The Onboarding Experience

Author: Karl Tischler | Source: HCI | Published: December 3, 2012

Talent Management is a growing focus for companies of all sizes as the corporate world is transformed by advancements in technology and software. This shift has created a heightened need for certain types of skills - especially those technical and data-analytical.  Time and again we hear about economic uncertainty and that business leaders are looking to Human Resources to become more efficient and ‘do more with less’.  It is a reality: HR is expected to play an increasingly strategic and enabling role in reaching growth targets by delivering improvements in employee engagement, alignment of their work to corporate objectives and overall productivity.
In recent years, studies have emerged that indicate new employee onboarding is often overlooked and/or under-delivered. As a result, onboarding represents perhaps the most compelling missed opportunity to engage with employees, align priorities and improve employee productivity.  Ultimately, taking advantage of this opportunity, and its resulting outcomes, will lead to significant improvements in a company’s ability to attract & retain key employees and top performers required to be competitive in the new corporate climate.
The Aberdeen Group recently suggested ( that by integrating talent acquisition with talent management, while also adopting a strategic onboarding approach focused on improving forms management, task management and socialization/culturalization, companies can expect not only internal improvements, but also compelling business results:

  • Improved customer retention (customer loyalty)
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Higher revenue per FTE (full-time employee)

Companies that adopt a strategic onboarding process see that the key is to consider onboarding as an experience instead of an event.  Onboarding thus becomes a holistic approach whereby companies place their focus more on personalization and strategic employee growth rather than completion of a ‘first day’ checklist.  This change of perspective and approach results in a few notable outcomes and lessons.

First, onboarding effectiveness improves when the onboarding period is 90 days or longer, with some reports suggesting it should last 6 months or longer. Our clients have seen success in breaking this extended onboarding period into several parts. Clearly laying out personalized tasks and goals for employees based on their first week, month and 6 months, for example, is typically very well received. 
Second, onboarding works best when it is an integrated effort that includes HR work management (incl. performance and talent), learning / training management, corporate communications, and other processes or factors related to new employees during the onboarding period.  The benefit created here is twofold: by working together all of these areas within your company can combine to form an efficient yet streamlined process for new employees.  Progress can be tracked and reminders sent or follow-ups delivered for any missed or incomplete tasks, helping keep employees on track and raising the basic standard to a new benchmark of work competencies for all new employees. 
A third positive outcome of strategic onboarding is that companies can build on lessons learned to apply the onboarding approach to other pivotal periods in the employee’s career: 

  • between job acceptance and the first day at work becomes preboarding; 
  • moving to a new position within the company becomes crossboarding; and 
  • merging the workforce from an acquired company into your own becomes massboarding  

The spread of this “onboarding contagion” throughout the employee lifecycle is hugely positive.  Employees increasingly feel valued and supported throughout their career by their company. 
There are many onboarding software solutions available on the market. All seek to streamline processes and realize efficiencies.  By complementing these efficiencies with powerful social collaboration tools, integration/unification of your existing systems and processes, you can really take strategic onboarding to the next level.  
HR practitioners will find that consistency, compliance, efficiency and real engagement can all be achieved by leveraging great HR technology.  Select a solution that is on-demand, self-paced, and that can give each employee a personalized experience.  Once new employees have an amazing onboarding experience with your system, they will be heavy users and early adopters of the system and new programs / initiatives in the future.
Companies have a wealth of options and opportunities to use strategic onboarding as a way to improve their talent management practices.  However you proceed and whatever you end up doing, it always pays to start with the end (your goals and objectives) in mind. Incorporate your company’s vision and values, while focusing on creating the employee experience necessary to reach those goals. Leverage employee feedback coupled with tracking and reporting key metrics to continually refine your process.  After all, as your employees increasingly succeed and excel, and so too will your company!
Karl, who joined the cfactor Works Marketing Team at the start of 2012, has a diverse background as an entrepreneur and small businessman coupled with a corporate career in telecommunications and renewable energy/energy efficiency.  Always interested in helping companies streamline processes, engage their workforce and achieve corporate objectives, Karl is honored to be a part of the efforts to introduce more companies to cfactor's highly practical and configurable employee-centric work management solutions.