How You Onboard Can Make a Difference In How Much Your Employees Care

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Jan 7, 2019

Gallup estimates that actively disengaged employees cost US employers $483 billion to $605 billion in lost productivity each year. But when executives look at ways to improve employee productivity, many overlook engagement levels and the relationship to the onboarding process.

Beyond just digitizing the new employee paperwork and provisioning to make sure the new hire has a desk and a laptop, many organizations don’t put much thought into how ensuring employee engagement from the moment they sign an offer letter, can actually positively impact the company’s bottom line.

Most companies still look at onboarding through the lens of efficiency which, let’s face it, is awful.

Onboarding has had a facelift in recent years, with a rise in web apps promising to automate tasks and streamline compliance paperwork and processes. Although tightening the administrative load, this approach is only digitizing traditional onboarding.

This inherent focus on organization-readiness isn’t concerned with the new hire’s early experiences and engagement with their new company, when in fact, given the state of play today, employee engagement and experience should be the primary goal.

Unemployment in the US is sitting at just under 4%. Some economists consider this to be full employment, which means it’s a candidate-driven market, and you need to impress if you want to lure the right talent.

When you also consider that 13% of your employees are actively disengaged, and that 22% of new starters quit within their first 45 days with a new employer, you’re already on notice that something needs to be done. And that starts with your onboarding.

The problem is, most companies don’t look at onboarding as an employee engagement opportunity. The default is simply “try to do the minimum” (forms), and “try not to get it wrong.” But there are no take backs. With that approach, you are missing a great potential opportunity to wow your new hire and celebrate one of those magic moments at the start of an employee’s journey.

If you want your employees to succeed, they need to feel comfortable and confident in their new role, integrated into the workplace and valued. Companies must grab at opportunities to delight new hires and engage them with culture, behaviors, and set expectations early on.

The explosion of social media and eagerness to share opinions about great – and not so great – experiences, whether that’s with restaurants, movies, or their workplace, is forcing businesses to sit up. Add to that the introduction of employer review sites like Glassdoor and companies have been put on notice they need to lift their game.

A 2013 study by business school professors Cable, Gino, and Staats found that onboarding programs focused on the individual led to greater customer satisfaction and a third greater retention within the first six months. It also had positive benefits on employee engagement and job satisfaction. More and more companies are clearly linking the customer experience with the employee experience, providing a strong connection to the bottom line results.

Employee experience still has no home in most companies. It’s typically not a function with clear, associated KPIs and therefore, doesn’t have an allocated budget. Leadership teams and executives are slowly waking up, and just as customer experience strategy and design have evolved into an essential business function, it’s not long before businesses will see the ROI of a full employee experience function.

The time is now for engagement onboarding and the longer businesses ignore the ever-growing issue, the steeper the hill they will have to climb to compete with the innovators attracting and retaining top talent.