The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

Onboarding Part 1: Definition

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OK – So I’ve decided that it’s time for a new topic other than employee engagement. Since Andrew has so kindly thought one up for me, I figure we’ll do something around on-boarding. In the next few days, I’ll be doing a 3 part series on the topic. I’m hoping this will also result in some good discussion in the blogs.
– Onboarding Definition
– Onboarding Integration
– Onboarding Systems and Vendors

So what is onboarding? First of all, it’s one of these annoying buzz words we have in HR these days. It is an important one though, and the practice has initiated all sorts of new tactics for recruiting and retention. Onboarding is the process of integrating employees into their new work environment. While this sounds simple, it really take a multitude of coordinated acts to accomplish this.

Timing: In my opinion, onboarding begins with the offer letter. Many people think that onboarding happens on day one with the orientation, but if you wait this long, you have missed several golden opportunities to shape your new employee’s view about you. From here on out – I’m going to just call these people “new hires.”

Goals: You have a precious few weeks to make sure your employee remains excited about their new opportunity. The misuse of these weeks could lead to the employee going after another offer, getting counter offers from the current employer, or just status quo (lack of heightened excitement). Similarly, you have a precious few weeks after the first day to make sure your employee gets off to the right start.

Pre-day 1 activities: The days between the offer letter and first day of work should be a pointed and disciplined flow of information both ways.

  • Coming from the employee, you want some core data about the employee. They can fill out all the paperwork so you are not spending 2 hours during the first day getting signatures. These new hires can go to a secured website and electronically fill out and sign the necessary forms, or they can print these forms out and bring them in on day 1. I’m talking about your non-compete forms, standards of conduct, W-2’s, direct deposits, etc… If you are really cool, you might even have a form so business cards can be pre-ordered. If you measure offer to day 1 retention rates, this is a huge impact. Can you imagine showing a future employee a mock-up of their business card on-line 2 weeks before their start date? And the network forms for day 1 connectivity and e-mail? Do that one too.
  • Disclaimer: I should note that I’m not a lawyer, so I offer no judgement, but some companies have questioned whether they can ask their hew hires to “work” without paying them. It’s just something to consider. Most new hires would happily do this work.
  • Coming from you, the employer, are all the standard day 1 communications, but in a pre-day 1 form. That website you directed them to with all the forms? It’s also going to have related communications. You can’t ask them to sign the standards of conduct form if they have not read it. You might have recent positive press releases, the employee handbook, profiles of successful employees, and materials that reinforce the employer’s brand. If the employee is sufficiently excited about you, they are going to read this stuff. And while you are keeping them excited about you, they are less likely to be looking elsewhere.

Post day 1 activities: Most of this is coming from the employer, but of course it’s almost all collaborative. Having the website up does not exempt you from running orientation. You still have to do that. However, you should now have a day 1, month 1, quarter 1, and year 1 goal. Here are some ideas:

  • D 1: Orientation. Not just filling out paper orientation, but a real one where you have trained people integrating new hires into your brand (I’m hoping Regina has more to say about this). After or along with orientation, pass out those business cards we mentioned before. Hey, you collected the data, why not get them early? If you have salespeople who you want to get on the street immediately, can you imagine their reaction to that? Phone and computers or laptops. I have been employed by enough companies who made me wait 2 or 3 weeks before I got my laptop. Hey – If you want to pay me $#### a day to do nothing for a couple weeks, I’m game for that… Get these poor guys hooked up for day 1. Once again, we had the data, so let’s execute on it. Nothing sucks more than being a new employee, being excited about the opportunity, and then sitting at your desk reading company brochures because you have no e-mail, no computer, and no phone!!!!
  • M 1: The new hire’s manager should be well prepared to go through all the job and performance standards. This should be a proactive session letting the new hire know what’s expected, but also quite a bit of setting goals as well. M1 should also contain quite a bit of training, or whatever type of company integration you do (mentorships, coursework, etc…). Also don’t forget to check on the benefits. Not getting benefits right on the first try leaves a nasty feeling for new hires.
  • Q 1: Is really the same as M1, but I leave it here to remind you that as part of the onboarding plan, you really have to formalize the follow-up processes. So follow up on the performance and job expectations, and continue the training.
  • Y 1: If everything has gone according to plan, you should have much better retention rates in year 1 and hopefully your employee engagement is inching up slightly. Employees will better understand their working conditions with a well thought out plan to get them integrated into the company, and you should reap healthy rewards from it.

Next time we talk about integration and how you get all the required systems to work together.

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3 responses to “Onboarding Part 1: Definition”

  1. know you’re out there, but I get way more e-mails than comments. Go figure. Here are my 10 most popular posts as voted on by you: Talent optimization and engagement – June 15, 2005 Branding, Communications, Service Delivery – August 25th, 2005 Onboarding Part 1: Definition – July 5th, 2005 Workforce Planning again – The Definition – June 20th, 2005 Oracle Fusion, and future PeopleSoft functionality – August 23rd, 2005 Recruiting to Onboarding – July 1st, 2005 eRecruitment Market Trends

  2. Random Wikipedia Guy: Onboarding is the process of interviewing, hiring, orienting and successfully integrating new hires into the organization’s culture. Though I suspect that the definition at Systematic HR is closer to the mark: So what is onboarding? First of all, it’s one of these annoying buzz words we have in HR these days. It is an important one though, and the practice has initiated all sorts of new tactics for recruiting and retention. Onboarding is the process of