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How to Drive Employee Engagement During Onboarding

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Welcome to the team - new employee onboarding

Building Engagement at Every Stage of the Employee Lifecycle: Part 2 – Onboarding

Welcome to the team - new employee onboarding

The first few weeks and months of an employee’s experience in a new job are known as the Onboarding Stage. This is a formative period when the company culture is ingrained, the employee learns his or her role and responsibilities, rapport is established with leadership and colleagues, and initial training takes place.

The amount of time an employer has to engage and motivate a new employee during the Onboarding Stage is quite limited in terms of making the right impression and having them begin to feel like a team member. According to a study by Equifax Workforce Solutions, more than 40% of turnover happens within the first month. That means it’s more important than ever to engage a new employee from day one.

Effectively planning for the first days and the first month (and ultimately the first 90 days) is of utmost importance to employee engagement as well as retention. Consider the facts:

  • 4% of new employees leave a job after a disastrous first day
  • 16% of employees quit within the first week
  • 22% of all new hires resign within the first 45 days of employment.
  • 31% of employees quit their job within the first 6 months

Interestingly, poor cultural fit plays a greater part in why new hires leave a company than lack of competencies or skill. Having a structured onboarding program in place mitigates the risk of losing a new employee because it addresses not only the practical needs of the new hire but also their social and emotional needs. In fact, a study from Wynhurst Group found that newly hired employees were 58% more likely to still be with a company three years later if they had completed a structured onboarding program.

With the organizational costs of turnover being between 100% and 300% of the replaced employee’s salary, onboarding is an employee engagement strategy that organizations simply can’t afford to ignore.

Ways to Create an Effective and Engaging Onboarding Program

Unlike orientation, which typically lasts a few days or a week, onboarding is an ongoing process that can take up to a year. The purpose of an onboarding program is to support the employee’s journey to becoming a successful contributor within the company. It should help them engage with the company’s culture, connect with team members and leaders who can help them succeed, and assimilate them into their new role.

An effective and engaging employee onboarding program should start before the new hire’s first day, last at least the first year of their employment, and include periodic check-ins to assess performance and ensure the employee is connected, productive, and comfortable.

Before the First Day

The onboarding process should begin the moment a new employee accepts the offer. The period of time between acceptance of the offer and the employee’s first day is an opportunity to reinforce to the new hire that they made a great decision and the company is excited for them to join the team. Here are a few things you can do during this time to help engage the new employee and make their first day a little less overwhelming:

  • Create and send them their new email address
  • Share the new hire’s LinkedIn profile and suggest your employees connect with their new teammate
  • Send them the employee handbook
  • Invite the new hire for a tour of the office in advance of their first day
  • Schedule a lunch or a video call with the new hire and the team
  • Invite them to the next company event if it happens to take place before their first day of employment
  • Send them a First Day email detailing exactly what they can expect on their first day along with details around office parking, what to wear, what to bring, how to check-in, what time to arrive, etc. so your new employee knows exactly what to expect and how to prepare
The First Day

The first day on the job can be daunting for a new employee, which makes it more important for employers to create a welcoming and engaging plan for the day. Instead of overwhelming your new employee with paperwork and company presentations, organize their first day with tasks that will help them get acquainted with the company, culture, and their co-workers.

  • Start the day by greeting them upon arrival and giving them a tour of the office and their new workspace
  • Along with staff introductions, arrange a meeting with the leadership team to show the new employee that leadership is visible and approachable
  • Assign them a mentor to help them learn the company’s processes and systems (like how to set up their voicemail, navigate the company’s database, etc.) and answer any questions they may have throughout onboarding
  • Share and review the agenda for their first week with them
  • Schedule a team lunch or activity to help build connections
  • Check-in with them at the end of the day to answer any questions they may have and get their feedback
The First Week

A great first week can go a long way toward making a new hire feel comfortable and connected to the company. Here are some ways to stay involved and engaged with your new hire during the first week to ensure they are adjusting to their new workspace and developing relationships:

  • Plan to check in with them at the start and end of each day to discuss how everything is going and ensure any questions get answered
  • Include them in any team or project meetings so they get a feel of how the team works and interacts together
  • Discuss expectations and objectives with them, including 30-, 60-, and 90-day goals so they know exactly what needs to be done and can measure their progress
  • Assign them real, meaningful work, such as a team project that can be completed by the end of the week to give them a sense of accomplishment and an opportunity to work with the team
  • Schedule a team building activity or happy hour to help showcase the company’s culture and the social dynamics of the team
The First Month

A new hire is still learning the ropes and integrating with the company during the first month. It’s important for managers to stay engaged and visible throughout the first 30 days to ensure training is going well, your new hire is transitioning into their role, and they are acclimating to the company’s culture. Here are some best practices to build employee engagement during the first month:

  • Schedule weekly check-ins to answer any questions and go over progress
  • Set learning and personal goals to help your new employee get up and running in their role and with their team
  • Build a career development plan with specific goals, metrics and KPIs—this will help demonstrate your interest in your employee’s long-term success
  • Assign small, achievable tasks to build their confidence and identify where more training may be needed
  • Ask for their feedback on the onboarding process and training and if they feel they are getting the necessary support
The First Year

After the first month, you can’t leave your new employee guessing whether or not they’re making it. Remember, 31% of employees quit within the first six months. Therefore, it’s critical that the onboarding process continues throughout the first six months and up to the first year. Ongoing feedback, training, and support will help make your new employee feel like a valued member and contributor to the company as well as keep them engaged and aligned with the company. Here are some onboarding strategies to boost engagement and retention throughout the first year:

  • Check in at 60 and 90 days to ensure they’re transitioning into their new role as well as making connections with the team
  • Encourage new employees to contribute ideas and take on bigger, long-term projects
  • Promote team-building with both formal and informal activities
  • Review and give thoughtful feedback on your new employee’s early contributions to build confidence and reassure them that they’re on the right track

Remember that the Onboarding Stage isn’t complete until your new employee is totally engaged in your culture. Investing the time and effort to integrate your new employees – whether that be several months or a couple of years—will pay off for you in the end in the form of higher engagement and retention.

Kimberlee Courtney
Director of Marketing
CCI Consulting

Curious how onboarding can help your new key hire become productive and engaged ASAP? Contact us today to learn about our onboarding coaching.

This post is part of a series on building engagement throughout the employee lifecycle. Read part 1 to learn about The Power of Pre-Employment Engagement. 


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