Why is onboarding important? If for no other reason, it’s because organizations are doing it more frequently than ever. As the shortage of workers escalates exponentially, future-focused leaders need to be strategic about how to integrate their new hires quickly and effectively. The statistics speak for themselves — it is estimated that more than 25 percent of our workforce has been at the same company for less than one year. At the very least, failed onboarding means losing the direct costs of recruitment, which range from about five percent to more than 30 percent of annual compensation.
Achieving an integrated workforce as new hires come on-board requires intensive planning and execution on multiple levels, including promoting the company’s values, linking to learning and building networks for success. Today’s senior leaders must play the role of onboarding sponsors and be prepared to set strategy and direction for successful programs. This includes providing both financial resources and their own personal attention.
Senior leaders have both the privilege and opportunity to tell new employees, “This is what it really means to be a part of this organization.” The onboarding process provides a unique opportunity, not only to communicate the vision of the organization but to match the words with actions that reinforce the company’s values.
For example, consider a corporation that is focused on innovation to drive its top-line results. To bring this to life, a senior executive might sponsor a brainstorming session as part of the onboarding process, bringing together new hires with longtime employees and outside experts to address a specific innovation challenge. Including representatives of multiple disciplines might stimulate even more fruitful discussion while introducing new employees to their colleagues across the organization.
By the same token, risk aversion is all too common a norm in many organizational cultures (and a major roadblock to innovation). This is often particularly true with new employees who are still trying to navigate their way and make good first impressions. Leaders can provide valuable examples of successful risk taking as part of the onboarding process, and they should be sure to reward both new and seasoned employees for their contributions.
One reason many new employees give for leaving an organization is that they failed to establish relationships with co-workers and partners. This is not only a loss for the employee but for the company, as well, because new workers can bring new life and connections into existing networks.
Indeed, new employees who are able to establish social networks and are encouraged to bring in ideas and relationships from the outside tend to perform higher than average and have a greater degree of job satisfaction. Unfortunately, some corporate cultures, at least implicitly, encourage employees to go at it alone — the onboarding mantra might as well be “sink or swim.” A focus on network development enables new employees to build the support systems that are critical to gain access to information, develop a sense of trust when addressing sensitive issues and build a common context and corporate vocabulary.
Successful companies recognize an important part of onboarding is enabling individuals to find the resources they need to be effective in their new positions. Recognizing individuals can digest only a certain amount of information before beginning their jobs, a successful onboarding program provides guidance not only on what to do but where to get information, advice and counsel on how to be successful in a new role.
New employees can invigorate a corporate culture, enrich all-important social networks and stimulate innovation and smart risk taking. Ensuring they have the knowledge, relationships and support to make these contributions should be key objectives of onboarding; this is a key business performance opportunity for senior leadership.
© 2008 Centrepoint Career Management Ltd.