3 Ways to Elevate your Onboarding for Better Engagement

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How to Retain Keep Your New Hires and Better Employee Engagement

After the thrill of being offered the job, new employees are often dropped into their roles with immediate deliverables and pressure to produce. This plunge can be a thrilling challenge and dopamine rush for some, but many find it stressful. In fact, the anxiety can drive 17% of new hires to leave their jobs within 3 months of their start date, citing non-existent or insufficient onboarding as the top reason. The fiscal impact of such early attrition is significant; between 100% and 300% of the employee’s salary which is quite a poor return on investment. 

The human cost of poor onboarding is also significant. Low confidence, impostor syndrome, and a lack of belonging are common consequences, resulting in decreased productivity, creativity, and commitment. 


In spite of all this evidence, almost a quarter of companies don’t have a formal onboarding program!


A Better Beginning 


A well-planned onboarding experience brings out the best in new hires, reinforces an organization’s purpose and values, and enacts important cultural practices and rituals. A win, win, win!


Research shows that thoughtful onboarding programs have a proven ROI:

  • New employees who go through a structured onboarding program are 58% more likely to be with the organization after three years. 
  • Organizations with a standard onboarding process experience 50% greater new hire productivity and employees whose companies have longer onboarding programs gain full proficiency 34% faster than those in the shortest programs.
  • Manager satisfaction increases by 20% when their direct reports have formal onboarding training.

Here are more stats on how to hold on to your best talent: 




What to do?


Rapid growth, busyness, and lack of funding are poor excuses for not paying attention to this important moment. What can organizations do right now to elevate their onboarding practices? Re-think the purpose and meaning of onboarding and experiment with some new approaches to transform the experience. 


1. Remember, there is only one first day.

A colleague once shared a story of a Vice President courted and eventually lured from a competitor. It was a clear win for this organization. However, when she showed up on her first day, she was taken to her new office, where she sat for several hours. Her manager was traveling, and her new colleagues were not even aware of her arrival. It was a bad beginning, and did not get much better. She left after only three months on the job. After winning her, the organization quickly lost her, and this could have easily been avoided. 


There is only one first day for a new employee, and the experience of this moment sets the tone of your relationship. 


Try this.  Be an exceptional host and make the first day a positively memorable one. With the first few weeks, ask new employees how the expectations they had match up against their lived experience in the organization. Where there is misalignment leverage that as an opportunity to rethink your onboarding strategy.


2. Focus more on the employee than the organization.

The default assumption for most onboarding programs is that they must orient new hires to the organization’s identity, its mission and values, history, structure and strategy, and more. Leaders and department heads are marched in and new hires presented to, sometimes for hours on end. While these presentations can be beautifully crafted, they are often a one-way communication. 


Research conducted in India with an organization called WyPro turns this assumption on its head. The study showed that when a new hire’s identity is emphasized over the organization’s, employee engagement and retention increased by 250%. 


Try this. Identify a place in your onboarding process where you can elevate the new hire’s experience and help them reflect on this career transition. What excites them about this new opportunity? What challenges do they anticipate? What do they hope to learn and contribute? Who do they want to become? This could be achieved through an assessment tool, reflective exercises, generative conversations with their new manager or an assigned buddy or mentor, and more. 


3. Leverage connection; build belonging.

Set your new hires up for success by meaningfully connecting them to their manager, their new team, an assigned buddy or mentor, and others they will work with throughout the organization. These connections should be made immediately, particularly with the new employee’s manager. If the manager cannot be on-site, delay the start date! 


Try this. Introduce new hires to colleagues who might share similar hobbies or backgrounds, people that might become new friends. Doing this welcomes the whole person to your organization and supports engagement and belonging. 

Onboarding Pays Off


Your onboarding practice is a microcosm of your organization’s culture. How you treat those entering your organization signals what is important. Are you sending the signals you want? Pay attention to your beginnings, and they will pay back in spades. 


Want more onboarding tips? Read more in my original post


How can culture-building initiatives affect your company's performance and most challenging pain points? Discover how!



About the Author

Chris Marcell Murchison

Chris Marcell Murchison is a passionate advocate for positive workplace culture. In his broad career spanning the higher education, for-profit, not-for-profit, and foundation sectors he has focused his energy on developing creative means to build community at work and practices that support an employee experience of respect, connection, joy, and generative learning. In 2014, Chris was named the first Visiting Leader at the Center for Positive Organizations in the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, where he advises, connects and convenes faculty and students to explore practical applications of Positive Organizational Scholarship. In January of 2018 Chris was additionally appointed to the Advisory Board of the International Positive Psychology Association’s Work & Organizations Division. Chris currently works as an independent creative thought-partner, experience designer, and advisor to organizations ready to reimagine the possibilities of their cultures.

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