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Retention through On-Boarding
Article Featured in AgriMarketing Magazine

If we consider the definition of on-boarding, a series of processes that it takes to transition an accepted applicant into a productive employee, nowhere in that definition is there a set time frame for how long that should take. Many organizations make the mistake of looking at on-boarding as a new employee’s first week on the job. As the definition points out, the on-boarding process ends when the employee is productive. That doesn’t happen in the first week!

An investment in employee on-boarding programs positively impacts employee engagement, morale, productivity and retention. That is why it is so important to pay particular attention to this first step.

There are a lot of studies that show the value of formal on-boarding programs, such as a recent study done by TMPWorldwide which reported 75% of top performing companies have a formal program to bring on a new employee. The reasons participants cited were that it provided a consistent experience for all employees at all levels; a consistent message was being delivered and it was a bit of an insurance that all employees were getting the necessities covered. This same study also showed that companies with established or formal programs had less than five percent of new hires leave the company during their first year.

The time and money involved in recruiting and hiring a new employee can be expensive. Consider the intangible factors that cost companies money and can be eased by an on-boarding program. Things like poor employee morale due to added workload when a position goes unfilled or is vacated, or time it takes current staff to train a new employee (this time drain occurs with each new employee, which makes the retention statistic above all the more important).

Several things contribute to why on-boarding doesn’t happen within organizations. Factors like, who is responsible, how do we keep it consistent, and it takes too much time are just a few. The bottom line is that hiring managers are all very different and likely have strong views on how to on-board new staff.

The program needs a lead facilitator and the backing from upper management. The human resources department is the natural lead as the acting facilitator; however they cannot own the on-boarding process. They can provide the framework and tools and help educate those managers that have staff whom they are responsible for. It is the manager’s responsibility to guide the process and ensure it is implemented.

Think of your new employee. What is it they want? A new employee wants to know how their role fits within the organization. The new employee should know the company’s overall goals and mission. They should understand what they are to contribute and how their work will be measured. They need to know how to interact with other employees and they should have the tools to do their job. Pretty simple, yet we tend to overlook them.

Even if your organization doesn’t have a formal plan, here are some basics that any manager can do to help ensure that their new employee gets off to a good start!

Before a new employee starts, get all of the paperwork ready to go. In some cases, employers provide essential paperwork like tax forms, I-9, emergency contact, etc. in advance of their start date and that way the new employee can come in with it completed or at least with the information necessary to hurry the process along on their first day.

Employers can make sure their office space is ready with a computer, phone and any other necessary equipment. Also, be sure other staff members know that a new hire is starting.

Orientation, not to be confused with on-boarding, is really that first week on the job for a new employee. Develop a plan in advance and share that with the new hire. The plan should include a schedule of the week, names of people they will be interacting with, as well as cover some of the critical, necessary company procedures/policies. If you can, try to cover some of the procedures over a week or longer, if possible. This plan should also contain instructions for their first day arrival. Be exact about when, what time and where they should go on their first day. Tell them who they should ask for when they arrive. Explain what attire is appropriate and what they should bring with them.

On the employee’s first day, do something special. Make the new employee feel special and give them an opportunity to get integrated into the company and begin to foster relationships.

Be sure that the new hire is clear with the company’s mission, vision, and values. Talk about their role and how it fits with the overall mission of the organization. Talk about projects, set clear expectations for what is expected of them and the evaluation process.

One thing that many organizations miss in this first phase, is to ask the candidate for feedback on their recruiting, interviewing and hiring procedures. They’ve just been through all of those processes and can likely provide great feedback to improve those components.

Finally, make sure the employee achieves something. Employees are usually very excited their first week of employment and you can capitalize on that motivation and give them something positive to share with their friends and family. The project needs to be achievable for a new employee and could include things like competitor research, web site critique, sales presentation critique, etc. The goal is to provide them with an opportunity to offer feedback and contribute to the organization.

The first week for a new employee can be a bit overwhelming, so the first month of the employee’s job is really when they begin to form their opinions of the organization and the work that they’ll be doing. This is where the framework should be laid to help them become a contributing member of the organization.

Early in the first month, you will want to discuss specific goals that the new employee is expected to complete. After being with the company for a week or two, the employee should be able to provide some insight into what those goals might be and how they could go about accomplishing them. Again, review evaluation measurements. What will constitute the goal being reached?

The manager plays a very important role during this timeframe. It is important to spend time with the new hire. They will learn things by listening and discussing thoughts. Also encourage interaction with peers, especially those they’ll be working closely with. This time period is when they get to know their department/division and begin to form their relationship with their manager.

At the end of the first three months, the “new” has worn off and some minor “employer blemishes” could be starting to show. That is why it is so important to interact at this stage. This can easily be achieved with an open two-way exchange between the employee and manager. During the discussion the following issues should be discussed:

  • Is there any additional training needed?
  • Is the new hire getting the right level of support from colleagues?
  • Are you as the manager pending the correct amount of time with the employee?
  • Are there any “tweaks” needed to the employee’s goals?


    This is also a good time, not necessarily in the same meeting, to discuss with the employee some areas of improvement that you might be seeing. Be sure to ask for feedback about your management style. However, be sure you are willing to try to implement that feedback.

    At the six month mark, things should get more streamline. The employee should be contributing and achieving goals set forth. The manager should schedule a formal six-month review and be able to look back and compare performance to goals. It is also a time to review comments and suggested feedback from that three month meeting to see if progress is being made on the areas of improvement. If on-boarding has been done correctly, there should be few surprises.

    One way to set the organization apart from others is to work in some training around this time period.

    Hopefully by now the organization has a fully engaged employee! At the one year mark, the new employee should have an established relationship with their manager; they should be engaged in their job; achieving an appropriate level of work/life balance; interacting well with colleagues; understanding how their role fits within the organization; and appearing to enjoy their employment. This assessment can be done in an end of year review.

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