Onboarding Is The Holy Grail Of Employee Retention, Engagement and Productivity

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Onboarding Is The Holy Grail Of Employee Retention, Engagement and Productivity

How does effective onboarding relate to retention, engagement and customer satisfaction? Simply put, in every way.

Onboarding is a widely misunderstood practice. Some companies believe it’s a handshake on day one with a pile of papers for the new hire to complete. In actuality, great onboarding begins at the first touchpoint in the relationship. This means, the first time the company representative engages with a job candidate, the onboarding begins. Further, should this touchpoint result in a hire, it should carry through to the first day of employment and all the way through the employee’s tenure.

Onboarding Is Not Brain Surgery

I read many a horror story about how job candidates and employees, alike, are treated like a commodity rather than contributors. This mistreatment stems from the apathy and disregard many experience when starting a new job. Lack of communication and the feeling of being lost among a crowd of other disregarded co-workers are commonly heard remarks. Without a connection to help employees feel part of the organization, disengagement often times results in a lack of productivity because employees don’t understand how their role contributes to the company’s mission, vision and values.

According to researchers at the Abderdeen Group, 62 percent of companies that have a solidified onboarding program experience faster time-to-productivity with 54 percent claiming to have better employee engagement. After reviewing these stats, it’s clearly counter-productive for companies to forego having an onboarding program, yet there are still many brands who have chosen to forego a structured onboarding program.

We Don’t Know Where To Start

For leadership to truly appreciate the value of an onboarding program, they first need to understand what they’re missing. An analysis of relevant employment data is a good start. Tracking the following metrics is advisable for businesses of all sizes:

  • time-to-hire
  • time-to-productivity
  • client retention
  • referrals
  • contributions to problem solving
  • synergy with co-workers
  • promotability, and
  • tenure

In today’s business world, there’s no excuse to not track employee data of this type. There is no shortage of systems that enable organizations to track and review the numbers at regular intervals so there’s really no excuse not to be doing so. But here’s where the tough part comes into play. Once you have the data, how do you interpret it and what should be done?

  • First, you need to decide what you want to accomplish. Decide on what success and failure will look like; this helps steer the understanding of the data and guide your action.
  • Second, organize and formalize when you’ll review and interpret the data. Incorporate user-friendly technology that allows easy input or seamless conveyance of the metrics. If you plan to use a manual input methodology, be warned, this may lend itself to human error or worse, lack of compliance to follow through on the input.
  • Third, be consistent. Set a schedule for when you’ll review the data and stick to it.
  • Fourth, have a plan of action on how to adjust for changes. The data may not present the results you wish to see. You’ll need to be prepared for this by having a plan-of-action to achieve what goals your organization wants. For example, initiating short, informal performance reviews more often during the first year to maintain open lines of communication can make a significant difference in retention and employee engagement. Conversely, the results may come in favorably, so be prepared to capitalize on that information and take it to the next level.
  • Fifth, be patient. It takes time to gather significant data and more time to look for noteworthy trends.

So What’s Really In It For The Company?

In a word… everything. Take customer service, for example. Companies with unproductive customer representatives inevitably lose market share due to a decrease in customer loyalty and/or gain a bad reputation as a service provider. According to Gallup, when employees are engaged, they will be more productive and more likely to experience good relations with customers. This behavior can be supported by getting off on the right foot with new employees. Set the stage for how their customer involvement is pivotal to the company. Ensure all employees understand the mission, vision and values of the organization and are able to convey this sentiment to customers (by the way, customers should also be onboarded.) The same factors are in play regardless of the industry or occupation. Keep the lines of communication open and keep “recruiting” your employees to show them how they are valued and always strive to align personal goals with the company’s. Adding these simple communications and tactics can be the difference maker in both employee and customer retention and satisfaction.

Knowing that great onboarding leads to a more productive and engaged employee, which in turn creates happier and more productive workers, should be an established initiative for all companies. Unfortunately, there are still too many organizations that have not adopted this train of thought, even though the research and even common sense supports it.

It really comes down to this… everyone wants to feel valued.

Image credit: Gratisography

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Doug Coull

Doug Coull

Doug Coull is the founder and CEO of APS, Inc., makers of SmartSearch talent acquisition and staffing management software. Doug founded APS in 1986 after a successful management career in the contract engineering industry. A leader in technology development for nearly 30 years, Doug brings a unique perspective to the development and user adoption of software and technology in the HR community.
  • Excellent article.

    Furthermore, the on-boarding process itself could be placed in a quantifiable context – such as rewarding a timely signature of the Employee Handbook.

  • Doug Coull

    Thanks, Danut. Very good point.