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The Five Characteristics of Successful Employee Onboarding

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I recently read that 33 percent of new hires look for a new job within their first six months. This may speak to a more transient workforce, but there clearly are other factors at play here. Why would someone new to a job almost immediately seek another new job?

The answer, I believe, lies in the way companies today handle onboarding. According to another survey, only 28 percent of employees believe they had a highly successful onboarding process at their current position. And 22 percent said they went through no onboarding process at all.

According to Gallup, most employees – not just new hires ­– are checked out. They found that 70 percent of employees are disengaged from their current position.

So what drives us to seek out new positions immediately after starting a job? Why do we become disengaged at work?

One problem is in the onboarding process. By “onboarding” I don’t mean the first day or week or month you start a new job and complete paperwork, learn where the bathroom is, and how to file expense reports. I mean the process of discovering how to be effective in your job. To do that, you need effective onboarding that is a continually evolving process.

So, what is effective onboarding? Effective onboarding has these five characteristics:

  1. Indoctrination into the culture. It’s important that new employees get a feel for the culture and their place in it. Ideally, employees would review culture with prospects before they take a position with the company, ensuring the proper fit.
  1. Formal learning. Many companies offer no formal learning opportunities and depending on the industry and organizational culture, this may be ok. In larger organizations and those in regulated industries, for example, formal training may be necessary. But even those industries recognize that formal training is only about 20 percent of the training an employee needs to be successful. Social learning is far more important and long lasting.
  1. Social learning. For many, social learning is the key to employee satisfaction. Can the employee find the tools they need to do their job? In most successful organizations, there is a software solution behind this – preferably one that is not simply a repository of documents, but one that allows for collaboration, sharing of information, learning series development, simple Q&A, gamification (to help maintain engagement), and more. And it must ensure that the materials included in the system remain relevant – allowing the administrators of the software easy access to data and analytics around which are most and least used and most and least successful.
  1. Clear expectations. Each employee must have an understanding of what is expected and what they need to achieve in a given timeframe.
  1. Strong communication. The more employees can communicate and collaborate, the more likely they will be to excel. Tools can support this, but company culture needs to foster collaboration as well.

If you have had a positive experience in a new job, you likely discovered that the company addressed many of these issues. I argue that they are integral not only to the employee but to the health of the organization itself, with a particular emphasis on the social learning necessary for all employees – new and long-standing – to be successful.

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