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Employee onboarding surveys: What questions to ask and why

9 min read
Underestimating the power of good onboarding can be a costly mistake. A thorough and up-to-date onboarding strategy has a strong correlation with higher employee engagement, increased employee connection, better performance, and lower attrition.

What is an onboarding survey?

Onboarding surveys, sometimes referred to as new hire surveys, measure the experience for new employees and help leaders improve the onboarding and new-hire process.

Onboarding new employees is a make or break opportunity for organisations

– Liz Pavese-Kaplan Ph.D., Principal Consultant of Employee Experience for Qualtrics

Onboarding surveys are made up of anonymous questions you can ask new starters to gauge how well they’ve found the process of recruiting, hiring, and starting their role at your organisation.

This can include questions going as far back as when they first heard about your company and their initial impressions, right through to the interview process and their first few months in their new role.

Onboarding surveys help HR leaders and managers maximise and optimise the investment they make in hiring and training new employees by gathering information from each new hire. Including:

  • How satisfied they feel
  • Their manager’s feedback
  • The effectiveness of orientation processes
  • Likelihood to stay

Get started with our free onboarding survey template

Why are onboarding surveys important?

According to Liz Pavese-Kaplan Ph.D., Principal Consultant of Employee Experience at Qualtrics, “onboarding new employees is a make or break opportunity for organisations.

“These early experiences are highly influential to new hires’ overall perceptions of the company and impacts future engagement, motivation, and even intentions to stay.

“It’s a time to ensure you meet the expectations set during hiring, to reaffirm their choice to join, and maximise their ability to connect and contribute in the way they anticipate.”

Employee onboarding is a critical stage in the employee lifecycle and sets the foundation for how successful new hires are likely to be in your organisation. A great onboarding experience will help employees adjust to their new role so they can quickly deliver valuable work and thrive in their new environment.

A good onboarding survey will give you valuable information about how well your recruitment strategy is working, as well as making employees feel like their opinions and feelings about the company are being listened to.

Onboarding that’s run badly runs the risk of not only alienating new hires by making them feel unwelcome, but is a first impression that can’t be undone.

New hires who experience poorly planned and executed onboarding and inductions may prematurely decide that the organisation is badly managed and that they’ve made a mistake. Such conclusions are a costly waste of time for everyone.

According to the Harvard Business Review, 33% of new hires look for a new job within their first six months on the job and this can be largely attributed to their onboarding experience. Among Millennials, that percentage is even higher, and happens even earlier.

What are the benefits of a good onboarding survey?

By running an onboarding survey you can find out what’s working and what isn’t, what you need to improve upon and the potentially surprising things that are making a big difference to engagement that you may not have even realised is a factor.

The onboarding experience is strongly correlated with a number of important employee experience and engagement KPIs including:

  • Tenure: employees tend to stay longer at a company when they’ve had a positive onboarding experience
  • Ramp time: the better the onboarding process, the faster new employees get up to speed and deliver valuable work to the company
  • Advocacy: a better onboarding process has been shown to increase the likelihood that new hires will recommend you as a place to work, potentially referring more top talent to the organisation

What’s best practice for onboarding surveys?

A good onboarding survey won’t just be written once and rolled out for years to come. A good onboarding survey will continually evolve as the needs of the business, and its people, change over time.

A good onboarding survey will be sent at particular milestones during the onboarding process. This could be after every training session, introduction or other milestones, or you could choose to send them after a set time, say 30 days after starting in the role.

The aim of their feedback is to identify the effectiveness of your program and a great way to achieve that is to combine onboarding feedback with other employee lifecycle feedback like the annual employee engagement survey or employees’ 360 development reviews.

This helps you to monitor the effect of the onboarding program on other areas further on in the lifecycle. For example, does the onboarding program have an impact on engagement after 12 months? Is there a link between a solid onboarding program and someone’s performance review?

Bringing all this data together means you’ll be able to make connections to really demonstrate the value of your initiatives and also spot areas for improvement.

Understanding this data and how it impacts the rest of the employee lifecycle is a key part of prioritising your initiatives in HR. With a holistic view of every touchpoint, you can see what improvements will have the biggest impact on your core KPIs and crucially, where you need to step in to make them.

With Onboarding and New Hire Software, you can automate your surveys to collect information from new hires immediately after they pass a particular orientation milestone.

What onboarding questions should you be asking (and why)?

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to your onboarding surveys. They should be tailored to your individual industry, challenges and processes. But here are 10 general questions you can use:

  1. Overall, how well do you understand your role, including the responsibilities of your job?
  2. How accurately was your role described to you during your interviews (i.e., Are you doing what you expected you’d be doing)?
  3. How challenging would you say your current role is?
  4. How interested are you in your current role?
  5. How well do you know how to complete your work assignments?
  6. How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the training that you have received for your new role?
  7. Considering all of the people that you’ll be working with in your role, how many would you say that you’ve met?
  8. How happy or unhappy are you with this company as a place to work?
  9. How relevant have your role-based conversations been with your manager?
  10. How relevant have your career-oriented conversations been with your manager?

All these questions are important because it helps you to measure several factors, including how:

  • engaged and invested a new employee is
  • well they’ve integrated into the company
  • quickly they’re fulfilling their roles and responsibilities
  • likely your new employee is to stay

Assessing employee onboarding survey results

After you’ve surveyed your employees it’s time to review your feedback. You can use Text IQ to find trends in the open text survey responses and act on the problems and opportunities that matter most. It’s also important to let your employees know that you’ve heard their feedback and are making improvements. Qualtrics research found that 60% of U.S. employees reported having a way to provide feedback about their own employee experience but only 30% of U.S. employees said their feedback is acted upon by their employer. If your new employees are going to take the time to answer your survey, you want them to know it’s worth their time.

In addition, by connecting your onboarding feedback with other feedback across the employee lifecycle, you’re able to make connections between the onboarding experience and other key lifecycle events from development and engagement all the way through to attrition. This is an essential step in proving the impact and value of your onboarding process as well as modelling the impact of any improvements you put in place.

Employee engagement is a proven driver of employee productivity, attrition, revenue, and customer experience—and employee engagement starts the minute a new hire starts working at your organisation. All companies should be measuring their ability to properly give new employees an outstanding experience.

Get started with our free onboarding survey template