The Secret to Creating A Seamless Employee Onboarding Experience


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Generally speaking, companies these days are aware that perhaps the most important part of an employee’s introduction to a new company, and the moment that sets the tone of their ongoing employee experience, is their onboarding journey. 

94% of key HR decision-makers agree that onboarding is a crucial part of employee development. A positive onboarding experience is crucial to an employees overall experience within your organisation as it lays out the expectations and the work environment that will eventually become the norm for a new hire. By starting with a poor onboarding process, it can negatively impact your staff retention rate, with statistics demonstrating that 23% of new employees leave their jobs within the first year.

However, a whopping 88% of employees think their employer did a poor job with the onboarding process. Many companies still fail to deliver a satisfactory onboarding experience, leading to confusion, dissatisfaction and, eventually, difficulties with employee retention.

Here, we’ll explain how you can help to create seamless onboarding journeys at your company by optimising the learning experience for new team members.

What is onboarding?

When it comes to the employee lifecycle, there are countless models to choose from. One of the most common is the five-stage model, which proceeds as such:

  1. Recruitment
  2. Onboarding
  3. Development
  4. Retention
  5. Offboarding/succession.

At the recruitment stage, a potential employee is made aware of an available position, applies for it and, if selected, interview for the position. If this interview goes well enough that you feel they should become part of your company, the onboarding process can then commence in full.

Onboarding refers to the method in which this new employee is introduced into not just their own roles and responsibilities, but the overall culture of the company as well. It involves the establishment of relationships with managers, colleagues and subordinates alike, while providing these new hires with the skills and knowledge that are necessary for them to fulfil their position’s requirements effectively.

What is the impact of effective onboarding?

It almost goes without saying that onboarding is a crucial part of ensuring that new employees can succeed in their given tasks soon after they join your company. What’s perhaps less clear are the long-term effects a positive onboarding experience can have – and the drawbacks that come with a less-than-ideal onboarding journey.

A great onboarding experience sets new employees up to see your company more positively and, therefore, can increase the likelihood that they will be retained later on. This isn’t just supported by anecdotal evidence – recent research from Glassdoor has shown that a great onboarding experience can increase new hire retention by up to 82%, while increasing overall worker productivity by up to 70%. Another survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder and Silk Road found that this is a belief shared by employers, as 93% of those surveyed said that the onboarding experience is crucial in influencing new hires’ eventual employment engagement.

It’s clear, then, that onboarding should form a key part of any successful employee retention strategy. But what is the current reality?

What happens when onboarding goes wrong?

When it comes to onboarding, the lived experience of many new employees is one rooted in dissatisfaction. According to Gallup, just 12% of employees think that their company does a great job of onboarding new hires. This can be due to a number of reasons, such as a perceived brevity of the onboarding process, insufficient guidance, or ineffective training methods, to name but a few.

Whatever the reason may be, the truth is that onboarding is critical to building a successful and productive company culture. While half of the senior executives hired by Fortune 500 companies are out of their job within 18 months, a study by the Wynhurst Group found that newly hired employees are 58% more likely to be at the same company three years later provided they had completed a structured onboarding process.

Why is it that so many companies understand the importance of employee onboarding, yet so many fail to deliver it? One of the many reasons behind this seemingly universal organisational failure could be around the fact many people see the job of onboarding as being the sole responsibility of HR teams. Interestingly a study completed by Gallup demonstrated that employees were 3.4 times more likely to consider their onboarding experience as exceptional when their managers took a direct role in engaging in this process from day one.

The 4 phases of the employee onboarding experience

It’s important to know that, while onboarding may just be one stage of the total employee lifecycle, there are four phases that need to be incorporated for your new employees to integrate successfully.

  1. Pre-arrival: The administrative details are ironed out; access to the company’s internal server is set up; introductions and training sessions, as well as group activities, are scheduled.
  2. Days 1 and 2: A tour of the office is conducted; introductions to other employees are made; company phones, computers, and any other equipment are actively demonstrated; an onboarding buddy is assigned.
  3. The first week: Additional training is provided where necessary; introductions are continued and meeting scheduled; the company mission and ethos are reinforced.
  4. The first month: Regular feedback regarding the new hire’s strengths and weaknesses is provided; roles and responsibilities are made concrete; a larger roadmap for continued success is established.

If these four phases are considered carefully, your company’s onboarding process can prove to be greatly beneficial for new employees and can improve the odds of their retention further on down the road.

It can be difficult, however, to have consistency with this approach to onboarding, since the new hire is transitioning from an external status to a position inside the company. This is where an LMS comes in handy.

How to optimise the onboarding experience

Having an effective learning management system (LMS) in place is a great way of providing new employees with a self-guided method of learning that is accessible before they’re even in the actual company environment. There are a few reasons why, including:

  1. Efficiency
  2. Flexibility
  3. Centralised knowledge.

Make the process efficient

A good eLearning platform should be able to deliver pre-employment orientation in an effective and streamlined manner, giving them a realistic idea of what they can expect when they eventually step inside the office. At this stage, it should include things as simple as an explanation of the company’s mission statement and corporate identity. More engaging eLearning content might include simulations of potential scenarios that the new employee will face in their role along with feedback that guides them into making positive and productive decisions.

Be flexible

Being able to provide new employees with eLearning opportunities before they officially commence in-office work is also a great way of demonstrating your company’s commitment to flexibility. Being able to work remotely, while still staying engaged with the company’s daily activities, is a key factor in today’s increasingly digital work environment – research from MIT’s Center for Information Systems Research found that companies that provided a top-quartile employee experience delivered their employees 66% more digital capacity on average than their lowest quartile counterparts.

Of course, the fact that an LMS allows new employees to adjust to your company at their own pace is another clear benefit. Oftentimes, new hires may be hesitant to ask too many questions about how certain procedures work within a company, for fear of coming off as unqualified or unsuited for their role. Allowing them to learn aspects of this at their own pace through an LMS can greatly reduce this fear, and a recent Workforce Learning Report  from LinkedIn found that 58% of employees enjoy learning at their own pace.

Offer a central source of truth

Given its centralised nature, an LMS can also help smooth out the onboarding process by providing a consistent source of information that the new hire can always refer to. At times, onboarding can be complicated when different stakeholders have different expectations of what a new employee will do. Providing eLearning content throughout onboarding allows for a logical and cohesive approach to continuous education in the workplace to be developed, giving the new employee the confidence to tackle their responsibilities.

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