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The Changing Paradigms of Employee Onboarding

June 16, 2018 · Easy Onboarding,

‘Time to productivity’ is an important concern for companies, especially when a new hire joins the team. Instant results matter, and for new hires to deliver to these expectations, they must be integrated and assimilated into their new roles and organizations. Never before has onboarding taken on so much importance, as employers strive to make new employees productive from Day 1. In fact, the trajectory of a new hire’s success is set as early as the first two weeks, according to research*. But onboarding is not merely about employee success, it holds relevance from an employee retention perspective too. This compels companies to provide a great employee experience, and the first impression is often made by curating an engaging and enriching onboarding experience. This is especially crucial in the current volatile and dynamic business and talent environment


The Changing Nature of Onboarding
Onboarding is no longer limited to “meeting and greeting” new employees over the first few days of their joining. The gig economy is transforming the very nature of work, in fact research* suggests that for hourly workers, turnover is a major problem in the first 120 days where approximately 50% leave their new jobs. Companies must therefore step up and cater their onboarding interventions to different employee groups, and enable these diverse work groups to succeed at their jobs, whether full-time, part-time, contract, or freelance.


Onboarding is all about equipping employees with the right tools and resources to be comfortable in the new environment and focus on performance, so that they do not disengage and leave. This includes orientation with the industry, culture, processes etc. and although it often starts with onboarding formalities as per regulatory standards, it is crucial it goes well beyond that. The new joinee must see the employee value proposition that he or she was promised, playing out for real in the organization. Employers must enhance every touch point with new employees.


Here is how employers can create a truly effective and efficient onboarding process:


  • An ongoing process:  Gone are  are the days when the  onboarding experience involved the first  2-3 day at the job. Today, onboarding starts much before an employee joins, right at the recruitment stage and carries on through up to a year, with various milestones laid out in between. Employers are offering important information and also getting new employee formalities (like paperwork) done before Day 1 -helping reduce the risk of information overload- , and then evolves into a continuous learning and assimilation process including cultural integration, meetings with managers and leaders, targeted training, post-hire assessments, mentoring, and career discussions etc.
    • Multi-dimensional onboarding: Onboarding today is an all-round experience. Employers must create a great first impression as an employer of choice, and hence must cater to the multitude of employee expectations. The Onboarding HR Insights Report by Top Employers suggests a holistic approach that covers the following three elements:
    1. The business context: Employers must orient employees to the vision and mission of the organization, organizational strategy, branding and positioning, and existing and potential challenges.
    2. The situational context: Another area of hand-holding is the job itself i.e. employers must provide clarity on job expectations, deliverables, and success factors. 90% of the organizations certified as Top Employers have job-specific introductory training, according to the Top Employers report.
    3. The cultural context: Employees must be introduced to the organizational values and encouraged to live them every day, to be able to create an immersive employee experience.


  • Digital development: Digital drives efficiencies, and onboarding is going truly digital right from self-service onboarding platforms, to electronic signing of documentation. Digital is being leveraged for automating the transactional elements of onboarding as well as to communicate and connect with new employees. Digital onboarding tools are curated to share information, to customize onboarding workflows, as well as to track completion of onboarding tasks. A changing trend that digital is fostering is that employers are now providing new employer access to onboarding modules ahead of their start dates, rather than on the joining date. Digital enablement of new joinees is also a sure way to appeal to new-age workers like millennials.


18% of the employers provide new joinees access to the onboarding system before Day 1**


  • Data Driven: Plugging in the data-element is the key to unlocking the true potential of onboarding. HR must access and analyze data to measure the impact and effectiveness of their onboarding efforts. The purpose is twofold i.e., to check on employee progress and to deep-dive into the process so as to continuously improve the onboarding experience. Data can be collected from sources like new joinee feedback, employee performance check-ins and 3-6-12 monthly discussions between employee and manager. Most organizations prefer to use the latter method.


83% of the organizations in the Top Employer research consistently have meetings with new employees at the end of a probationary period or after a fixed period of time.


  • Leadership involvement: New joinees often look up to senior management. Hence, providing employees direct access to top leadership can create high levels of engagement. Here, digital can play an important role i.e. to bring leaders closer to people, through social media interactions, video conferencing etc. For this, HR must design an intuitive and accessible onboarding portal. We see that executive leaders too are getting more involved in the onboarding process. In fact, there is a rising trend of HR placing the accountability of onboarding on business leaders.


92% holding business leaders to account over the success of these programmes**


The above changes indicate a world of opportunities to engage employees right from the start of the employee life cycle. Organizations and HR must treat onboarding as much more than a one-time intervention. It is a powerful program-managed process that can deliver outstanding employee engagement, employee development and employee retention. HR must strive to make employee assimilation a breeze not only for employees, but for employers themselves. This is possible if HR applies the emerging technologies to the onboarding process, while creating an optimum mix of digital and in-person touch points. The ultimate aim must be to link onboarding outcomes with business outcomes. For this, choosing the right onboarding software is critical, because it can make the difference between being lost in transactions, and adding real value to employee engagement.