Onboarding: How important is it to have a clearly defined process, and what does it mean to the employee?

There is a lot of talk in the media right now regarding the availability of talent at all levels of the organisation. Much of the focus is on attraction and retention strategies, which does make perfect sense. Often overlooked, however, is one area of people management that has an impact on both these elements: onboarding.

Transitioning into a new role, whether it is a promotion or simply a fresh challenge either within the same organisation or elsewhere, can mark a significant step in an individual’s career. This is especially the case at executive level and the reason why having a robust onboarding process is less a nice-to-have and more a business essential.

Indeed, a study by Harvard Business Review found that a formal onboarding programme can boost staff retention levels by a staggering 50%. It is easy to see why this is.

An effective onboarding process sets the tone for how an individuals’ career within the organisation will pan out because this is the time when they get the clearest indication as to how valued and supported they will be in their role. This in turn determines how engaged they become. Moreover, it has been shown to be a sound predictor of how long a new executive is likely to remain with their employer.

The onboarding period is often referred to as the ‘first 100 days’ – a nod to the raft of policies implemented by President Franklin D Roosevelt in his first century of days in office that has translated into the business world and long been used as a timeframe for evaluating executive performance.

Newly appointed executives, in our experience, are eager to get off to a fast start and claim some early wins soon after their appointment. They will be keen to make a good impression and distinguish themselves from their counterparts in a bid to demonstrate their potential to do a great job, and to give their employer confidence of an early return on their investment. But this can only be achieved with an effective onboarding process.

Where many employers we see go wrong is assuming that onboarding simply relates to helping a new member of the team to get settled in and brought up to speed on what the business does, its culture, and their role within it. This is only scratching the surface. New executive hires need to have a clear understanding of what their employer expects of them and, more importantly, the support available that will empower them to deliver on the goals they have been set.

By providing the support that is needed to help them to do the job they have been brought on board to do both within their own department and throughout the business as a whole, a newly appointed executive can quickly forge effective working relationships with colleagues. This will boost their understanding of the organisation’s products and services and help them to chalk up some a handful of quick wins that will boost their reputation internally. It will also give them a foundation upon which they can scale what they have learned to have a bigger impact as time goes on.

An effective onboarding process does take time to implement, but the returns to be gained on that investment are substantial. We’re living in a highly charged and competitive environment where employers are clambering over one another to attract the best people to work for them and help them to achieve their organisational goals.

Finding that talent is hard, retaining it is even harder. Our experience, garnered over the course of more than two decades, shows us that organisations who provide their people with all the tools and resources they need to be successful in their new role from day one immeasurably outperform those who have no such onboarding system in place when it comes to retaining and attracting talent. Does your organisation have a policy in place?



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