Episode 2 – The Keys to Building an Effective On-Boarding Program

The Keys to Building an Effective Onboarding Program

Welcome to “The Animal Health Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, search consultant Stacy Pursell provides insight and practical advice for both companies and job seekers. Her mission is to help organizations acquire top talent, while helping professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities.
Teresa: In today’s podcast, we’ll be talking about onboarding, which is the process that companies use to bring new employees on board after hiring them. I’m here with Stacy Pursell of The VET Recruiter. Hello, Stacy.

Stacy Pursell: Hello, Teresa. I’m glad to be here.

Teresa: Stacy, onboarding is not something that appears easily understood in the world of employment. Before we discuss it more in-depth, can you touch upon how onboarding is viewed by companies in today’s marketplace?

Stacy: Sure. Onboarding as a philosophy and a process is often viewed differently by different organizations. Some spend more time, energy, and effort than others and some make it more of a priority than others. Of course, those companies that make it more of a priority enjoy more success onboarding their candidates.

Teresa: Is that the mistake that a lot of organizations commit, not making onboarding enough of a priority?

Stacy: That’s exactly right. It’s especially important in a candidates’ market like the one we’re experiencing right now. Companies that don’t make onboarding a priority are at risk of losing candidates during the process—even if those candidates have already accepted an offer—and they’re also at risk of not engaging candidates enough once they start work and become employees.

If candidates are not engaged enough and if they don’t have the tools and resources they need, they won’t become as productive as they could be, they might not reach their potential, and they eventually become a risk to leave for another employment opportunity.

Teresa: So you’re saying that onboarding employees is the first step toward successfully retaining those employees?

Stacy: Yes, that’s correct, and that’s how companies should view onboarding. Not only is it part of the hiring process, but it’s also part of the retention process. There is a direct correlation. The better the onboarding process, the greater the chances that the employee will stick around for the long term. The top companies want their new employees to be as productive as possible as soon as possible and they want to retain those employees.

According to a study conducted by the Aberdeen Group, best-in-class companies are 35% more likely to begin onboarding processes before the new employee’s first day of work. The same study found that best-in-class businesses are 2.5 times more likely to monitor their new hires’ progress during the onboarding process.

And according to a study and infographic produced by the HR trends website UrbanBound.com, organizations with a standard onboarding process experience 50% greater new hire productivity.

Teresa: So onboarding is obviously important. But what exactly should companies be doing with it?

Stacy: Well, onboarding should be approached in stages, and those stages start sooner than some people might realize. The first stage actually begins with the offer of employment. Once the offer is made and the candidate accepts the offer, the onboarding process has begun. Everything the company does and doesn’t do is now officially part of that process.

The initial phase of onboarding typically involves the two-week period between the time the candidate accepts the offer and the day they start employment with the company. This initial phase is crucial for a couple of reasons.

First, some hiring managers don’t realize that this two-week period is part of the onboarding process. They think that it starts once the candidate officially starts work. And second, since the new employee is not physically at the company, the process becomes more difficult. That makes this two-week period all the more important.

Teresa: But Stacy, since as you mentioned, the employee is not physically at the company, what kind of onboarding is actually taking place?

Stacy: Changing jobs is a pretty big life event. It’s not a decision that many people take lightly. A lot of thought goes into making it. During the two-week period between the time the offer is accepted and the candidate starts work, the candidate must be reassured that they’ve made the correct decision.

This is where some companies “drop the ball” with onboarding. The candidate accepts the offer, and then they don’t hear from the company until they start work. This is very dangerous, because the candidate can be susceptible during this time.

Teresa: What do you mean by susceptible?

Stacy: First, their current employer might make a counter-offer to them. In today’s marketplace, counter-offers are becoming more prevalent, especially when it comes to the best employees. In fact, a company should almost expect that if a candidate accepts an offer that their current employer is going to counter it.

The organization should also expect that the candidate is interviewing with multiple companies. As a result, they could be entertaining multiple offers. In fact, they could receive a better, more enticing offer a day after they’ve already accepted an offer. There could also be other factors at play, including family considerations. That’s why it’s very important for a company take the necessary steps to assure the candidate that they’ve made the right decision in accepting its offer.

Teresa: What steps specifically can organizations take to do this?

Stacy: Company officials, including the candidate’s future boss, can make phone calls to the candidate to welcome them aboard and express their excitement about their hire. These calls don’t even have to be that long. However, what’s important is that they make the candidate feel wanted, and that’s exactly what the candidate wants to feel.

Teresa: And these are phone calls that are made in addition to the normal calls that say, the HR department would make regarding employee paperwork?

Stacy: That’s exactly right. Companies need to go above and beyond to make a candidate feel wanted and to assure them that they’ve made the right decision. Even sending emails to the candidate will make a difference. It’s definitely better than not reaching out at all. Some companies even take the new employee to lunch before they’ve started work, if that candidate is local, and discuss their duties, responsibilities, and upcoming projects with them.

Teresa: What about once the employee actually starts work? I imagine the onboarding process continues from there?

Stacy: Absolutely. Some people believe this is when the onboarding process begins, but this is actually the second phase of the process. However, it’s just as crucial to the success of the process and the success of the employee. And like the first phase, it involves giving the employee what they need.

During the first phase, what they primarily need is assurance that they made the right decision and the feeling that they’re wanted. The second phase includes all of the paperwork and housekeeping details associated with bringing in a new employee. Those things are expected. While they’re needed for the employee to legally begin work, they don’t by themselves contribute much to the success or productivity of the employee.

Teresa: What things do contribute to productivity during the second phase of the onboarding process?

Stacy: You might be surprised to know that employees still need much of what they needed during the first phase. They still need to feel as though they’re wanted, and they still need to be assured that they made the correct decision. In fact, during their first few days on the job, they’ll be subconsciously assessing the situation in that regard, looking for clues that accepting the offer was the right thing to do.

Also during this second phase, the candidate should have access to everything they need to be successful at their job. This includes all hardware and software tools, a parking permit if that’s needed, a map of the building, etc. Organizations that are proactive about onboarding will have already passed some of these items along to the employee, even before they start their first day of work.

Teresa: What else does the employee need during this second phase?

Stacy: It’s helpful to think of these two phases in two-week increments. There’s the two weeks between the acceptance of the offer and when the employee starts work. Then there’s the employee’s first two weeks on the job. There are three things that are especially important during this second phase. Those things are training, co-worker interaction, and the communicating of expectations and setting of goals.

Teresa: Wow, that’s certainly a lot.

Stacy: It is, both for the employee and the company, but it’s critical for the employee to be fully engaged during their first two weeks on the job.

First, they should be receiving any and all training that’s necessary, including training specific to their job requirements, as well as training that’s specific to the company itself.

Second, they should be interacting with as many of their co-workers as possible, especially those they’ll be working closely with. Not only will this help them to get up to speed more quickly, but it will also help them to assimilate more easily into the company culture.

Third, the employee’s manager should be working closely with the employee and letting them know exactly what’s expected of them, both in the short term and the long term. At the same time, they should be discussing and setting goals for the employee, once again both in the short and long term.

Teresa: Hearing all of this, the word that comes to mind is “engagement.” It seems as though the more a candidate is engaged, the better the onboarding process will be.

Stacy: That’s correct. Engagement holds the key to an effective onboarding process, and as I mentioned at the outset, it requires an investment of time, energy, and effort. Those organizations that are willing to make that investment and fully engage candidates during both phases of the onboarding process are going to experience more success with it.

Their employees are going to get up to speed more quickly, they’re going to be more productive, they’re going to be more satisfied, and they’re going to stay with the company longer.

Teresa: Stacy, thanks so much for all of this great information today.

Stacy: Thank you, Teresa. I look forward to our next podcast!

Links for supporting statistics:

http://www.aberdeen.com/research/9865/RR-twentyfirst-century-onboarding.aspx/content.aspx

http://www.urbanbound.com/blog/onboarding-infographic-statistics