Elevating Engagement With Digital Onboarding

Posted in Talent & Onboarding

Let’s be real here. HR departments have spent years automating and digitizing onboarding processes. But we are still seeing a revolving door of talent. Researchers tell us employee engagement is stagnating. HR and line managers continue to pass the buck on who should be responsible for onboarding.

We think it’s time to focus on the things that will make a difference in employee engagement.

Here’s the problem with traditional onboarding: the pendulum has swung too far towards the “resources” part of the human resources equation.

Too many organizations think of onboarding from the perspective of efficiency, work readiness and compliance. And there’s nothing wrong with that. With the help of technology, we can automate and streamline a lot of the induction, provisioning (IT, desks, uniforms), compliance checklists and forms. More power to you.

But it’s an expensive mistake to ignore the effect of onboarding processes on new hires‘ early experiences and engagement rates.

Coupled with the talent war and shifting attitudes towards work, the results for businesses are clear:

  • A highly disengaged workforce: Gallup indicates 85% of employees worldwide are not engaged or are actively disengaged in their job
  • High turnover of the best talent, such that many companies now predict they will only be able to deliver 67% of the leaders they will need in the coming 3 to 5 years

Building an engaged culture starts with the first impression. Don’t stuff it up.

The challenge with most companies is they don’t look at onboarding as an opportunity to stand out and create an awesome first impression.

The default is simply ‘try to do the minimum’ (forms), and ‘try not to get it wrong’.

But there are no take backs here.

If you want your employees to go above and beyond, then beyond integrating them into the workplace and helping them feel comfortable and confident in their new role, you must build a culture where excelling is the norm.

And the first impression, and the critical first few months is where this is established. Companies must make the most of opportunities to delight new hires and engage them with culture, behaviours, and expectations early on.


Get onboard, or sink into irrelevance

Employee Experience and Engagement Onboarding are still considered in the realm of the early adopter. But forward-looking organizations and innovators, having read the signs and identified the shifting relationship between employee and employer, have already been spurred into action. Here’s what’s written on the subway walls:

1) Time is of the essence when it comes to employee retention

In 2009, Aberdeen Group released a report that found 86% of businesses believe that employees make the decision to stay with their employer within the first six months. This short timeframe changed thinking around the importance of the onboarding experience and how it can influence retention, engagement, and turnover. Subsequent studies show there are huge consequences to poor onboarding, costing time, money, and even staff productivity, moral, and cohesiveness.

2) Employees are now consumers of the workplace

Just as the internet changed the way consumers buy goods and services, employees have been empowered by a combination of talent shortage and the rise of social media.

As Gallup pointed out in its report “State of the American Workplace”, job seekers now have a wealth of information at their fingertips, allowing them to compare and contrast companies, effectively “shopping around” for the roles and organizations that best meet their needs.

Employees have become consumers of the workplace, empowered by the introduction of employer review sites like Glassdoor, and the ‘Welcome Desk’ movement on Instagram and LinkedIn. There is no shortage of employees and ex-employees willing to offer their opinion and reviews and companies have been put on notice they need to lift their game.

Quite simply, you can’t expect your employees to deliver an outstanding customer service experience if they’re disengaged or recovering from a poor employee experience themselves.

2013 study by Cable, Gino, and Staats, found that onboarding programsfocused on the individual led to greater customer satisfaction and greater retention within the first six months, and had positive benefits on employee engagement and job satisfaction.

In fact, recognizing the link between customer experience and employee experience, first movers like Adobe have melded the two – to such an extent that even the roles have merged: Donna Morris’ title is executive vice president of customer and employee experience at Adobe.


Why are we so slow to change?

The above isn’t new. Most HR leaders have known all this for years. So why, despite the evidence and, frankly, common sense, is onboarding still broken?

One of the biggest issues is a lack of wider business awareness and buy-in. Employee Experience in most organisations is still not a function, nor does it have associated KPIs or an allocated budget.

But this will change. Just as customer experience strategy and design has evolved into an essential business function, it’s only a matter of time before businesses start to see the ROI and business case in EX, and by extension, Engagement Onboarding. The tide has already started to turn, with the rise of ‘people experience’ job titles.

The talent war will be won through engagement, not induction

With unemployment at historical lows, companies are in the midst of a talent war. Aberdeen researchers found, for example, that 58% percent of organizations indicate that the shortage of quality, applicable candidates for the most needed roles is the biggest challenge facing talent acquisition today.

Given the difficulty and cost associated with acquiring the right talent, it only makes sense to ensure equal effort is invested in engaging and retaining this top talent once they step through the door.

It’s time for a shift in mindset on the part of HR, leadership, and managers. Onboarding can no longer be solely about organizational efficiencies and compliance, but rather aim to provide a mind-blowingly awesome employee experience.

Is your onboarding process sending new hires back out the door? Get in touch if you need help putting a business case together for an engagement-first approach to employee onboarding.

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