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November 2, 2012

Making the Onboarding right for a smooth flight

It was a call from a friend joining a new organization that made me give a deeper thought to ‘Onboarding’. I could hear the apprehensions behind the animated chat about this new role. But then this is not the first job for him neither is he changing job for the first time, he can boost of a healthy career graph and experience, then why this apprehension.

Organizations go to great lengths to source the right talent, open dialogue with them regarding the vacancy in question, and after rounds of interaction finally hand over the offer letter. Hopes at both end are created, hope that the new man would bring the necessary expertise to influence the bottom line, the new hire on the other hand nestles a hope of finding a work culture with optimum resources for bringing out his competencies. To live up to each others expectation the beginning has to be made almost perfect. In the HR vocabulary the process here is ‘Onboarding’, an integral part of the talent acquisition process which is one of the top strategies being used for retention.

Almost ninety percent of employees take a decision regarding the continuity in their present job in the first six months. Study has revealed that out of the seven strategies for better retention rates: Training & Development, Succession Planning, Compensation, Onboarding, Performance Management, Sourcing & Assessment and Hiring; Onboarding ranks 3rd. Onboarding is an experience you give the new hire to help me connect to the new job at all levels. On the first day insignificant questions like ‘Where is the bathroom?’ too is an important query. It implies that for a new hire these small little information’s are as important as is the awareness about the organizational objectives and his KRA. Onboarding is a process which is structured keeping in mind the new hires perspective. And organizations with an eye beyond the horizon have implemented it as a process which may range from a month to a year.

Points to factor in would be:

A genuine effort to put across that the new hire is a valued member of the organization and we indeed hope for a long association.

We cannot have someone putting halfhearted attempts to it, the process is important for the organization and the person made responsible needs to exhibit a pride in the organizations culture and values. This would instill confidence in the newcomers about the company.

As mentioned above even small queries are significant for a newcomer, actions and behavior to make the person feel at home and comfortable enough to ask questions and clear their doubts is vital.

The joinings are scheduled and it is the HR department’s responsibility to make sure that system and papers are in place to send out a positive sign that ‘we were expecting you and things are in place to help you start’.

We all want to know where we fit in the entire scheme of things and how would the work done by us impact the organizational machinery. The newcomer would need to be made aware of the bigger picture, the goal and how their role is aligned with it.

The entire affair has to be made informative while keeping it interactive & interesting. Sharing stories which reinforce the organizations commitment to its stakeholders with ingredients of funny anecdotes are sought.

A mentorship program included in the Onboarding process would provide the necessary hand holding a new joinee needs to get successfully immersed into the company culture and systems.

While we are at it there are three important pitfalls we would need to avoid-

Information Overload- There is no point bombarding the new hire with information’s which can be easily put up on the company intranet for reference. Also content which would not be immediately important without the necessary knowledge of context would be a wasted effort.

Feedback form as a checklist- Most of the organizations would have a feedback form for the entire Onboarding process but it is doubtful as to how many actually look into the feedback and put an honest effort to work on them.

Job of HR folks- Onboarding is not just an ‘HR Responsibility’ it is an organizational strategy which needs involvement of Supervisors and Managers too.

Many futuristic organizations acknowledge the contribution of Onboarding in facilitating better alignment of newcomers with the job function, organizational culture and systems.

IBM’s effort into its Onboarding process is commendable. A period of 24 months where the Onboarding program content is beautifully married with the business context to make sure that the new hires fully absorb and appreciate the material. It is a two year affair for Onboarding and surely it is not limited to briefing the new hires about the organizational goal, their job responsibilities, a detailed run into company policies and procedures, housekeeping items and an office tour. It is an elaborate and well structured process built on the four pillars of Cultural Mastery, Interpersonal Network Development, Early Career Support and Strategy Immersion and Direction. And the beauty of the program lies in its flexibility as they customize it for different levels and functions.

We keep chanting the mantra ‘Human Resource is an organizations most valuable asset’ hence when talent is scarce and high attrition rates seem to be the organizational nightmare; it is important we make sure that the fresh blood we pump into the system is well received and the finances stay healthy.

Tags : IBM, HR, employee motivation, retention, employee loyalty, talent pool, onboarding,

About Nivedita

Nivedita has almost six years of experience in the HR domain. In her current role with an IT company, she manages the talent acquisition and talent management initiatives of the organization. She has been honored a Master’s degree in Business Administration with a specialization in Human Resources. She began her career in 2005 and has been working in the different domains of Human Resources ever since.