first weeks, but measuring feedback from new hires onboarding experience creates a culture of caring for your employees. Over time it compounds and impacts your employer branding, engagement, and productivity.
  4. Support managers with the right software: Don’t leave the full burden of employee onboarding to the HR department, make it easy for managers to become onboarding superheroes as well. Develop easy ways to ‘pass the baton’ to the new hire’s manager and help your managers with automated nudges and check-in points throughout the process.
    • Creating a buddy system for your new hires where the senior employees take more responsibility for helping the new employees during onboarding.
    • Get the software to handle the time consuming and boring tasks from the manager’s shoulders, like giving employees access to the right tools, do online intro courses and paperwork.
    • Lunch with managers early days is important for employees to feel a connection, in today's work environment you can nudge managers by (automating) a message 10 days before the start to remind them to send a gift to their house. Imagine the fuzzy feeling the new manager and organization give the new hires when the whole family of the new hire experiences that their new job has taken the time to send a package through mail, it does not take a lot to create engaged employees when expectations are low.

Become an onboarding superstar!

Join our 4-part email course:
HOW TO BUILD A WORLD-CLASS ONBOARDING PROCESS




Employee Onboarding Checklist by Talya Bauer

By: Talya N. Bauer, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Advisor, Preppio

I believe that relationships matter primarily because they connect us as human beings. Few would actively disagree with such a statement. However, successful relationships often require intention and effort. Interestingly, when it comes to onboarding, many organizations assume that a new employee’s need to belong and to connect with colleagues will simply “work itself out” with time. It might – but then again, it might not. Therefore, I’ve made it my mission to help organizations develop proactive and strategic onboarding approaches that cultivate a sense of connection and belonging for new employees.

I first became exposed to the three levers (confidence, clarity, and connection) of successful onboarding over 25 years ago as a doctoral student pursuing my Ph.D. in business at Purdue University. Our early work, which examined research scientists working toward doctoral degrees, indicated that these three levers were important keys to onboarding leading to engagement, effectiveness, and retention. Subsequent research has consistently confirmed these findings and expanded these initial levers to the 6 C’s of onboarding (compliance, confidence, clarity, connection, culture and check back).

 


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Helping new employees feel more confident, have greater role clarity, and feel more connected all matter. More importantly, when individuals feel more accepted and connected to those around them, it is easier for them to ask clarifying questions and gain confidence. Thus, when I am working with organizations to help them maximize their onboarding program success, I recommend that after they have dealt with the basics of strong onboarding, they focus on specific ways to help new employees feel welcome and to jumpstart the process of their connections even before they arrive on the first day of their job.

The manager holds a special key to the connection process. In research I conducted with a colleague, we found that being unable to establish meaningful connections with coworkers led new engineers to seek less information. However, if the new engineer and his or her manager were able to connect, the newcomer could overcome this hurdle even in the face of conflict with coworkers. In other words, the relationship the new employee has with his or her manager was crucial to establishing a sense of belongingness in the organization and this relationship enabled them to freely seek information from the supervisor. Hence, these employees were positioned to succeed in the organization.

When it comes to onboarding success, relationships matter. Relying on new employees to “sink or swim” when it comes to connecting with coworkers and managers is a risky strategy. Organizations can help new employees maximize success by engaging in onboarding best practices which I have developed and presented below which are based on research, consulting, and observations regarding new employee success. And, when you invest in new employees, they invest back into their co-workers, customers, and the organization.


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The Employee Onboarding Process: 5 Keys to Success

By: Talya N. Bauer, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Advisor, Preppio

Onboarding matters.

I strongly believe this statement based on years of observing and documenting the power of onboarding for new employees and organizations alike. 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, over and over again, that onboarding has the power to influence whether new employees decide to stick with or leave an organization with 80% of new employees deciding whether or not to stay with their new organization within the first few months, yet most organizations do not believe they do it well. In fact, when Gallup asked employees about onboarding, 88% indicated that they didn’t think their organization was good at onboarding.

And managers agree, with only 76% of HR leaders reporting that they believe they are ineffectively onboarding their new employees. The top reasons managers gave for neglecting onboarding included not having enough time (57% of the managers surveyed noted this challenge), the absence of tools to measure its effectiveness (55% of the managers surveyed noted this challenge), and the lack of digital onboarding technology to automate the process (39% of managers noted this challenge).

I have been studying onboarding for nearly three decades. A lot has changed during that time. Onboarding began as what we now think of as orientation programs that were utilized to complete paperwork and begin to orient new employees to their jobs. These orientations were rarely considered a source of competitive advantage. That changed as onboarding became the increasingly hot talent management topic that it is today. My own research, and that of many other scholars, has consistently shown that effective onboarding leads to faster adjustment, better job attitudes, more customer referrals, better performance, and stronger retention. 3 But that’s only the case if it is done right. As more and more organizations focused on onboarding and began considering the need to rethink their onboarding process, best practices began to be discovered and shared. That’s great news for those interested in helping employees and organizations create vibrant and effective workplaces together.

Over ten years ago, I took a look at the academic research that had been done on onboarding in terms of what really worked in terms of effective onboarding. Based on this, I developed the 5 “C’s” of Onboarding which are: Compliance, Clarification, Confidence, Connection, and Culture. Compliance refers to things that must be done when new employees start things like getting paperwork completed, the badging process, and provisioning tasks like equipping new employees with computers and phones as well as a workspace. Clarification refers to how well new employees understand their roles and performance expectations. Confidence refers to how much new employees feel like they can do the job well and tackle new challenges. Connection refers to how accepted and valued new employees feel. Culture refers to how well new employees understand the norms, values, stories, and symbols of their new organization.

Consistent with the 5 C’s of onboarding, there are many best practices when it comes to onboarding new employees effectively. The five key points which I have seen as onboarding best practices from India to Indiana and from scrappy startups to Fortune 500 organizations and everything in-between include:

1) An onboarding plan should be developed to maximize onboarding success.

Some organizations are hiring new employees every single day. Others hire less frequently. Either way, the key to success is to think through an onboarding plan for every new employee BEFORE they are even hired. Doing this in advance helps to ensure a seamless and welcoming process for new employees. The best organizations are aware that poor onboarding can be costly turnover which can be as much as twice the employee’s annual salary. And, a study of newly hired employees found that new employees were 58% more likely to remain with the organization 3 years later if they had a structured onboarding experience. 5 The worst thing that can happen to a new employee is to feel like an after-thought. You’ve invested a lot in the recruitment and selection of your new hires. Having an onboarding plan ready to go for them shows them that you are going to continue to invest in their well-being and success within the organization.

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2) The right people are involved in the onboarding plan including the new employee, managers, and other key organizational members such as buddies.

Successful onboarding does not consistently happen by accident. Microsoft studied their onboarding process and found that new employees who had one-on-one meetings with their managers during their first week had a 12% larger internal network within 90 days than new employees who hadn’t met with their manager. They also found that these new employees had higher-quality meetings, and they spent nearly three times more of their time engaging with their team in collaborative ways.

6 Microsoft also found that having an onboarding buddy assigned was related to better role clarity, higher productivity, and 36% higher new employee job satisfaction within 3 months on the job. 7 And, new employees play an important role in their own onboarding as well. Research has consistently found that when new employees are proactive, they are more successful.

3) The onboarding plan is consistently implemented. All new employees receive an onboarding plan.

When it comes to onboarding, consistency is a key metric for success. We know that planning is important. We know that having the right people involved is important. But, it is not just important for some employees. It is important for ALL employees to be successful. By consistently implementing the onboarding plan and sharing it with new employees, they are empowered to move quickly toward engagement and productivity. Automation can help with this so that every new employee receives the same information at the same time in their onboarding journey.

4) The onboarding plan includes clear objectives, specific timelines, and outlines the roles and responsibilities of the new employee and the organization.

The power of these simple best practices is illustrated by an experiment conducted at Google. Google shared research-based onboarding best practices with managers who had new employees starting via a simple, 37-word automated email sent right before new employees started their employment. They found that this increased productivity by 25%. The emails emphasized the need to have a roles and responsibilities discussion with the new employee, the importance of matching the new employee with a peer buddy, the need to help the new employee build a social network, the importance of setting up regular onboarding check-ins once a month for the first six months of the new employee's tenure, and the need to encourage an open dialogue. 8

5) The onboarding plan is evaluated and tracked over time (for at least six months).

The adage “what gets measured, gets done” applies to onboarding as well. By tracking and evaluating your onboarding process over time, you will be able to adjust to changes, make improvements, and better meet the needs of new employees. Moving beyond the first day or week and the orientation program, organizations have the ability to increase retention, productivity, employee job attitudes, and engagement. By automating this process, everyone gains time and efficiency and no one forgets to evaluate and track the onboarding process.

While these five key points may seem simple, getting the entire organization to engage in these steps for every new employee can be a challenge. It is a challenge well worth the effort. Technology, good internal communication tools and automation can help with many of these best practices.


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The 5 C's of Onboarding

By: Talya N. Bauer, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Advisor, Preppio

Understand what it takes to create an employee onboarding process that maximizes the new employee experience for success.

I began studying employee onboarding over 25 years ago. In fact, my dissertation included a study of new college graduates entering a variety of jobs. My prediction was that what happened during the recruitment process, what the manager and onboarding did while the new employee was being onboarded, as well as what the new employee did themselves were all going to be related to important outcomes such as new employee performance, job satisfaction, and retention. Luckily, after spending a year of my life following new employees into their new jobs and studying their onboarding successes and failures, many of these predictions turned out to be true. In fact, over the past decades, I have been amazed at how powerful the onboarding process is in terms of these important outcomes.

When onboarding goes well, individuals and organizations thrive. When onboarding goes poorly, the negative outcomes can be equally powerful with high levels of dissatisfaction, low engagement, poor performance, and high turnover.  The statistics are sobering with half of all hourly workers leaving their new jobs within the first 120 days and half of all senior outside hires failing within 18 months in a new position.

All it takes is understanding which tools, or levers, are available to the organization to help new employees thrive. As I conducted research and reviewed what worked and what didn’t, I realized that the key levers could be identified and broken down into core components.

 


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In 2010, I wrote a professional practices white paper for the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) where I laid out a number of onboarding levers based on years and years of research, consulting, and observation of onboarding. These have since evolved into the 5 “C’s” of Onboarding: Compliance, Clarification, Confidence, Connection, and Culture. While each of the 5 C’s is an important component of onboarding, the higher up the scale from compliance to connection and culture that your organization is able to go, the more effective your onboarding program becomes.

The 5 “C’s” of Effective Onboarding include a focus on compliance, clarification, confidence, connection, and culture. Organizations that focus on the 5 “C’s” demonstrate more successful onboarding and business outcomes than those that do not.

The 5 “C’s” of Effective Onboarding include a focus on compliance, clarification, confidence, connection, and culture. Organizations that focus on the 5 “C’s” demonstrate more successful onboarding and business outcomes than those that do not.

Comply with Legal Rules and Obligations. Compliance refers to things that must be done when new employees start things like getting paperwork completed, the badging process, and provisioning tasks like equipping new employees with computers and phones as well as a workspace.  Organizations, even those who claim they do not have a formal onboarding program, have to get compliance right to stay in business. Because of this, many employees spend their first day on the job filling out forms. This is a missed opportunity for organizations. Organizations spend millions of hours and billions of dollars working through the recruitment funnel of attracting candidates, identifying qualified candidates, assessing candidates, and then finally hiring them and hoping they join the organization. But, they spend much less time thinking about ways to help make the employee experience better.

The Recruitment Funnel in Relation to the Stages of Recruitment

The recruitment funnel decreases the number of candidates considered from the time of recruitment through hire, leaving the very best candidates to hire.

A first step in helping create a unique and powerful employee experience is to spend the valuable first day on the job working them up the onboarding funnel to generate the biggest onboarding ROI on their first hours  You can’t do that if all they experience is a stack of papers or online forms and waiting in long lines to get their badges. This is a huge wasted opportunity to move down the onboarding funnel toward the high-value activities with big ROIs.

Clarify Roles and Expectations for New Employees. Clarification refers to how well new employees understand their roles and performance expectations. Of course, organizations hire new employees to do specific jobs so clarifying what they need to be doing, how to do it, and how the organization functions in terms of rules and policies is important. And, we know that structure and clarity are important for individual and team success. But, spending time learning the basics certainly isn’t the most exciting way to spend your time when you’re new. So, build in ways to help new employees understand what is expected of them but the goal in doing this should be squarely focused on helping them feel equipped and confident in their choice to join your organization and their own ability to do a good job.

Build Up New Employee Confidence. Confidence refers to how much new employees feel like they can do the job well and tackle new challenges. It is a state of mind. While an organization cannot directly help new employees feel better about themselves, they can design onboarding experiences that help build up employees rather than tearing them down. When employees feel more confident, they are more likely to feel good about those around them as well as the choice to join your organization. Research conducted by Dan Cable and his colleagues found that onboarding, when done right to focus on the value of the new employee and encouraging them to share themselves at work, can immediately increase performance and retention.

Help New Employees Build Meaningful Connections at Work. Connection refers to how accepted and valued new employees feel. When new employees feel connected to their colleagues, they feel safe. Research has consistently shown that leads to all sorts of good individual and organizational outcomes. When new employees feel connected and safe, they ask questions. They try new things. And, they engage more fully with their coworkers, role, and the organization. And, they appreciate it. It is a factor which help new employees feel that they made the right choice to join the organization. Gallup has consistently found that having a close friend at work is related to a 50% boost in job satisfaction and that those employees with a best friend at work were seven times more likely to fully engage with their work. This starts with onboarding. If new employees feel alone and isolated on their first day, it can be challenging to recover as researchers found at Microsoft.

They Share Your Culture, But Remember That Cultures are Always Evolving. Culture refers to how well new employees understand the norms, values, stories, and symbols of their new organization. Onboarding is one of the key ways that organizational culture is formed, maintained, and changed. When I was working at Google and we focused on onboarding as a key KPI in People Operations, it was because the number of new employees at Google was anticipated to double within 18 months. That turned out to be true and the work done to identify what the Google culture was and how it would be impacted by such a huge influx of new employees was top of mind. One important thing for us to keep in mind was that while the stories of how the company was founded, its norms, missions, and its goals were evolving all the time. Onboarding is a great way to teach about what matters within your organization. It is also a great way to learn about how your organization could evolve for the better over time because new employees are the organization’s future.

Understanding what the 5 C’s of Onboarding on is the first important step toward ensuring that you have a robust onboarding program and that your onboarding program is best in class. No matter where your organization is in terms of its onboarding program, there is always room to make it stronger. With the technology available now that wasn’t available when I first started studying onboarding, it has never been easier or more rewarding to maximize onboarding success.


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