Employers often think of onboarding as a discrete time period in which new hires are trained, welcomed and acclimated into the workplace. Onboarding, however, should encompass much more than an employee’s first week, month, or even year on the job. Effective employee onboarding should permeate throughout the entire employee experience, especially as employees take on new roles and responsibilities within the company.

Employees have cited a lack of support, feeling over-stressed, or feeling disconnected in their roles and professional goals as reasons for quitting their jobs. By embedding onboarding into your company’s culture, you’re providing employees with the training and guidance they need to stay engaged, motivated and loyal.

“Whether it’s a new hire or a promotion to a new position, there should be a path and a plan, so employees know they’re going to be supported through the transition and get the training and guidance they need to be successful,” says Michelle Thompson, vice president of human resources for XMI. “If you’re not taking time to acclimate them right out of the gate, they will start to feel let down and disappointed, and it’s hard to recover from that.”

The Ripple Effect of Onboarding

Statistics show that companies that do a good job of onboarding have lower turnover, higher engagement, and a stronger culture overall. A robust onboarding program that is embedded into your company’s culture has the potential to improve the retention of new hires by 82 percent and productivity by more than 70 percent, according to a study by GlassDoor. Conversely, high turnover is hard on teams and has a negative impact on morale and, ultimately, the culture of a company.

So, how can companies take the concepts that make onboarding effective and turn them into everyday occurrences to keep employees motivated and loyal? Start with these strategies.

Establish regular check-ins

Set up monthly or bi-weekly one-on-one meetings with employees to provide feedback, discuss expectations and make sure they are on the right track. Talk to them about their goals and how they see themselves growing in the company. Prioritize these check-ins and schedule them out on the calendar; otherwise, they won’t happen. “Some companies save those conversations for once a quarter or in a worst-case scenario once a year, but you cannot engage employees if that’s the only time you’re talking to them.” These meetings should lead up to the annual performance review, which should also include a professional development growth plan for each employee.

Tackle performance issues head-on

If employees are struggling with performance in any area of their work, it’s best to address it right away. Those conversations are difficult to have and easy to put off, but delaying them can be counterproductive for the employee and the rest of your team. “It erodes the culture when co-workers see a poor performer who may not be carrying his or her weight, and leaders fail to manage that situation quickly and effectively,” Thompson says. “If companies made sure their leadership teams were trained to address performance issues in a timely way, it would have a huge impact on the culture.”

Evaluate and address skill gaps

It’s a good idea to do an annual skills gap analysis throughout your organization to determine where you need to provide further training and how you can help employees develop skills they may be lacking. It also creates an opportunity to talk with employees about the talents they want to build on and how those might align with your company’s strategic plan.

To successfully embed onboarding into your culture, you must “have commitment at the leadership level that this process is important,” Thompson says. If leaders don’t practice what they preach, it will be hard to implement these practices across the organization. “It’s as simple as holding your leadership team and supervisors accountable for making sure these things happen,” Thompson says. “If not, you will get too busy, and employees will eventually become more disengaged.”

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