Onboarding is often an imperfect process, one that only 32% of companies deploy in a formalized way. Despite its imperfections, onboarding is hugely beneficial for attracting and retaining employees. In fact, 54% of organizations with a formal onboarding process experience greater new hire productivity and 50% experience greater new hire retention. Creating a program that introduces a new employee to their team, the organization’s mission, and the work processes in place is complex. It’s all about knowing what is right for each individual and adjusting the process to their needs and interests.
That being said, companies should have some foundation of how to onboard employees if simply to increase engagement in the company culture, to ensure their expectations are being met and to give them a comprehensive impression of what the job is likely to entail. The way to improve onboarding functions and meet particular goals is to integrate technology into the process and design a program that covers all aspects of starting a new job. The Aberdeen report, “Welcome to the 21st Century, Onboarding!” takes a deep dive into this idea, but here we provide the ideal timeline, content and features of the perfect onboarding funnel.
There is much debate about how long an onboarding process should be. Studies show that anything less than a month is detrimental to retention rates, with companies with programs that last a month or less being 9% less likely to keep first-year employees than those with longer processes. Even with evidence of why onboarding should be a time investment, the shortened timeline is not uncommon. Only 37% of companies extend their onboarding processes beyond a month, with 15% only giving one day for the activities.
When one considers what a successful onboarding program looks like, it is unfathomable that an employee would be able to complete it and feel comfortable in one day. The most popular time frame for onboarding is between one and three months, a timeline 29% of companies use. In this amount of time, employees are able to complete the necessary forms, get a good feel for the company’s culture, receive adequate on-the-job training and recognize if it is going to be a good fit. It’s best to spread these activities over a few months to maximize their impact.
Before a new hire even starts, the onboarding process can begin. Companies that use pre-boarding retain 81% of first-year hires. While 73% of employees want a comprehensive review of company policies in the first week, it is better to send this literature before they arrive, giving them time and leisure to read and study them. This also minimizes the feeling of being overwhelmed on day one.
In the first week, 76% of employees believe training is the most important factor. This should be the top priority for onboarding, followed by critical forms and socialization. It is also helpful in the first week to assign employees mentors or buddies to show them the ropes, introduce them to go-to colleagues and executives and get them started with company processes and technology. If there’s a company intranet, give them a demo. If there is a networking event, invite them.
Start with small manageable touchpoints to get them comfortable with the onboarding process and the company, then ramp up in the following weeks with more in-depth activities, and finally taper off with periodic check-ins. The key is to not overwhelm on the first day, engage throughout the first month and, finally, to prove continued dedication and care about their wellbeing and success.
While developing the appropriate onboarding process for the organization, each department or individual new hires, companies should build in a visibility of the process. For 61% of Best-in-Class companies, this ability is essential to the program. It allows them to measure the ROI of such programs and intervene when onboarding has gone off the rails. Keeping an onboarding process on track will help employees reach their full potential.
There is no scientific formula for creating the perfect onboarding process, but if you consider your goals as a company, all the information you want new hires to know and how to not overwhelm them, you can design the perfectly ideal program for your employees. To learn more about how to leverage technology for your onboarding process, download our report, “Welcome to the 21st Century, Onboarding!”