The Onboard Audit: 5 Questions that Reveal the Effectiveness of Your Employee Onboarding Program


For many companies, their entire onboarding strategy consists of “get them on the payroll, in the benefits program, and signed up for training.” Of course, these are all good, vital parts of the new hire experience, but this process lacks the depth of impact that a successful onboarding process should have. By all means, check these items off your list during onboarding, but don’t forget that you can directly impact new hire turnover rates by creating an incredible experience.

Defining the Problem

90% of a solution is defining the problem. By clearly defining the problem you need to solve, you can better zero in on a solution. That’s why we’ve put together these 5 questions to help you understand the big picture behind your onboarding process and discover the precise problems you need to address:

1.    How do you currently define onboarding?

What, exactly, is onboarding? Is it the process of officially entering the new hire into the database, getting their signature on some forms, and giving them a copy of the employee handbook?

Or is it something more involved?

In our last post, we looked at the three traditional new hire experience stages: onboarding, orientation, and training. We then challenged you to rethink the traditional triad through the lens of integration.

Now it’s your turn. How do you define this process? Does your onboarding process include long-term follow-ups? Does it end after all the necessary forms are signed? Who is responsible for getting new hires “on-board”?

You’ll likely develop a greater understanding of what onboarding should look like as you work through this audit, but for now, think of how you’ve approached it in the past.

2.    What are the goals of the program?

What do you want to accomplish through your onboarding program, and does this approach line up with these goals?

In HR, we typically talk about the 4 Cs of a successful onboarding approach: Compliance, Clarification, Culture, and Connection:

  • Compliance: Educate new employees about formal guidelines, benefits, and policies
  • Clarification: Provide specific expectations and explanations to help employees quickly and effectively get to work in their new role
  • Culture: Familiarize employees with workplace processes and norms (both formal and informal)
  • Connection: Help employees understand how they fit into the company, and connect them with resources and networks to facilitate effective collaboration

What are your goals? Do they fit into this “4 Cs” framework? Are there any others you might add?

After you establish your goals, make a list of the precise steps in your current onboarding process that connect to each of these desired outcomes. Figure out where you’re falling short, and brainstorm specific initiatives you can take to reach your goals.

3.    How did you determine the length of the onboarding program?

How long is your onboarding program, and how did you decide upon that length of time? According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, one in four employers report that their onboarding program lasts a day or less. About 3 in 4 admit that their process takes place in less than one month.

In most cases, we suggest that a truly effective onboarding process should take place over the course of 6-9 months, with monthly check-ins to ensure that new employees are comfortable and confident at every stage of their journey.

In addition, you’ll want to ask yourself, “When does onboarding officially start?” If you answered, “On their first day.” You’d be wrong. The best way to overwhelm and intimidate a new hire is to hand them a stack of papers to review and fill out on their very first day. Instead, consider sending along some of your necessary forms and employee handbook with your offer letter. For anyone walking into a new job, there will be a lot of new information to digest—from memorizing new coworkers’ names to figuring out how to work the photocopier. Make things a little easier for them by getting some of the necessary paperwork out of the way in advance.

4.    How did you develop your onboarding content?

Often, the onboarding process starts by handing each new employee a welcome kit full of information they’ll need to navigate the company. Is this kit designed to engage the new employee or is it just a formality?

We all know that reading through company policy and organizational flowcharts isn’t the most exciting thing in the world. (We’d be lying if we said otherwise.) Yes, those things are important, but they can also make for pretty dull reading if that’s all there is.

Mixing in some more engaging content, like a short, personalized welcome message from their new supervisor or a list of “fun facts” about their new coworkers can help keep things interesting while also making the new hire feel more comfortable.

You may also find it useful to look beyond the HR department when developing onboarding content. Reach out to colleagues from across the company, and ask for help with developing department-specific content to help new hires understand their roles and responsibilities and in addition to how they fit with the company at large.

5.    How do you define and measure the success of your onboarding program?

What does success look like? You’ll likely compare this ideal outcome to the goals you established earlier in this exercise. Now, however, you’ll want to look at the macro impact of the onboarding process on your organization.

A successful onboarding process reduces employee turnover, increases productivity, boosts your company’s reputation, and improves employee satisfaction. Instituting a formal system to measure and track these outcomes will be the key to increasing the efficiency of your program over time. If you don’t already have a system in place (or if you’re dissatisfied with your current one), decide which metrics matter most to your organization and how they’ll be measured. Tracking turnover rate, information from employee exit interviews, and supervisor reviews will give you insight into whether or not your onboarding process is working as it should.

Finding a Solution

These questions we’ve posed are generally not easy to answer. We know. We’ve asked many companies the same things.

However, each one of these questions is absolutely crucial to understanding the actions needed to push your onboarding strategy forward. With these answers in hand, you can re-focus your attention on the right areas. For many, that means gathering information via focus groups. Get the opinion of new hires to find out where the process has room for improvement. Then, look at the first-year turnover rates as a metric to follow. Perform exit interviews to determine where your process failed those hires. Finally, set up an integration program that allows the new hire conversation to continue through the first 6-9 months that maximize your current communication technology and tailor the message to the specific person it’s being sent to.

This may seem like a lot to take on. That’s because it is, but that’s where we come in. Contact our experts. They’ll help you through the process and do as much (or as little) of the heavy lifting for you as you’d like.Bottom of Form

Whatever you decide, now is the time to start. An effective onboarding experience could be the difference between a promising new hire sticking around or calling it quits.

Want more information? An insight on an existing challenge? An outside perspective on an internal issue? Contact the experts at S2E and we’ll help you get the results you’re looking for. After all, getting results is what we do best – 866-945-3370, Carol Carrillo.

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