Employee Experience

Designing Great Employee Onboarding Experiences

Onboarding is one of the most pivotal moments in an employee’s tenure with a company - it truly is a make or break moment. The Human Capital Institute (HCI, 2018) recently released results from an onboarding benchmarking study of 350 companies.

The focus of the study was to assess the effectiveness of employee onboarding practices in place for those organization. Here are two select findings, from the study:

  • 60% of HR professionals say the top purpose for onboarding is to integrate employees into the culture, yet people and culture make up less than 30% of the focus in programs.
  • Regardless of type of hire (internal, external, managerial or non-managerial) one-third or more time is placed on compliance requirements and paperwork.
  • 75% of respondents reported that onboarding practices are underutilized.
  • More than half of companies do not measure the effectiveness of their onboarding, hindering accountability for success and preventing improvements.

These results, among others, represent large experience gaps for employees going through this induction period. Further, many companies don’t have mechanisms in place to effectively gauge the employee experience during this process, OR if there is a structured process in place the ability to effectively measure what’s working and what’s not.

Accounting for the time and resources involved in hiring an employee, both from the organization and employee’s perspective, the onboarding period is arguably the most logical place to invest in measuring employee experiences. But where do you start?

Clarify onboarding objectives

Like any other talent investment, there should be clear goals for you onboarding program. Articulating what the employee should know, be able to do, and have exposure to or experience with by the end of the onboarding period sets your goal posts for an effective program.

Once you’ve established your goals, you can then architect the elements of the program that will enable success (e.g., orientation programs, new hire paperwork, integration buddy, etc.).

Further, knowing what you want to accomplish with your onboarding process helps you determine the length of time in which onboarding occurs. For some companies, onboarding is defined as a 90-day period from start date. For others, onboarding lasts one year. There is no one-size-fits-all onboarding approach, it entirely depends on your objectives for employee integration and how that fits into your culture and talent management practices. Just remember, what onboarding isn’t - an orientation/induction program that ends after two days.

Measure against objectives

In order to architect great experiences, you have to gather data. When incorporating a survey - or multiple surveys - your measurement strategy for onboarding should 100% align to your program objectives. Further, your strategy should align to those touchpoints that matter most throughout the onboarding period, the mini-milestones where a check-in can glean valuable information and where intervention early on will make the difference in their readiness to role performance, integration with their team, access to resources, etc.

Consider variations based on audience

While it is important to have a clear strategy and consistency in measurement so you can more easily identify and close gaps, there may be instances where you need to have variations on the onboarding journey and subsequent measurement.

Consider another finding from the 2018 HCI study, where approximately 25% of organizations indicated a lack of onboarding strategy or process for internal hires. Internal mobility is important for any organization, and the time and resources spent there from a developmental standpoint are as significant of an investment as attracting and hiring new employees.

Many companies miss out on the opportunity to assess the effectiveness on that ‘onboarding’ experience and the valuable insight to enhance navigating new career experiences. Sometimes the stakes are even higher depending on the nature of the career move. Though these transitions likely have other talent practices, mainly developmental, in place for readiness, gauging the effectiveness of that readiness/onboarding into new roles is valuable intelligence.

You may also consider variations in your onboarding processes and therefore measurement practices based on the role itself. For example, call center employees often experience intensive and longer training periods than other employees. Their onboarding journey may look different due to this and therefore your measurement approach may require slight variations, while still aligning to your overall strategy and objectives.

Liz Pavese-Kaplan

Liz Pavese-Kaplan, PhD is a contributor to the Qualtrics blog.

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