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5 Crazy-Simple Ways to Improve Your Onboarding

Ross Simons

Ross Simons

Director of Inbound Marketing

One of the next three people you hire is very likely to leave within their first six months of work.

No, this isn’t another article about the Great Resignation. A different employee-retention challenge predates the current crisis by years — a challenge driven by ineffective onboarding practices that leave employees feeling adrift in their new organizations and frustrated by their new roles.

According to a 2019 survey, about a third of new hires quit within the first six months, over 16% of them within the first week! (Again, this was before the Great Resignation.) The respondents’ reasons for leaving included feeling overwhelmed, neglected, and that the job wasn’t what they expected.

The Cost of a Poor Onboarding Process

Cycling new hires in and out of your organization is no mere nuisance. The cost of replacing an employee can range from 50% to 200% of that person’s annual salary.

It can take up to eight months to get a new hire up to speed. Lose that employee, and the process will begin anew. Meanwhile, your veteran employees’ productivity will suffer as they push themselves to pick up the slack.

Fortunately, you don’t have to accept losing one-third of your new employees as a fact of doing business. Most companies could keep more of their employees longer by improving their onboarding processes.

As we reported in a new-hire onboarding infographic, 69% of employees are likely to spend at least three years at an organization if they feel adequately onboarded. 

Infographic: Why Onboarding Matters More Than Ever. Read it here →

Our data also showed that, when it comes to onboarding, most companies have room for improvement:

  • 58% of employees say their onboarding program is mainly focused on processes and paperwork.
  • 80% of employees experienced “issues” during onboarding.
  • Only 12% of employees say their organization is doing a great job with onboarding.

So, you can and should better prepare your new employees for success at your organization. But how? Here are five easy onboarding improvements you can institute immediately:

1. Assign Onboarding ‘Buddies’

If you ever changed schools as a child, you know that it’s not easy being the new kid. But, usually, all it takes to start feeling at home is one classmate befriending you. Teachers understand this and spur the process along by assigning buddies to new students.

The same principle can apply in the working world. Microsoft piloted a buddy program for 600 employees and found that onboarding buddies helped new hires in three ways:

    • Providing context for work. For example, buddies can help new hires identify key stakeholders and understand unspoken cultural norms within your organization.
    • Increasing productivity. Onboarding buddies help new hires learn on the job. During the Microsoft trial, 97% of new employees who met with their buddies more than eight times over their first 90 days felt their buddy helped them quickly become productive.
  • Improving new-hire satisfaction. Microsoft saw a 36% increase in employee satisfaction among new workers with buddies over the first 90 days.

With so many organizations transitioning to remote work, the buddy system may be more critical than ever. It’s so easy to feel disconnected from the company culture when you never see your colleagues face to face. Onboarding buddies can offer your new hires a point of connection to your workplace community.

2. Set Clear Performance Expectations

Some companies may refrain from setting performance expectations for new hires for fear of coming off as too demanding. But starting a new job and not knowing what your managers expect from you can be extremely nerve-wracking. A lack of clear performance expectations can cause new employees to unknowingly underperform, focus on the wrong tasks, or push themselves too hard to achieve unrealistic goals.

Your new employees want to know what’s expected of them, so put it in writing. Have managers meet with new employees on their first day to map out a game plan for the coming weeks and months. The plan should include specific KPIs (key performance indicators) where applicable.

Both your new hires and their managers should sign off on the performance plan and check in periodically to ensure everything’s on track, adjusting the plan if necessary. This will erase much of the uncertainty around the onboarding period.

3. Move the First Day to a Friday

We promised these tips would be crazy simple, so here’s an incredibly simple one: Have new employees start work on Friday.

Forbes Coaches Council member Rachel Bellack points out that Mondays are the most hectic day of the workweek, full of interruptions and meetings as people set themselves up for the coming week. On Fridays, “people are more relaxed and have more time to connect with and properly welcome the new hire.”

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a Friday, but starting your new hires on a relatively light day (for them and the team members who will be showing them the ropes) gives them a chance to settle in, ask questions, and complete the initial onboarding steps before committing their full attention to work.

4. Get the Basics Out of the Way

Everyone from C-suite executives to entry-level employees has fundamental needs that must be addressed so that they can focus on learning their new jobs. Needs such as, “Where are the restrooms?” “What’s available to eat around here?” “Is the coffee machine free?” “How do I get into my email or my team’s Slack channel?” “Who do I ask about office supplies?”

These may seem like incidental questions, but operating without their answers can seriously distract a new hire. The first day on the job is the perfect time to get this kind of practical information out of the way.

Consider creating a document listing all the answers to common new hire conundrums. If you’re unsure what those questions would be, survey your employees, especially those who have started work recently.

Or, better yet, post the information on a company microsite where employees can easily access it whenever they have questions. Microsites can be super simple, like a Digital Postcard, more comprehensive with multiple pages, or you can even create a virtual benefits fair.

Send Yourself A Digital Postcard

A digital postcard functions as a super-simple microsite, giving your employees critical links and resources to learn about their benefits and other essential information.

    5. Offer a Benefits Decision Tool

    Somewhere amid the crunch to master their new responsibilities, get to know colleagues, and familiarize themselves with company policies, your new hires must find the time to understand and choose their benefits.

    Choosing benefits can be overwhelming even for veteran employees during open enrollment. We’ve reported previously that 67% of employees say reading about their benefits options is complicated, stressful, or intimidating; 40% would rather do something arduous like three hours of hot yoga than research their benefits.

    Imagine, then, how much more overwhelming choosing benefits can be for brand-new employees who have so much else to consume and decide during onboarding.

    A decision-support tool like PLANselect can streamline the enrollment process for employees, helping them make smart benefits choices without all the research. In a matter of minutes and with a few quick questions, a high-quality decision-support tool will get to know your employees’ needs and match them up with the most cost-effective plans for their situations.

    Employees often use the onboarding period to assess whether they made the right choice in coming to work for your company. A good decision-support tool will help make a case for your company by highlighting your generous benefits package and making choosing the right plans a breeze.

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