Engagement is playing a bigger role in sourcing and retention. In the Deloitte 2015 HR Technology Report, John Bersin articulated the next era of HR technology has shifted from automation to engagement. Things like blogs, social communities, tweets, facebook posts, social crowdsourcing, etc. are all strategies that companies are undertaking to remain competitive and retain their human capital investment.
But what about that window of time when a candidate is transitioning from their old job into the new one? The Onboarding window. It’s the optimal time to capitialize on the excitement and eagerness of new hires.
Some companies have already started focusing on engagement by shifting away from automated forms and mass structured orientation classes to using social channels, interactive video and/or “buddies” in orientation. This supports research which finds 80% of learning happens in an unstructured environment through conversations with co-workers.
Successful onboarding also has a bottom line impact. On average, the cost of finding a replacement for a junior level employee is about 20% of their salary. That percentage increases as the level of seniority increases. Interestingly, new hire turnover within the first 45 days can amount to about 300% of the new hires annual salary. This puts a lot of pressure on companies to get onboarding right.
Some companies are still focused on using technology for forms automation and provisioning instead of engagement. The importance of interaction with employees should not be underestimated whether you use technology or not. Consider the following two stories and its impact on retention.
Experience # 1- High Engagement; Low Automation
Jill* was referred by an employee to a prestigious financial services company. After a number of interviews she was delighted to accept a senior position. Jill was excited to start her new job. Prior to her start date, she was called into the office to complete the new hire paperwork. She was presented with her offer letter and a number of forms to sign and complete. The entire process took about 30 minutes. She would be notified via phone or email if there were any issues or questions.
On her first day, Jill* arrived at the appropriated time and was greeted warmly by the receptionist. After a few minutes, John*; her new Manager, came out to greet her. He welcomed her and showed her to her desk. He told her he would be back in 30 minutes once she got settled in. There was an envelope on Jill’s desk with information to log into her computer, set up her voice mail and keys for her cabinets and office. John came back after 30 minutes and escorted her to his office. After a few minutes of banter he presented her with a word document that outlined her schedule for the first week. He provided an overview of the organizational structure, gave her a seating chart of the floor and talked through what needed to be completed on the first day.
After spending some time going through the schedule, John took Jill around the floor and introduced her to the team. He also introduced her to her “Buddy”, Mark*, who also reported to him. Mark would be her main point of contact for questions and specific work related items. As per the schedule, Jill spent sometime with Mark to get her up to speed and identified some other key contacts she would need to meet over the next week.
At lunch time, John came back and all three of them went for lunch. After lunch; Jill had some time allotted with the Coordinator to complete her benefits enrolment. After that, she completed some mandatory training courses. Around 3:30; Mark came by to visit Jill. He dropped off a few files for Jill to familiarize herself with. He also offered to answer any other questions she had. Jill was glad to have the personal interaction and said she would review the files to get a head start for the next day.
At 4:30 John came by to enquire about Jill’s first day. How was she feeling? How were things? Was the schedule he prepared helpful? Was Mark helpful as a Buddy? Jill was quite happy with the proceedings of the day and found having a buddy extremely helpful. John was glad. He talked about some of the projects she had been assigned to and some of the challenges they were trying to address. John told Jill to call it a day, and said he looked forward to seeing her again tomorrow.
As Jill commuted home she reflected on the day. She was quite impressed with how her the first day unfolded. She was glad John assigned her a Buddy and appreciated his thoughtfulness to make her feel comfortable. She was confident she made the right decision to join this company.
Jill stayed with the company for 5 years.
Tale # 2- High Automation; Low Engagement
Sally* was referral by an employee to a prestigious financial services company. After a number of interviews she was offered and accepted senior position. Sally was excited to start her new job. Prior to her start date, Sally was emailed her offer letter and instructions on how to complete the onboarding process. The process consisted of completing a series of electronic forms, checklists and collecting banking information. Sally thought the process was quick and efficient. She enjoyed the ability to complete transactions online at her own convenience. She also had the option of emailing her new Manager if she had any questions. This experience renewed her excitement to start her new job.
On her first day, Sally arrived at the appropriated time. She was greeted warmly by the receptionist who asked her to wait as her Manager, Amy*, had not arrived yet. Sally waited in the reception area for 30 minutes. When Amy arrived she greeted her warmly, apologized for being late and showed her to her desk. She told her she would be back in a while as she was late for a meeting . Sally took the opportunity to get settled in. The keys for her cabinets and information about her computer were on her desk.
Amy came back after an hour and started to introduce her to other people on the floor. She then returned Sally to her desk and asked her to start reviewing some documents on the shared drive. Sally started reading the documents Amy requested. As there was no schedule, Sally did not know what time Amy would come by for lunch. Sally waited for Amy but soon realized lunch wasn’t part of the first day. She decided to go down to the food court by herself. At the elevator she ran into Amy who said she was going to grab a bite, did she want to come? Sally nodded and they went down together. Sally was just about to pay for her sandwich when Amy said she would pay for it. Unsure of what to do, Sally smiled and thanked Amy. They walked back to the office to their individual desks, where Sally ate her lunch alone.
Around 2:30pm Amy came by and asked Sally to meet with her to debrief about some of the projects she needed to become familiar with. After the meeting Sally went back to her desk and started completing information for her benefits and mandatory training.
At about 4:30 Sally got an email from Amy saying she had to leave early and hoped her first day went well. She said she was happy to have her on board and would see her tomorrow. Sally realized she would not have an opportunity to debrief with Amy about her first day. Unsure of when she should leave, Sally decided to pack up and call it a day.
As Sally commuted home, she reflected upon the day. Her first day had not been what she expected. In fact it was quite disappointing. She barely spent anytime with Amy and was left alone most of the day. She felt isolated. Her colleagues seemed so busy she felt awkward interrupting them. She also couldn’t believe the lunch mishap. She contemplated whether this was normal behaviour at the company? Was this going to be a good fit after all? Had she made the right decision? It left her with an uneasy feeling. Hopefully tomorrow would be better.
Sally left the company just before her first year anniversary.
The two experiences above are true stories that have been shared with me. Even through Jill and Sally had vastly different experiences, both stories illustrated how important engagement was in cementing the employee experience and retention. I asked Sally if she would have traded a manual process to completing onboarding forms if it meant she could spend more “engagement” time with her Manager and/or co-workers. Without hesitation she said YES.
Now picture Millennials entering the workforce. Connected, collaborative, social, mobile, comfortable on multiple device types and demand 24×7 accessibility. Conventional strategies will do little to keep this generation stimulated and engaged. Companies need to capitalize on using blogs, communities and gamification to appeal to this generation. Building rapport can also be multi-dimensional. Tools like Skype/FaceTime can be alternate ways to chat with colleagues or management. Communities to crowdsource or connect with others are familiar ways for Millennials to engage. A Buddy (in person or virtual) is still a wonderful way to help new hires acclimate to the company.
So rethink about your approach to Onboarding. Engagement is the foundation to employee retention!
* Names have been changed