7 Problems With Your Onboarding Program

Does your onboarding program hurt more than it helps?
Over the past decade, many organizations have developed onboarding programs to improve retention, engagement and their overall employee experience.
But a recent study by Gallup has found that most organizations are falling woefully short of the mark. Only 12% of employees strongly agree their organization does a great job of onboarding new employees.
The consequences are significant regrettable turnover within the first year of employment and low engagement among employees who stay. Organizations may have great talent attraction strategies, but they stumble once new employees get in the door.
What's gone wrong with onboarding? And how do we fix it?
Based on Gallup's recent onboarding perspective paper, here are a few ways your organization may be getting new employee orientation wrong:

1. "It's an HR thing."

Socialization is a major part of joining a new team, and it's crucial to success in any role. Yet, many times, leaders, managers and team members see onboarding as someone else's job. But if no one is reaching out, it's no surprise that employees never feel fully engaged and exit early.
Gallup finds that when managers take an active role in onboarding, employees are 3.4 times as likely to strongly agree their onboarding experience was exceptional.
New employees also need to make friends and know who to ask for help. Going out to lunch on the first day may not be enough to make newcomers feel they are truly a part of the team.

2. Your onboarding program is too short.

Organizations obviously have an incentive to shorten the runway for new employees. They want to see performance, contribution and productivity as fast as possible.
Organizations should really think of onboarding as a much longer journey.
But here's a reality check: Gallup has found that new employees typically take around 12 months to reach their full performance potential within a role.
For example, bank tellers often take 12 to 15 months to fully "ramp up" in their new role, and personal bankers take 15 to 18 months. It can take much longer for complex leadership and management roles.
That means organizations should really think of onboarding as a much longer journey. They need to create regular check-in opportunities and developmental experiences well past the first month of employment. They also need to avoid comparing the performance of new employees with veteran employees too early.

3. Your onboarding program doesn't express your culture.

Let's be honest: A PowerPoint slide with your core values listed is not enough to truly convey what makes your organization a unique place to work. New employees want to know if they belong with you.
Organizations need to provide immersive experiences that let employees feel your values, not just be able to name them.
They want to know what you believe -- and how that makes a difference in the way works gets done. Organizations need to provide immersive experiences that let employees feelyour values, not just be able to name them.
For example, if safety is essential to your culture, consider bringing in executives who can tell a story about tough calls they made in the name of safety. Introduce and celebrate safety award winners in front of new employees. Or create immersive role play scenarios where real managers evaluate teams on their safety thinking.

4. New employees see no future with you.

Talented people want to work for you because they see possibilities. But onboarding can often feel like a bait-and-switch operation, where many of the opportunities promised during the job interview are shown to be illusory.
It may not be time to talk promotions, but managers should have conversations about an employee's dreams and desires early on.
Employees should also be introduced to learning and development opportunities that extend training beyond formal onboarding.
Employees who strongly agree they have a clear plan for their professional development are 3.5 times more likely to strongly agree that their onboarding process was exceptional.

5. Your onboarding program is unremarkable.

Compared with employees who rate their onboarding at a "4" or below on a 5-point scale, employees who give their onboarding a "5" are about twice as likely to strongly agree that they feel fully prepared and supported to excel in their new role.
In fact, if your employees aren't consistently giving your onboarding a "5 out of 5," the majority of people going through your program would not strongly agree they feel fully prepared and supported in their new role.
To make onboarding work, HR leaders need to design a consistent, creative and deeply engaging experience that wows new employees.
In other words, if your onboarding is not exceptional, it's broken. To make onboarding work, HR leaders need to design a consistent, creative and deeply engaging experience that wows new employees.

6. You have no idea if it's working or not.

Unfortunately, most leaders don't know their onboarding is broken until they've already lost someone important. It doesn't have to be that way. Using a systematic approach, organizations can use pulse surveys throughout the onboarding process to identify when new employees are failing to connect with the organization.
In addition, organizations need to take their onboarding data and connect it with the rest of their organizational performance metrics -- engagement, performance and exit data, for example. Greater investments in onboarding are justified when HR leaders can prove the value of new programs to business outcomes.

7. It's costing you money.

A dysfunctional onboarding process loses exceptional talent.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), employee turnover can be as much as 50% in the first four months for hourly workers and 50% in the first 18 months for senior outside hires.
And the cost of finding, hiring and training are exceptionally high. Conservative estimates indicate that it will cost a company one-half to two times an employee's annual salary to identify and onboard a replacement. In a competitive talent marketplace, that's a lot of wasted time and money re-finding your potential all-star.