First Impressions Count: Creating a Positive Onboarding Experience

September 3, 2013


Research shows an inextricable link between effective employee onboarding programs and improved engagement, productivity and business results. It also shows a clear need for employers to adopt a more formal, strategic approach to bringing new hires into the fold – one that effectively integrates new talent into the organization, ingrains them into the culture and provides them with the tools they need to succeed. This process is called onboarding.

In today’s working world, employees want – and expect – more than just a brief introduction to the company they just joined, a few training sessions and a pay check. They want a personalized, interactive experience and a comprehensive understanding of the organization and how it can help grow them professionally. And, it does not take long for them to decide if they made the right choice.

Data from The Wynhurst Group, for example, shows how critical it is for employers to make a strong first impression. Here are a few notable findings:

  • 4 percent of new employees leave a job after a disastrous first day
  • Most decide whether they feel “at home” in the first three weeks at a new job
  • 22 percent of staff turnover occurs within the first 45 days of employment

Effective Onboarding Leads to Better Business Results
Employers that have adopted formal onboarding programs have seen new employees stay with the company for longer periods of time, helping to minimize turnover costs and increase retention rates. They also have seen employees become more productive, faster. These anecdotal findings line up with the research that shows onboarding programs can enhance employee performance by up to 11 percent and increase retention by 25 percent.

Tips for Elevating Onboarding
Although onboarding can take many forms, the key to creating an effective onboarding program is to elevate it from a purely transactional process to an interactive experience that engages employees – moving them from simply being receivers of information to becoming active participants and contributors to your long-term growth and success.

Below are some tips for elevating your onboarding program:

Make it Meaningful and Relevant
Get to know the new hires and learn about their interests. Tailor the program by department or function and role to make the content more personal and relevant. Balance the “need to know” information on policies and procedures with interesting facts like volunteer opportunities, amenities and more.

Create an Experience
Define and create an experience that shows – not just tells – new hires what your company is all about. Incorporate stories or learnings from current employees to help humanize the program, engage new hires and make an emotional connection to the company. Include interactive elements – peer-to-peer learning opportunities, interactive media, video – to keep new hires interested.

Get Managers Involved
Managers play an important role in the onboarding process, yet only 29 percent of employers train their hiring managers in onboarding techniques. Equip managers with tools and resources to help answer questions from their new employees, and encourage them to play their part in the onboarding process.

Seek Feedback and Recalibrate
Continually seek feedback from new hires through surveys, focus groups or other channels, to gather perceptions about the onboarding experience, and identify areas of opportunity or improvement. Use the insights to inform and adjust your approach over time.

Extend the Experience
Some companies view onboarding as a short-term process, when in fact, it should extend for the first year or 18 months of a new hire’s employment. When you think you have done enough to onboard your employees, keep going … It will pay off in the long run.

Strengthen Connections to the Company
Your new employees’ initial perceptions will form the foundation for their employment experience. Strengthen their connection to the company by engaging them with your mission, vision and values starting on day one. Share your company’s history, brand, pride points (e.g., major milestones, accomplishments, awards) and culture (e.g., what it’s like to work here) to reinforce their positive commitment to join the company.