I (Amy) remember my first day on a new job — it was 1999. I walked into my office, had a computer put in front me, and was promptly whisked off to take care of formalities like fingerprinting and drug testing. That was my onboarding. Fortunately, we’ve come a long way in the last 15 years. Today onboarding is recognized as a critically important talent strategy because it can dramatically affect both “hard” factors such as productivity, retention, and costs and those elusive “soft” factors such as employer reputation and referrals that can be a tremendous advantage in a tight talent market.
Let’s take a closer look at why onboarding has been evolving from the days of “none at all” (or at best, “friendly people helping you”) to the more recent practice of 1 to 2 days of orientation, to leading organizations now considering the entire first year as part of onboarding.
Using onboarding to make the most of the people you hire — integrating them into the organization, getting them up to speed quickly, and striving to keep them with you — simply makes business sense. The stakes are too high to treat onboarding casually or leave it to chance. Leading practice today is to consider it a three-part, yearlong process comprising orientation, adjustment or “settling in,” and strategic assimilation, which is accomplished through a combination of formal leading, formal learning, and structured informal activity to support socialization and robust network building. Technology supports the process throughout by providing newcomers easy access to information, allowing them to join and participate in social networks, and serving as a gateway to meet people and build relationships.
The Evolution of Onboarding
Another aspect of the challenge to make onboarding more strategic is that organizations should look at it holistically. The process should be consistent across the organization, yet still allow for customization to accommodate the needs of specific business units. Many organizations struggle with this — one of our clients had 54 different onboarding programs in use across the organization; another had three onboarding programs in different business units all doing the same thing. Situations like this not only create inconsistencies and duplication of efforts but also typically add considerable cost.
Planning and implementing effective onboarding is a process — you don’t go from having no or limited onboarding to having a strategically sound program overnight. But for the companies we work with — as well as in our own experience here at Deloitte — the effort is both necessary and worthwhile. Considering the investment and effort required to recruit and hire talent, it’s to everyone’s benefit, employer and employee alike, to use onboarding to systematically and strategically increase the likelihood that new hires will become productive, beneficial team members.
|Amy A. Titus is a director in Human Capital within the Talent, Performance and Rewards group of Deloitte Consulting LLP. She is responsible for bringing talent, learning, organization improvement, and change solutions to her clients.|
|Josh Haims is a principal in the Human Capital practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP, with more than 14 years of human capital consulting experience. He currently leads Deloitte’s learning and development practice and is the co-lead of the global learning services team.|
1Lamoureux, Kim. Strategic Onboarding: Transforming New Hires into Dedicated Employees, Bersin & Associates, 2008.
2Rollag, Keith; Parise, Salvatore; Cross, Rob; “Getting New Hires Up to Speed Quickly” (MIT Sloan Management Review, Winter 2005, Vol. 46 N0.2).
3Lamoureux. Strategic Onboarding.