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Article No.: 14-6, June 1, 2014

Article Title: On-Boarding

Author: Charis Borchers, Guest Columnist

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Before launching into the topic, it is important to explain what exactly is onboarding.  In this case, it would also help to explain what onboarding is not. 
Onboarding is not Orientation.  Onboarding is not Training.  Collectively, these three terms describe the employee experience from their first day on the job through their last.  An employee’s Orientation typically covers topics that pertain to all employees in exactly the same way.  Some examples would be a tour of the office, an explanation of employee benefits, background or history of the company, and other information that applies to all employees.  Onboarding provides information about the new employee’s role.  Background or history that pertains to that role, as well as key relationships that will be impacted and/or influenced by that role, are all part of onboarding.  Training is typically specific to the duties performed in the role.
Now that clear parameters have been set around what onboarding is and is not, we can examine the reason more organizations are adopting onboarding programs as part of the new hire experience.
Identifying qualified individuals when filling a position is the easy part.  Using tools like a resume, an interview, an assessment and references, a candidate’s likelihood for performing well can be determined.  So then, why is it that companies continue to be disappointed when an employee with stellar credentials struggles in their role, or chooses to leave? 
Research shows that organizations that engage in formal onboarding by
implementing step-by-step programs for new employees to teach them what their roles are, what the norms of the company are, and how they are to behave are more effective than those that do not.1   Without a formal process, the lack of support leaves employees to sink-or-swim.  Data has shown that half of all senior outside hires fail within 18 months in a new position.2  Additionally, half of all hourly workers leave new jobs within the first 120 days.3
Once the need for an onboarding process is realized, the task of developing one may seem daunting.  The good news is there’s more than one way to approach it.  Your organization could use either a passive or proactive onboarding process. 
A passive onboarding program typically covers just requirements.  This applies to policies and procedures that maintain compliance.  Additionally, job responsibilities, goals and objectives would be clearly defined. 
An active onboarding program is more comprehensive.  This would include making the employee aware of organizational norms that define the culture.   Internal partnerships or relationships would be advocated and facilitated by management to ensure the employee has access to resources within the organization. 
Research shows that onboarding helps new employees adjust to their jobs by establishing better relationships to increase satisfaction, clarifying expectations and objectives to improve performance, and providing support to help reduce unwanted turnover.
In the simplest form, an onboarding plan could look something like this:

  • Set Expectations
    • Performance objectives
    • Knowledge transfer
    • Provide resources 
  • Execute the Plan
    • Develop a timeline/schedule
    • Identify key team members that will participate in Expectations
    • Get buy-in from those team members to ensure effective knowledge transfer
  • Examine Results 
    • Were the expectations clear?  Reasonable?
    • Did the new hire fulfill their learning requirements? 
    • Did the team members fulfill their responsibilities?
    • Did the timeline work well or need adjustment?

Onboarding can be as simple or complex as you make it.  Ultimately, the more the organization invests in an employee, the more the employee will invest in the organization.

Charis Borchers
Vice President, Business Development
RCSN Executive Search & Leadership Consulting
(513) 254-8036

1 Bauer, T. N., Bodner, T., Erdogan, B., Truxillo, D. M., & Tucker, J. S.
(2007). Newcomer adjustment during organizational socialization: A
meta-analytic review of antecedents, outcomes and methods. Journal of
Applied Psychology, 92, 707-721; Cable, D. M. & Parsons, C. K. (2001).

2 Smart, B. (1999). Topgrading: How leading companies win by hiring,
coaching, and keeping the best people. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

3 Krauss, A. D. (2010). Onboarding the hourly workforce. Poster presented
at the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP),
Atlanta, GA.

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