Onboarding: Not Rocket Science

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As HR and other leaders grapple with high turnover rates among the Gen Y cohort (see last week’s post here), all kinds of issues get raised. Is the turnover due to “special” characteristics inherent in Gen Y? Is the turnover due to lack of education and training opportunities? Naivete on the part of Gen Y – the world of work doesn’t match their expectations? Could a lack of thoughtful onboarding play a part?

The Aberdeen Group published Onboarding 2013: A new Look at New Hires last month and author Madeline Laurano provides data that might help organizations become more effective in retaining the youngest of their workforce.

First of all, Aberdeen reports that only 37% of employers have invested in a formal onboarding program for longer than two years. Surveys report that it’s difficult to quantify the ROI on formal onboarding programs so “basic orientation” activities are used in substitution. Socializing new hires into the organization’s culture is popular, but hard to measure. And so, “onboarding programs have fallen short and become little more than a transition from recruitment to employee development.” Interesting.

But attention is starting to be paid and, surprise!, it’s all about productivity. One of the quickest routes to ROI is the improvement of productivity and that’s something organizations can measure. Other drivers for looking at new ways to onboard new hires include improving employee engagement, reducing turnover and improving new hire assimilation.

But, as the graph below shows, there’s lots of opportunity to make onboarding programs more robust, strategic and productive by spending more time.

Aberdeen Group Onboarding 2013 Fig 3

And it doesn’t have to be rocket science! The kinds of strategies being used to drive stronger onboarding programs include the following:

  • Creating new hire checklists
  • Introducing new hires to the go-to people
  • Providing forms to new hires before day one
  • Ensuring compliance on all new hire forms
  • Creating peer networking opportunities/events

But the real key appears to be creating a bridge from the candidate experience to learning/development and performance management. After offer acceptance, Best-in-Class employers are more than twice as likely than all other organizations “to integrate data from onboarding into performance management, providing key stakeholders with development plans of new hires and to tie the source of a candidate to their performance as an employee.”

Aberdeen Group Onboarding 2013 Fig 11

But still, only 26% of Best-in-Class employers enroll new hires in learning and development programs compared to 11% of all others. Hmmm….

Laurano concludes the report with recommended actions for employers in Best-in-Class, Average and Laggard categories. For the Average and Laggard categories they are not rocket science. For the Best-in-Class category, a little rocket science might be involved.

Laggard Steps to Onboarding Success

  • Establish a clear owner
  • Provide strong visibility
  • Extend the onboarding process

Industry Average Steps on Onboarding Success

  • Align onboarding with learning initiatives
  • Define metrics in advance
  • Invest in onboarding technology

Best-in-Class Steps to Onboarding Success

  • Consider gamification
  • Include cross-boarding
  • Balance tactical and strategic elements

Think about these as you and other leaders in your organization wrestle with the high turnover rate in your Gen Y employees. And take a look at this report.

Aberdeen Group reports are very easily consumed. They’re written in normal English and have an easy to understand structure. Even if you can’t spend real money to make your onboarding program more productive, you can certainly get smarter about what works and make some adjustments based on data to improve your outcomes. That’s the whole point of research, right?

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6 Comments

Filed under Aberdeen Group, Candidate Experience, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Gen Y, HR Data, Onboarding, Turnover

6 responses to “Onboarding: Not Rocket Science

  1. I don’t leave a response, but after looking at a few of the comments on Onboarding: Not Rocket Science |. I actually do have 2 questions for you if you tend not to mind. Could it be only me or do some of the remarks look like they are left by brain dead people? 😛 And, if you are posting on additional places, I would like to follow anything fresh you have to post. Could you make a list of every one of all your social networking pages like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

  2. Pingback: Training New Employees — Not Only Luck

  3. Pingback: Five Tips to Hire for Loyalty, Not Just a Warm Body | Media Meme

  4. Great tips for improving onboarding and teeing up employees for success! The one area I have found tricky in addition to getting on top of work responsibilities is integrating into the culture of a place. I think social events are a huge step in the right direction, but teaching new hires company values and how they are manifested in the day to day can really bring a person up to speed.

  5. Thanks. I’ve got a group of survey specialists (read rocket scientists) revamping the Candidate part of the candidate experience survey. I appreciate your non-rocket science taxonomy of the essential pieces to onboarding but discovering if anyone is actually doing these things well… and measuring the value of doing it well is definitely graduate level work. On the other hand, this blog is a good rest of whether we’re asking the right questions. Thanks.

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