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Retaining talent through powerful onboarding

Adam Walker, director at Redline


The increasingly fierce competition to attract and retain skilled professionals in the technology and engineering sector has never been more significant. Poor selection and onboarding practices are costing businesses millions in recruitment and employer brand value. Today, talent matters even more, because of its high value and scarcity and the difficulty of replacing it. A business is ‘only as good as its employees’ and successful onboarding can create huge opportunities when companies ‘get it right’.


In Europe’s competitive jobs market, the war for talent is not won when a candidate accepts a job offer. According to the Harvard Business Review, nearly 33% of new hires look for a new job within their first six months in a new position. The exit of new hires is explained by the fact that some organisations are not investing enough resources in the onboarding process.


Onboarding is the process of orientating new employees so they’re fully prepared with the necessary knowledge and skills to become a valuable part of the business aiding overall employee retention. The process focuses on helping employees become acclimated to their new workplace in a timely fashion and bringing them “on board” with regard to company culture, understanding of job function and overall comfort level. According to SHRM, whether it’s one day or ninety days, an engaging onboarding program can lead to 91% retention of employees through to the first year. Strategic onboarding adopts a standardised, consistent and structured approach that goes beyond the first few days of orientation. It can provide organisations with higher rates of employee engagement, performance, retention and acts as a catalyst for employee satisfaction, helping to prevent early attrition.


Why is onboarding important?


  • 25% of companies have no training in their onboarding process
  • 11% increase in work performance if a thorough onboarding process is in place
  • 4% of new employees leave after a disastrous first few weeks
  • 33% of new hires start looking for a new job within six months


An effective onboarding experience should be strategic, structured, connected to the employee’s career within a company, and be designed with specific outcomes in mind. The right onboarding process and experience is a determining factor in how employees establish the important connection with a business. This experience, in turn, strongly influences an employee’s decision to stay with a company or to seek career opportunities elsewhere.


It’s natural for HR professionals and leaders to be on the look-out for employee potential - an alignment between the business’s needs, new employees in the onboarding and hiring process, and existing employees who may have recognised potential. Therefore, it’s normal to look at the first piece of the puzzle – onboarding – to see where and if the company can improve between an employee’s first few days and weeks on the job with the goal of creating long-term employee engagement and growth.


Many businesses take some time to design an induction programme for new staff which is a valuable investment, to get new employees performing well and becoming (and feeling) part of their new organisation much more quickly is also critical. Onboarding is potentially the magic moment when new employees decide to stay engaged or become disengaged. It offers an imprinting window when a business can make an impression that stays with new employees for the duration of their careers.


For candidates, starting a new job is exciting, where possibilities are endless, and enthusiasm is high. Yet it’s also a time of apprehension and uncertainty where new hires meet colleagues, learn new processes, and understand how to make an impact at their new organisation. Businesses that succeed in capturing that enthusiasm while minimising other challenges will gain a competitive advantage that is accessible to any business willing to design and deploy a strategic onboarding experience.


It is clear that some companies need to take a long hard look at their approach and, while ensuring cultural fit and a clear understanding of job roles and responsibilities, is an essential part of the recruitment process, effective onboarding has a huge role to play. If companies can engage and enthuse employees after they’ve accepted an offer, but before they start, they are much more likely to fit in faster and a lot less likely to be tempted by a better offer elsewhere.


Some organisations’ recruitment processes are losing them money, time and resources. Many organisations make significant investments to source and recruit the best talent, but often leave these same individuals to find their own way around the organisation once they start. I’d argue that businesses would have greater success if they viewed the onboarding process as a team-building exercise rather than simply a time to get all the necessary forms filled out properly. e.g. Red Hat and Leybold take new employees to their headquarters in the USA and Germany to be taken through the brand and culture.


We all know staff turnover is expensive, both in terms of direct costs and intellectual capital. This was highlighted by the REC report on ‘Making the right hire and the cost of getting it wrong’ calculated a poor hire at mid-manager level with a salary of £42,000 can cost a business more than £132,000. Organisations can increase retention by focusing on those activities which get employees engaged from the start. One way to do that is by taking care of administrative paperwork before day one so employees can focus on their role and other things that matter to them most. Onboarding processes set new hires up for success by building positive work relationships, and help reach promises made during interviews, and providing a career roadmap throughout their career within the organisation.


The goal of onboarding is to enculturate and connect employees to success. Its impact can be felt throughout the employee lifecycle – from the first touch. This process assists to uncover valuable insights into the employee experience and demonstrates if employees are getting the knowledge and resources they need to be successful.


Picture provided by Redline

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