The Importance of Employee Onboarding

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Years ago, I wrote an article that was syndicated on the Business2Community site. In that article, I mentioned the importance of proper employee onboarding. Someone commented on the article with outrage, saying that I was making up new words and that this term wasn’t necessary. Stick with what we already have. Blah, blah, blah. I think that was back in 2013 or 2014. Unbelievable. That term has been around since the 1970s.

It still makes me laugh today when I think about that. Especially since we know that onboarding is such a critical part of the employee experience – critical because it ensures that the employees are set up for success.

If I had to guess, I think that the commenter was thinking about “orientation,” which is important as well, but it’s only one part of the employee onboarding process.

Let’s take a look at why it’s so important, what might happen if you don’t do it right, what the process should entail, and how to connect employees to customers.

What Is Employee Onboarding?

First things first. Onboarding and orientation aren’t the same, as I mentioned above. Here’s how SHRM defines both of these terms.

Orientation is the process of introducing new hires to the workplace with activities that usually lasts two to five days. Employee orientation includes a brief overview of their new company and department, completing mandatory paperwork, answering general questions, and a quick meet and greet with key internal stakeholders.

Onboarding is the process of integrating new hires into the organization. Onboarding goes beyond the brief introduction and ensures that new hires are fully assimilated in their new environment by exploring the organization’s culture, mission, vision, values, and strategies.

I like how they describe one as an introduction and the other as an integration.

Why Is It So Important?

As you can imagine, becoming integrated into the organization is critical to success for any employee. Sadly, I’ve seen a few situations where this process never happened, and it made things messy, i.e., employees were disengaged, unproductive, and generally confused because they didn’t have all of the information – or the right information – to do their jobs and to do them properly.

I just mentioned a few things that are impacted when employees are properly onboarded. Here’s a full list. Can you think of others?

  • Employee engagement
  • Productivity
  • Satisfaction
  • Retention
  • Culture alignment and integration
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Knowledge transfer
  • Compliance (legal/regulatory)
  • Employer branding

As you can imagine, the risks of an employee not being properly onboarded are the opposite of what’s listed above. Each of those takes a hit when the process breaks down or doesn’t exist. The business puts itself at risk by reducing engagement, productivity, and retention, as well as when employees don’t have the proper knowledge and skills or are out of compliance with industry regulations. Business performance suffers.

What Must The Process Entail?

The onboarding process is the foundation for a successful employment relationship. Don’t skimp on it! Don’t just think you can take employees through orientation and are done with it. You’ve got to include all of the following to ensure your employees have the foundation they need to do their jobs and do them well.

  1. Preboarding: The time between when employees accept their offers and start the job should be filled with welcome kits, company overviews, a schedule of training and activities for the first week, and other information to help the employees feel prepared and welcomed before they start. It can ease some of the anxiety that is often felt during this time.
  2. Orientation: This takes place on the employee’s first day and includes introducing them to the workspace, the facilities, and key personnel. It also covers essential administrative tasks, such as completing paperwork, learning about company policies and procedures, and setting up necessary accounts.
  3. Company Culture and Values: It’s important that new employees become familiarized with the organization’s mission, vision, values, and culture. To do that, they may take part in training, discussions, or activities that highlight the company’s core beliefs, rituals, history, and work environment.
  4. Job Training and Role Clarity: Employees should receive specific training and guidance relevant to their new roles. They also need to learn about responsibilities, expectations, and performance metrics.
  5. Introduction to Their Team and Colleagues: Take the time to introduce new employees to their team members and supervisors, as well as colleagues from other departments. Building relationships and fostering a sense of belonging enhances collaboration and integration within the organization.
  6. Mentorship and Support: Assigning a mentor or buddy to new employees provides them with a go-to person for guidance and support. Mentors can offer insights into the organization, share experiences, and help new hires navigate their roles and the company’s culture.
  7. Ongoing Check-ins and Feedback: Have regular check-ins with new employees to assess their progress, address any challenges they may be facing, and provide feedback on their performance.
  8. Continuous Learning and Development: Make sure employees have (or are aware of) opportunities for continuous learning and skill development. Encouraging ongoing learning reinforces employee engagement and supports their long-term success. This is one aspect that employees often mention when I conduct employee interviews at the beginning of a new client engagement. Also make sure they understand the career planning process.

That’s a lot of ground to cover but know that this process can last weeks or longer, depending on the job, the company, the industry, etc. And it’s important that you continually evaluate the process and update it to reflect changes made to any of those topic areas. Ask employees for feedback on the process, and then make improvements as needed.

When Do You Make The Connection To Customers?

During this process! And even before, when you’re searching for the right candidate and interviewing them for fit within your organization.

Here are some of the tools you can use when you onboard employees to bring (and keep) the customer front and center:

  • Personas: to understand who your customers are, their needs and expectations, and the problems they are trying to solve.
  • Journey maps: to better understand the experience customers are having and/or expect to have.
  • Service blueprints: so they can see how and where they impact or contribute to the customer experience.
  • Customer feedback: to learn how well they’re performing against customer expectations and to incorporate that feedback into discussions, decisions, and designs.
  • Core values: to help them understand accepted and unaccepted behaviors and then know what the outcomes are of living the values.

Customer understanding is the cornerstone of customer-centricity. That understanding must be shared with employees from Day One so that they know their part and can live it.

I truly believe that onboarding is an art. Each new employee brings with them a potential to achieve and succeed. To lose the energy of a new hire through poor onboarding is an opportunity lost. ~ Sarah Wetzel, Director of Human Resources at engage:BDR

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Annette Franz
Annette Franz is founder and Chief Experience Officer of CX Journey Inc. She is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, consultant, and speaker. She has 25+ years of experience in helping companies understand their employees and customers in order to identify what makes for a great experience and what drives retention, satisfaction, and engagement. She's sharing this knowledge and experience in her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the "Customer" in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business).

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