The Role of Onboarding in Successful Talent Acquisition

The Great Resignation. Quiet quitting. The continuing employee engagement crisis. It’s safe to say that, in recent memory at least, there hasn’t been a more challenging environment for employee acquisition and retention than today.

Talent acquisition is costly, and a hire that doesn’t work out is even costlier. You can improve the odds of a positive outcome with a comprehensive onboarding process.

What is onboarding?

The days of handing your new hire a company policy manual and wishing them well are over. New hires at any position should have a specific timeline for mastery of all the things they’ll need to do to work independently. What that means exactly will vary widely depending on the position, but let’s look at a few examples:

A typical onboarding plan might specify that on Day One the new employee will meet the rest of their team and complete paperwork with HR. Day Two might involve a complete tour of the facility and setting up necessary access to hardware and software. A sales hire might be expected to be fully familiar with company literature, website, and other support materials by the end of the first week, and to begin riding along on appointments with other sales reps in Week Two.

Think of an onboarding plan as a comprehensive checklist that encompasses not only the skills involved in job performance, but an understanding of compliance with company procedures (and external regulations) and a grounding in the organization’s culture. Each item has a specific timeline for completion.

Creating a properly detailed plan for each position will involve quite a bit of time and planning. How detailed should it be? One study reveals that the average new hire faces 54 activities during their onboarding process.

The benefits of an onboarding plan

If you’ve ever had to terminate someone because “this just isn’t working out,” the benefits of a solid onboarding plan are obvious. The plan is a road map to success in the new position, and there’s no vagueness to what “isn’t working out.” Both you and the new hire will know exactly where the shortcomings are and what needs to be addressed before a situation reaches the point of no return.

Another less obvious benefit is that presenting a new hire with a detailed path to success shows that the organization values them. An onboarding plan is a big part of a positive first impression and helps to shape their perception of the company they’re joining, in a very positive way.

An onboarding plan can also accelerate performance and productivity, shortening the timeline to meaningful contributions on the part of the employee. That’s a cost saver that can more than offset the time and effort expended in creating a detailed plan for each position.

The statistics of onboarding

A compilation of numerous studies around the onboarding process shows that the benefits are very real. For example:

  • A strong onboarding process can improve employee retention by 82 percent, and productivity by over 70 percent.
  • Companies with structured onboarding processes experienced a 60 percent increase in year over year revenue, and a similar boost in customer satisfaction.

With statistics like that to demonstrate the value of the process, every organization must be all in on onboarding, right? Not so much. Some 60 percent of businesses set no goals or milestones for new hires, and even more disturbingly, only 12 percent of new hires say their company has a ‘good’ onboarding process. No wonder we have an employee engagement crisis.

Finally, remember that creating effective onboarding plans is a process and not an event. The final determination of whether a plan is effective comes from the employees who’ve completed the process. They should be surveyed for their feedback, with a goal of continuously improving the onboarding plan.