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Employee Onboarding: What do new hires want and how to get it right?

93% of employers agree that a positive onboarding experience is critical to a new hire’s decision to stay with an organization.

Organizations that onboard well see an 82% increase in their employee retention rate.

88% of employees report dissatisfaction with the onboarding process followed by their employers.

These numbers tell us that while employees value the onboarding experience a lot, employers are not yet living up to their expectations. Where is the gap and what can one do to address it? Read on to know.

What is onboarding and when does it begin?

What is onboarding

Also known as organizational socialization, employee onboarding is the process by which a new employee is initiated into the organization. At an informal level, it involves showing the employee around your office building, introducing them to their peers, and maybe telling them where they can go to grab a snack or even take a nap. At a more formal level, onboarding involves training, documentation, and familiarizing the employee with the requirements of their role as well as the related targets or goals. 

So when does employee onboarding start? While there seems to be some disagreement on the exact time, there’s consensus that the onboarding process begins when the new hire hears about you and applies for a job with your organization. From this point on, your HR brand becomes evident to them. If they look at you as an organization where they can grow and evolve as a person and a professional, then you have already begun to onboard them from an acculturation perspective. 

Even though onboarding begins here, the process could go on for anywhere between 30 to 365 days from the day of the new hire’s joining. The consensus says onboarding usually takes around three months at a minimum, but this timeline can vary across organizations and roles. What matters is that by the end of the onboarding process, the employee should be completely assimilated into the organization and have a thorough understanding of what their role demands of them.

Why onboarding matters?

Why onboarding matters

Aside from the increase in retention rate mentioned above, employee onboarding can also increase productivity by 70%. After all, this is the first interaction your new hire is having with the organization, and if that can affect their productivity in the long run it surely warrants your attention.

A proper and planned onboarding process ensures your new hire does not feel lost, knows their role inside out, and knows who to approach when they need something done. If the positives of onboarding are not enough, allow us to tell you that the new hires who have a negative onboarding experience are twice as likely to look for another opportunity in the future.

How does one build a successful onboarding program?

What new hires want

The fact that you must plan for the onboarding of new hires and design a program that helps assimilate them smoothly is a no-brainer. To do this, however, one needs to step into the shoes of the new hire. Understanding what new hires want when they join a new organization could help. And that’s exactly what we’re here to help you make sense of.

Assign a buddy for your new hire

56% of new hires who interacted with their buddy within the first 90 days of joining showed higher signs of productivity. New hires are often stuck between trying to understand their job role and showing that they are up to speed, and this is precisely where a buddy comes in handy. Considering a buddy is usually a colleague or an immediate senior, this gives the new hire an extremely accessible mentor-cum-friend to go to for work queries or even to simply get the hang of the office building.

So, match your new hire with a buddy who has enough time on their hands to interact and show around. Also, send out timely reminders to the buddy to ensure they check in on or simply have a water cooler chat with the new hire. Letting the buddy and the new hire know that this is a time-bound and temporary partnership might also help ensure both are invested more in it.

Assure one-on-one time with the manager

72% of new hires cite one-on-one interactions with their direct manager as a top priority during the onboarding process. The manager is often one of the first people your new hire interacts with and this interaction usually begins during the interview process itself. Hence, preference for individual interactions or guidance from one’s manager is probably one of the most predictable needs a new hire has. Be it an understanding of their job role, knowing what the organization expects from them, or sharing any new ideas they might have, the manager is understandably the one person who would need to handhold the new hire into the organization, even if it is just initially.

When building an onboarding program, ensure the direct/reporting manager sets out specific time slots to have one-on-one interactions with the new hire. The manager-employee relationship is one of the most crucial relationships that the new hire would build within the organization. It is also critical to the new hire’s professional development and growth. An onboarding program that assists the new hire in building this relationship will lead to a satisfactory onboarding experience.

Give a clear outline of performance goals

67% of new hires want to know what the organization expects of them. New hires do not just want to know what to do but would also like a walk-through of how to fulfill what is expected of them. Knowing what is expected of them and being directed to the right resources and career growth opportunities can help employees advance their skills. It makes perfect sense for them to want this information as soon as they join the organization. Interestingly enough, as per the same study cited above, women rank the need for this information a lot higher than men do.

An onboarding program that informs your new hire about the opportunities they can use to climb the ladder is mutually beneficial. Employees who grow and are invested in the organization lead to a positive work environment and might even motivate their colleagues, increasing your organization’s employee engagement rate. So, inform your new hires about where the rungs are and allow them to climb as high as they deserve to.

That brings us to the end of the few pointers you can keep in mind to get onboarding right. Whether or not you use these pointers, do remember to prioritize onboarding and not leave your new hires in the maze. So long as you do that, you’re on the right track.

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