Magazine excerpt: Onboarding – whys, dos and don’ts

Bill Donoghue on the best ways to get your new hires happy and productive from the outset.

Onboarding is shifting from an administrative HR function to a strategic initiative, aiming to engage and retain the talent that organisations work so hard to attract. 

Today, most organisations are still approaching onboarding from different directions and disconnected processes – fill out forms here, log in there – and the rest is left to the new employee to navigate on their own. This is not ideal.

Having a unified and dedicated onboarding approach not only keeps employees happy, it also delivers measurable impact throughout the business – from improved customer satisfaction to increased employee retention.

In a CIPD survey conducted in 2017, more than 80% of organisations said they struggled to retain staff. At the same time, just 40% of these organisations had undertaken initiatives to improve talent retention.

Businesses need a stronger drive behind employee retention – and onboarding is one of the most effective ways to achieve this.

A forward-thinking onboarding programme should act as an established, tailored career path for each employee, mapping key milestones and occupational expectations.

It costs more than £30,000 [1] to replace every departing employee in terms of lost output (with the average employee taking 28 weeks to achieve optimum productivity). And the costs do not stop there: temporary staff, advertising costs, management time, conducting interviews and HR processes all add to the total.

Onboarding and employee retention

A strong onboarding programme engages employees and allows companies to make a good impression; new starters want to feel supported by their employers from the get-go.

A forward-thinking onboarding programme should act as an established, tailored career path for each employee, mapping key milestones and occupational expectations.  Show an employee that you are offering them a career, and not just a job, and you are more likely to retain them. 

Organisations with even just a standard onboarding programme have 50% greater new hire retention [2] than those without. Rather than dropping new joiners in at the deep end, onboarding makes employees feel more comfortable in their roles because they know what is expected of them. 

Some organisations only use the onboarding process for new joiners, but it should be extended to those who have received a promotion, been returning to work after a period away; this is a process that could be termed ‘re-boarding’. Ultimately, moving to a new team or business unit within an organisation can be just as unfamiliar as joining a company from the outside.

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Continuous onboarding provides constant threads of reflection and growth opportunities for employees, so that they know their job well and how to progress. With this in mind, onboarding should not be simply a box-ticking exercise or brief orientation period. Just because an organisation has an onboarding programme doesn’t mean they have a good one.

Signs of a bad onboarding programme

Radio silence
There can be a period of months between when a new hire accepts the job and when they arrive for their first day at the office. A lack of communication within this time makes for a bad impression. Onboarding should start from the moment an employee accepts their role.

One size fits all

Every employee is an individual. In today’s corporate world where employees are made up of five generations, this is more apparent than ever. Different employees move at different speeds, and benefit from different ways of learning. It is important to remember that each employee needs a tailored onboarding experience.

Too short

If the onboarding programme is less than a month, it does not offer a new employee any long-term support. It takes the average employee eight months to reach full productivity. Guidance and support
throughout this journey is key. Often, HR managers think that the quicker onboarding is done, the quicker the employee can start being productive.

This does not really work if the employee does not have all the necessary information they need to do a good job. Like the race between the tortoise and the hare; when it comes to onboarding, slow and steady wins the race.


About the author

Bill Donoghue is CEO of Skillsoft.


This is an abridged version of a feature from January’s TJ magazine. To get the full insight subscribe to the magazine here.


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