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Creating an Effective Program

    Creating an effective onboarding program

    Onboarding has four distinct levels, the Four C’s:

    • Compliance is the lowest level and includes teaching employees basic legal and policy-related rules and regulations.
    • Clarification refers to ensuring that employees understand their new jobs and all related expectations.
    • Culture is a broad category that includes providing employees with a sense of organizational norms— both formal and informal.
    • Connection refers to the vital interpersonal relationships and information networks that new employees must establish.

    The degree to which each organization leverages these four building blocks determines its overall onboarding strategy, with most companies falling into one of three levels:

    Level 1: Passive Onboarding

    Almost all organizations naturally cover compliance as part of formal onboarding. For companies that engage in Passive Onboarding, or Level 1, some role clarification may be given, but neither Culture nor Connection is addressed. Some informal ways of guiding new employees in terms of Culture and Connection may have developed over time, but no one—including HR staff— is coordinating the task to maximize onboarding success. If your company is engaged in Passive Onboarding, you are likely to view onboarding as a checklist of unrelated tasks to be completed. Research shows that approximately 30 percent of organizations—large, medium and small—work at this level. Passive Onboarding can be functional, but it is certainly unsystematic.

    Level 2: High Potential Onboarding

    When compliance and clarification are well covered by a firm’s formal onboarding practices and some culture and connection mechanisms are in place, Level 2—High Potential Onboarding—has been reached. In these organizations—about 50 percent of all firms—the complete process has not yet been established in a systematic way across the organization.

    Level 3: Proactive Onboarding

    All four building blocks are formally addressed in Level 3, Proactive Onboarding. If your firm is systematically organizing onboarding with a strategic human resource management approach, you are at Level 3. Only about 20 percent of organizations achieve this level.

    What Happens During Onboarding?

    During onboarding, firms engage in a variety of activities that may facilitate the process. The key to successful onboarding is for HRM functions to work together seamlessly to support new employees.

    Recruiting - In Passive Oboarding, organizations’ recruiting processes are unrelated to new employee onboarding plans. Rather than viewing recruitment as a time to begin the onboarding process, it is seen as a separate function. In fact, the entire goal of recruitment should be to get candidates to the next step— selection—and then to help them fit into the organizational environment and get to know organizational insiders and stakeholders. The recruitment process provides information, but it also helps new employees form realistic expectations and engage coping mechanisms. In this way, the quality of recruitment practices relates to higher organizational commitment.

    Realistic Job Previews - Organizations can provide employees with realistic job previews (RJPs) regarding both the specific job to be done and the organizational culture. RJPs have advantages and disadvantages. As an experiment, one firm randomly assigned prospective employees to either an RJP group or a non-RJP group. As expected, the RJP group was more likely to reject a job offer, but they had 50 percent less turnover than the non-RJP group. Realistic previews help to prevent new employees from suffering unmet expectations. Past research has found that new employees receiving large amounts of accurate information about a company and their new job tend to adjust better than those who don’t acquire this information. RJPs can be provided during recruitment and hiring or through more on-the-job experiences such as internships.

    Orientations - Some 93 percent of organizations now use some type of new-employee orientation—either in person or online. Formal orientation programs help new employees understand many important aspects of their jobs and organizations, including the company’s culture and values, its goals and history, and its power structure. Orientation programs also serve a social role, helping newcomers feel welcome by introducing them to their co-workers and other individuals within the organization. Orientations, which may last a few hours to a few months, can provide new employees with valuable information and the chance to process a lot of paperwork and procedures quickly, using tools that include discussions, lectures, videotapes and written material. During short orientations, companies often use computer-based information systems and intranets to help support new employees. This approach lends consistency to orientations in different locations and at different times.

    Support Tools and Processes - Both during and after the orientation, readily available support tools, such as those listed below, are invaluable for onboarding success.

    • A written onboarding plan. The most effective onboarding plans are usually written, communicated to all members of the company, consistently applied and tracked over time.
    • Stakeholder meetings. With regular “touching base” meetings, potential problems can be solved before they expand into large problems.

    Coaching and Support - Stakeholder involvement is extremely valuable for successful new employee onboarding because stakeholders can help newcomers manage and meet expectations. Stakeholders include those involved in hiring, training, HR, and normal coaching and support. They can influence new hires by not only sharing information but also serving as role models to be emulated.

    Mentors are a similar resource to help new employees learn the ropes. A mentor can teach new employees about the organization, offer advice, help with job instruction, and provide support in social and political terms. New employees may go to mentors with questions that they are hesitant to ask their managers for fear of seeming incompetent. Mentoring praograms can help new employees adapt more easily to the new work environment.

    Training - A new employee needs the confidence, clarity and skills to do the job he or she has been hired to do. Potential training for new employees includes hard skills, soft skills and onboarding skills, and each skill set is important. If a new employee has low levels of self-efficacy at the start, training is even more necessary to boost subsequent ability to cope and job performance. Training can show newcomers how to proactively help their own adjustment and therefore encourage successful onboarding.