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When onboarding fails!

New-hire attrition is an ongoing issue, with up to 20 percent of new hires leaving within the first 45 days of their new role and 33 percent leaving after just six months. With the average cost of recruiting a new employee in the UK £3,000, seeing a third of your new hires leaving so soon, can be both costly and disruptive.

So why is talent leaving so abruptly and what can organisations do about it? Dawn Smedley, Head of Culture from WorkBuzz, discusses the flaws in organisations’ onboarding processes, and how HR and business leaders can improve the chances of their new hires sticking around.

The recruitment process is transactional

Too many organisations’ recruitment processes are ‘transactional’, with acceptance letters and onboarding documents being generated automatically. According to latest data from Bullhorn, the average recruitment firm automates over 20,000 emails, texts, updates, notes, and tasks each year. This may well make the hiring process efficient, but a totally automated approach lacks any ‘humanity’. So when new hires turn up to work on their first day, it’ll be their first real contact with their manager and team members, instantly putting them on a back footing. Putting the ‘human’ in the recruitment process is key. The new hire should be connected to their manager and co-workers, whilst being immersed into the company culture before formally starting.

The quality of onboarding is manager dependent

When organisations have no clear onboarding process in place, the quality of onboarding will vary from manager to manager. It’s therefore important to have a clear onboarding programme in place that managers can use as a guide.

The programme should clarify key elements such as how long the onboarding should last; the roles of managers, HR and co-workers; what impression you want the employee to have about the company and their role; what they need to know about the organisation, culture and work environment; and how onboarding success will be measured.

Lack of clarity over role and responsibilities

It’s not unusual for a job role to be poorly thought through and explained. This lack of clarity will leave the new recruit confused as to their role and responsibilities. Being able to explain the nuances of the job at recruitment stage will help prevent any subsequent misunderstandings.

Expectations vs. reality don’t match up

In the same way as a job role may be ‘sold’ as something that it isn’t during the recruitment process, new hires may also have been given a ‘gold tinted’ impression of what it’s like working at the company. The reality then fails to match-up to the expectations. To prevent this, it’s crucial to give an honest appraisal of the organisational culture and working conditions during interview stage. This is so that candidates can candidly assess whether both the role and company would suit them.

A sense of belonging isn’t nurtured

Deloitte defines a worker’s sense of belonging as how organisations can foster diverse, equitable, and inclusive communities for the worker and how they feel like a member of the broader world. This impacts whether an employee shows up and feels comfortable being themselves. Employees crave this sense of belonging. And, if they achieve it, they’re more likely to stay with the company and want to contribute to its success. So when organisations do little to welcome new recruits, they’ll quickly feel like an unwanted outsider.

Recognition is lacking

A sense of belonging and recognition go hand-in-hand. Employees who receive regular appreciation and recognition for their efforts and results feel valued. New hires should be given recognition from the minute they’re hired. And this must continue throughout the onboarding process and beyond. After all, when employees feel that their contribution matters, they will have a greater sense of self-worth and will want to stick around. Conversely, if new hires fail to be recognised, they will soon feel invisible and unappreciated.

The onboarding process is too short!

Aberdeen Strategy and Research reveals that only 37 percent of companies extend their onboarding programme beyond a month with some lasting as little as one week! Research also highlights that anything less than a month is detrimental to retention rates. Companies with programmes that last a month or less being 9 percent less likely to keep first-year employees. This is compared to those with longer onboarding processes. For greatest chance of success, onboarding should last a minimum of three months.

The process must be nurturing but not suffocating, and informative but not overwhelming. Onboarding success is about long-term thinking rather than distilling everything there is to know into a one week block!

No feedback mechanisms in place for new recruits

When an onboarding process is badly run, or not properly planned, you need to know about it, and quickly! Yet, often, there’s no way for new hires to provide feedback in a way that’s simple and non-confrontational. It’s therefore crucial for organisations to put measures in place to understand where issues lie, and then act on them.

An onboarding survey is an excellent means to measure the experiences of new starters, providing insights into how well the onboarding process is working, get ahead of any potential issues, and action any improvements that should be made. Such surveys can obtain key information on how settled new starters are feeling within their team. For example, whether they have the necessary resources to do their job, if they are clear on the expectations and responsibilities of their role, whether they’d recommend the company to others, and if they’re considering leaving.

Onboarding surveys also help understand which recruitment channels are most effective, and how to streamline the process for future hires. Only by knowing about issues, can they be fixed. Organisations must have simple methods in place to understand when an onboarding process is failing before it’s too late.

Turning failure into success

According to onboarding statistics, 92 percent of new hires feel productive and important during their first month, after effective cultural and operational onboarding. And so it’s the responsibility of HR and business leaders to put their onboarding process under the spotlight to determine what improvements are needed. From personalising recruitment and ensuring role expectations and reality match-up, through to introducing onboarding surveys to analyse what’s working and what’s not, a carefully managed onboarding process will ensure existing talent stays, while helping to attract the talent of tomorrow.


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