Getting the right people is key to future scalability and competitiveness. But with many sectors now experiencing talent shortage, the war for talent is heating up.  Companies like yours simply can’t afford to hire people only to lose them in their first year. This is why I wanted to write this month’s blog on the importance of getting an engaging onboarding experience nailed in your organisation.  By onboarding I don’t just see this as an employee’s first few weeks, but rather the journey of engaging new hires up to a month before they join your business and then throughout the job life-cycle through to the end of their first year.

Best in class organisations who have invested in strategic onboarding activities see better first year retention, first year performance milestones, and hiring manager satisfaction. Indeed, research from Performance Development Group (PDG) links a great onboarding experience with attracting and retaining talent, especially for millennials.

So, if first impressions have more clout than ever before, why are so many of us not strategically investing in it?

With so many managers find onboarding a new hire a daunting process, with a lot of moving parts and unfamiliar procedures that are piled on top of their already busy workday.  Invariably confusion on day one and something gets missed: ultimately the onboarding experience for the new employee takes second-place.  And let’s face it – quite often it is pretty pants.

Does any of the below sound familiar?

  • Your new employee starts to find there is no computer or phone ordered
  • All their colleagues are in meetings and they are left floating looking for direction
  • They are sat down with a handbook and asked to read policy after policy, completing regulatory checklists
  • No one showed them where to come on their first day, so they arrive late and flustered not knowing about the back-door entrance to the building
  • You have a dept by dept monthly induction day, in which timings invariably go awry as speakers forget time slots or newbies get pulled out because of being too ‘busy’ by their manager

First impressions matter.

“86% of new hires make a decision how long they will stay with a company in the first six months” – Aberdeen Group

Separately, research shows up to 20% of turnover happens within the first 45 days of employment.

Losing people in the early stages of employment is highly costly. As a broad guidance, statistics indicate that median costs for employee replacement across a broad scope of pay levels are around 21% of the employee’s annual salary. For highest-paying executive positions, this can go up to 213%.

So, with the risk of teaching grandma to suck eggs here, the longer an employee stays with you, the more value they are to your business. However, if failures in onboarding cause your employees to cut short their tenure, the investment made in ramping them up towards full productivity is lost.

So, if you are still reading this, we’re on the same page. You know that it’s time to bring engagement back to onboarding – and for good reason.

Designing an Effective Onboarding Programme

Designing an effective onboarding programme starts with the need to identify its pain points. With the above in mind, HRO can work with you to help you understand the current state of your process.  We’ll help look at consistency of the onboarding experience, process ownership, defining hiring manager roles, designing the right systems and workflows, first impression reviews and developing communications to prepare your organisational readiness for change.

Once the review is complete, HRO can help you to re-design and create an Engagement Onboarding experience that is both relevant and attractive to new hires, such that it contributes to your Employment Branding.

Here are my 5 top tips for approaching this:

  1. Setting employees up for success is essentially what we should be aiming for. Optimising onboarding requires an employee-centric approach and reviewing and strategically planning each touch point from offer to the end of the employees first year to ensure they are both user-friendly, intuitive and value-add will ensure the process removes the waste of HR resources all round.  It should be focused around information that helps acculturate, recognise, develop and nurture your employee; not around a list of rules.
  2. Make it relevant to your audience. Today’s workplace is a diverse mix of Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z as well as being geographically dispersed. This means it is important to deliver personalised onboarding experiences, creating a sense of value around the new hire and going the extra mile to enable employees to establish a sense of belonging in the workplace that matures over time.  Along with face to face interaction, these personalised experiences should be routed via channels that your new employees are already using. For instance, the modern employee is increasingly mobile-first in their approach to communications, and often prefers to consume short, snappy content delivered in skimmable form.
  3. Develop manager competence and give them information and coaching at the right time to help them look like rock stars.  Research conducted by Randall Beck and Jim Harter 2014 found that hiring managers are responsible for no less than 70 percent of fluctuation in employee engagement scores. Hiring Managers have an essential role in welcoming, inspiring and guiding the new employee not only on their first day, but throughout the employment life-cycle; but they often need timely guidance to land this well.
  4. Make time for the human side of leadership – put titles aside and make time to stretch out a hand to welcome a new hire.
  5. Mentors and buddies to support and guide new hires and promote workplace friendship.
  6. Automate where possible. Engaging with digital tools is often a key part of the modern onboarding process. The right onboarding software has the logic and communications channels in place to deliver communications and prompts in the correct channels for any employee type and according to job role, team, region, and even individual preferences, all without requiring a heap of manual work.  From engagement, to user experience, brand perception and development, alleviation of manual tasks and increased relevance, technologies such as Enboarder really do help augment the delivery of good content.

For example, most onboarding software today is integrated with your existing HR system, so by simply entering the details of a recruit into your HRIS, you can trigger the appropriate onboarding workflow for their role, with tasks triggered in accordance with their start date, and all communications personalised with their name, contact details and assigned manager. What a time saver for your people ops function! Used in conjunction with collaborative digital platforms like Asana, Dropbox, DocuSign and Trello, you’ll be able to quickly and cost-effectively execute all the processes and documentation tasks associated with onboarding, even if your new employee is halfway across the world.

Even without budget for Tech, there are still plenty of ways to augment your user experience at lower cost with your existing intranet, HRIS or tools such as Adobe Spark.

Considering that only 12% of employees strongly agree that their company does a great job of onboarding new employees, upgrading your approach to onboarding and focusing on the employee experience will be one of the factors that will allow your company rise above the pack in terms of attracting the talent you really want.

The shifts we’re witnessing in workplace culture demand a refreshed approach to onboarding, and I personally find the journey very exciting! HR Optimisation is passionate about helping businesses overcome this and use their onboarding as a strategic competitive advantage.  By bye checklists and paperwork.  Hello experience and engagement.

To talk to us about engagement and turbo-charging your onboarding process please drop us a line at

Author: Hannah Stockley. February 2019.