Developing Your Talent

How to Overcome the Number One Derailer of Onboarding

By JC Heinen on September 24, 2012

During the recent Annual SHRM Conference in Atlanta, GA, Peyton Daniel, Senior Vice President for Lee Hecht Harrison, asked a group of about 400 HR practitioners whether their organizations provided formal onboarding for new hires. Nearly 50 percent said no. Can organizations achieve success if they are not adequately preparing new hires to succeed in their roles?

Research from a recent Aberdeen Group study was consistent with our own findings,  revealing that 60% of organizations cite the need for better onboarding to meet growth objectives. Critical to the business strategy, failure to effectively onboard destroys the ability to recruit and retain, while negatively impacting the employer brand and business performance. Successful onboarding leads to higher levels of engagement, retention, individual and organizational performance.

According to a report from Rusdens, 22% of new hires will decide to stay or leave within just one week, while 34% will decide to stay or leave within one month. The honeymoon is short. What can organizations do to improve onboarding? One key theme arose during Mr. Daniel’s SHRM session. Too often, no one takes responsibility. So who is responsible for onboarding?  Is it HR, hiring managers, team members, direct reports, mentors, senior leaders, recruiters or new hires? Not surprisingly, the answer is everyone needs to take some level of responsibility to ensure a successful onboarding.

Above all others, managers have the most critical and influential role to play in effectively onboarding new hires by:

  • Setting goals, expectations and priorities
  • Ensuring a new hire has access to key resources and information
  • Providing direction and guidance on how to get things done
  • Engaging in regular discussions to identify obstacles early
  • Acting as a coach and mentor
  • Communicating the company’s mission and strategy
  • Articulating how a new hire’s role contributes to business goals
  • Assisting a new hire to assimilate into the company culture
  • Creating a realistic and challenging development plan
  • Ensuring work processes facilitate achievement of goals
  • Empowering a new hire and encouraging accountability

An organization’s talent strategy should ensure managers are skilled at coaching employees about their careers to keep them engaged throughout the initial onboarding process and beyond. Why is this important? This skill gap in leadership competency alone can result in failure for more than half of all new hires. Every new employee starts a role filled with enthusiasm and optimism. But that excitement is quickly extinguished when managers abdicate responsibility for their role in the onboarding process.

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