How Effective Onboarding Increases Retention

Contrary to popular belief, HR’s job doesn’t just end at hiring the most suitable candidate. Onboarding the new employee, in fact, is one of the most significant aspects of Talent Acquisition. An employee’s onboarding will be a stepping stone to the role they’ll play within the organization, and how it is executed will in large part determine and define the employee’s future trajectory.

What is Onboarding?

Onboarding tackles the first phase of the new hire’s journey at the organization, whereby they’re given an immersive opportunity to learn about the company’s corporate policies, its people, its culture and the various perks and benefits it offers to its employees. By means of purposeful tasks and activities, the employee is given a chance to acclimate to a new environment, understand their role, their responsibilities and the expectations from them, instead of being thrown in at the deep end right away. Moreover, they are promptly handed all the resources and equipment they’ll be needing to approach their tasks.

A Long-Standing Onboarding Myth

Often times, orientation and onboarding are used interchangeably and the assumption is that they mean the same. That, however, is not the case. Orientation happens to be a subset of the onboarding program, which in essence is much more extensive in its scale and breadth. While orientation concerns mostly just the first few days of the new hire’s job, onboarding can easily go up to a year. Good onboarding programs never scratch the surface- they are thorough, immersive and offer much more than a cursory glimpse into the company and all that it holds for its employees.

Onboarding and Retention Rates

That’s all fine. But really, why is onboarding so crucial?

Employees today are very clear about what they want. They’re ambitious and don’t believe in settling for anything less than what they think they deserve. If they feel that an organization can’t give them what they’ve gleefully come seeking, they’ll want out the moment they get a chance. The fear of sudden resignations on crucial posts is thus an ever-present fear for HR, now more than ever. In fact, the quit rates in the US rose to a 17-year high of 2.4% from 2.3% last year.

High employee turnover can impose hefty expenses on companies and dampen employee morale. That’s definitely a cause for concern, but there’s always less reason to worry when you’ve invested in preventive measures. This is where Onboarding comes in.

Imagine this scenario: You stumble upon a book, the cover is fetching and the synopsis at the back also looks promising, so you decide to give it a shot. But reading just the first few pages, you know it’s not going to be your cup of tea.

You see, an individual’s experience with the first leg of any journey invariably informs their impression of what the rest of it is going to be like.

That’s exactly the deal with onboarding.

An employee will view their onboarding as a microcosm of what their journey at the organization would be like. It’s going to set the tone for how they will perceive the organization, it’s people and its culture from that point forward.

A good onboarding program, where every colleague enthusiastically pitches in to make the new hire feel comfortable, one which is thoroughly planned, well spread out, and reveals meaningful insights, will show to the employee that the organization walks its talk, while a poor onboarding program will show to the employee that it’s lofty claims are just smoke and mirrors.

Sure, effective onboarding is reassuring for the employee because it validates their decision of joining the company. But more than that, a good onboarding experience can actually translate into very tangible results for the employee as well as the organization. Let’s explore this link a little further.

A Smoother Transition


A good onboarding experience directly impacts on the performance of employees. Effective and engaging onboarding can allow the new hire to acquire clarity about how the organization functions- what its environment is like, how employee relations are and what the nature of its workflows is.

Understanding how the organization ticks, so to speak, allows the new hire to more easily and quickly adapt to the new environment. It can allow them the much-needed space to first grow comfortable with the new surroundings and the people before they take on important tasks and projects. In fact, a well-planned onboarding program will always involve ice-breaking and team-building exercises, so the new hire can get to know their department better and identify the team dynamics so as to smoothly step in as a team member.

Greater Clarity about Roles and Responsibilities


More importantly, an onboarding program is required to explain to the new hire what their role and its associated responsibilities will be. Poor onboarding programs give new hires a half-baked introduction to their tasks but still expect them to hit it out of the ballpark with their performance. This can be incredibly stressful for the employee. In such cases, the new hire is simply left to their own devices to figure things out and gain a footing in the organization through trial and error.

This obviously hampers their full integration into the company and can also lead to misinformation and incorrect hypothesizing. Clearly, this isn’t the most effective method to bring the employee on board and is sure to delay performance targets by a wide margin.

With a well-planned onboarding program, the employee is handed over all the resources and documentation they’ll need to grasp their role from the get-go. They can explore and understand their responsibilities to a T to help them align their performance with what is expected of them.

In fact, the best onboarding programs go a step further by automating this whole stage. A competent onboarding software provides a central platform through which HR can control and monitor onboarding procedures and activities in an organized fashion. All key documents and resources are neatly stored in there for the new hire to access freely.

Moreover, the software makes learning interesting and engaging by pairing essential information with videos, pictures, informative webinars and much more. This is always a more engaging option than boring them with stacks of dull documents on company policies and role expectations.

This way, the employee won’t have to entirely be at the mercy of HR and can learn about their role in their own time.

When a new hire’s role is clearly defined and communicated, it automatically reflects in their performance. Moreover, it sets off a chain effect. If their performance is outstanding, they’re more likely to receive more recognition at work. This sooner or later translates into quick promotions, which in turn boost satisfaction levels and retention rates.

Inducing a Sense of Loyalty


A good onboarding program can be thoroughly uplifting for the new hire. If they get off to a great start with the organization, their spirits will be soaring, they’ll rest assured that they made the right decision, and they’d naturally want to put their best foot forward. A new hire will recognize the amount of effort that HR is putting into empowering them with key resources, skills, and information and it will immediately make them feel valued and well taken care of. This can cultivate a strong sense of loyalty in the new hire, inspiring them to take ownership of the company and treat it like its own.

The outcome? A visible increase in employee retention. Employees will invariably reciprocate the treatment, remaining steadfast in their allegiance to the company.

Some Helpful Tips to get your Onboarding Right

So now that it’s clear that onboarding can raise retention rates significantly, how do you make sure that your onboarding is one that hits the bull’s eye? In short, how do you fool-proof your onboarding efforts?

Here are some tips to consider when designing your company’s onboarding program.

  • Engage in social onboarding, build a sense of community and camaraderie between the new hire and their colleagues.
  • Don’t push them off into the deep end too quickly. Let them acclimate first before they move on to important assignments.
  • Empower them with important resources to prepare them for their role and go about this in an organized fashion. Use an onboarding software to streamline onboarding procedures and learning exercises to make it easy for the new hire to absorb information.
  • Take constant feedback to see if there is an area you can improve in.
  • Set clear goals and expectations.
  • Be nice and warm, reiterate your confidence in their abilities, and inspire them to give their best.
  • Keep the onboarding program employee-centric. Focus less on the company and more on the employee- Try to identify what their skills and core competencies are, and then tailor the program accordingly.

A good onboarding program can make a positive contribution to employee retention. High retention rates in turn can be instrumental in boosting the confidence of your employees and can additionally keep you from incurring the high costs of replacement. Of course, it’s not always that simple- a healthy retention rate is indeed a combination of multiple factors. But at least now you know where to start- Onboarding!