The Importance of New Employee Onboarding Processes

Think back to when you were hired into a new company. Can you recall what the first few days or weeks were like?

For many, this recollection brings back feelings of excitement, new opportunity, and new learning. Yet for some, feelings of anxiety, fear, uncertainly, doubt, confusion and perhaps thinking you may have made a mistake accepting the position were also experienced.

If your new organization had a definitive onboarding program to assimilate you, chances are your experience was a positive one. If the organization or your new boss used a haphazard plan or attempted to orient you on the fly, chances are the experience wasn’t one you’d like to endure again.

Research suggests that 50 – 60% of newly hired professionals fail to achieve desired results within the first 12 to 18 months of their new assignment. This applies primarily to those new to an organization. In this context, failure can consist of not achieving the desired performance objectives, revenue growth, new market penetration, expected shareholder ROI, or related outcomes.

Why is the percentage so high? There are several reasons that are beyond the new employee’s direct control. These include a change in the direction or strategy of the company; a poorly designed selection process or an ineffective hiring leader. The new employee does not have much control over these situations.

However, there are a few areas where the new employee and you, the boss, can and should have a direct impact to transform potential failure into success. Those areas include:

  • An inaccurate or too general definition of the purpose, need, role, responsibility, or accountability of the open position;
  • A poorly executed transition process of on-boarding or assimilation into an organization;
  • Taking on too many major projects at the beginning, with the result being the new employee is unable to deliver. This overload negatively impacts the new employee’s credibility (and possibly yours too);
  • Failure to spend adequate time in building relationships throughout the organization.

So, what can be done to help the newly hired professional experience a successful transition?

Presented below are several action steps that, if proactively taken, will significantly enhance the new employee’s successful assimilation, and therefore success, into a new position. These steps are based on practical advice that I have provided to executives over the years as they have been coached in their new assignments.

For the sake of brevity, I won’t elaborate on all of them here (when I do facilitate this with clients, I utilize a 10-step process over the course of several months):

  1. Get complete clarity on the expectations of the new employee’s role. A strong role description usually contains 8-10 key accountabilities as well as performance measures that indicate specific and quantifiable indicators the will be used to assess performance.
  2. Develop specific goals for the position. The boss should establish 30-, 60-, 90- and 180-day goals for the position. The progression is typically learning, assessing, recommending action and implementing. A key is to establish goals in the first week; they can always be modified later as new information comes to light.
  3. Identify and understand the organizational culture. One of the main reasons that new employees fail is that they do not take the time to accurately learn and appreciate the culture of their new organization.
  4. Learn the hiring leader’s management style. The new employee must learn the boss’s preferences in terms of communications, decision making, time management and other elements of his/her style.
  5. Seek out feedback on a regular basis. Asking for and obtaining honest feedback is another crucial requirement for success in a new role. The boss should establish a regular meeting with the new employee to provide feedback. Some specific areas to focus on are: the speed and accuracy of the new employee’s overall assimilation; their style and how s/he is being perceived and received by others; the quality of the initial work products; the level of responsiveness and other time management aspects.

There are more steps, yet hopefully, you get the gist here. Remember, the organization has spent a considerable amount of time and money to recruit, assess and ultimately hire this employee. Everyone who has been involved in the new employee onboarding process should be committed to its success.

For more information, please reach out to me – I’d be happy to help, even if it is to act as a sounding board for your thinking.

Best regards,