Onboarding Programs: a Simple Way to Confront the Talent War

You only get one chance to make a good first impression, so the saying goes. Many companies, however, appear to have flimsy onboarding processes, offering CEOs a relatively simple means of improving their staff retention levels, should they be willing to sacrifice the resources.

Attracting and retaining tech-savvy staff arguably has never been more important as digitization threatens to wipe out legacy business models. At the same time, a relatively low national unemployment rate, currently at 4.7%, could tempt hard-won candidates to quit early.

Coming up with the resources to help introduce a new hire can be a pain, especially if people are already stretched doing their day-to-day jobs. But the evidence suggests creating a sophisticated onboarding process can pay dividends in the long run.

According to an oft-quoted study conducted back in 2007 by consultancy the Wynhurst Group, employees who went through structured onboarding were 58% more likely to remain with the organization after three years. A separate study published in 2012 in the Academy of Management Journal found hires exposed to high support levels in their first 90 days of employment worked harder. When support wasn’t offered, they had a high tendency to leave.

“HIRES EXPOSED TO HIGH SUPPORT LEVELS IN THEIR FIRST 90 DAYS OF EMPLOYMENT WORKED HARDER. WHEN SUPPORT WASN’T OFFERED, THEY HAD A HIGH TENDENCY TO LEAVE.”

Even so, a survey of more than 1,800 executives released Tuesday by the Futurestep division of recruitment firm Korn Ferry found 23% had onboarding processes that only lasted a single day, while 30% lasted no more than a month.

That was despite the majority of executives saying that between 10% and 25% of new hires left within the first six months. The top reason given for them leaving: the role was different to what they expected during the hiring process.

Almost a fifth of respondents said new hires left because they didn’t like the company’s culture, making an accurate portrayal crucial during the onboarding process.

“Onboarding must be about more than just the basic administrative processes, such as entering time, submitting paperwork and logging onto the intranet,” Korn Ferry’s Bill Gilbert said.

“It should be an in-depth process that introduces the new hire to company culture, vision and strategic priorities, and help them understand available development opportunities to succeed in the organization.”

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Ross Kelly
Ross Kelly is a London-based business journalist. He has been a staff correspondent or editor at The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and the Australian Associated Press.

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