Bad onboarding experiences continue turning employees off

American Spa magazine
Making staff happy from the get-go is onboarding done right. (American Spa magazine)

Bringing new employees onboard continues to lack a very welcoming aura, according to a survey that reinforces the unpleasant experience that workers often have.

Digitate surveyed over 1,500 corporate professionals across industries including financial services, professional services, information technology and manufacturing and found that the new hire onboarding process is a largely underaddressed opportunity and may be a source of competitive disadvantage for many enterprises.

The survey found that onboarding experiences impact retention: Employees who have negative new hire onboarding experiences are twice as likely to look for new opportunities in the near future.

Most new hires are dissatisfied with the onboarding process, the survey found. After the new hire onboarding experience, one in five new hires is unlikely to recommend the employer to a friend or family member, and one in five is confused about how to proceed during the employee onboard process.

The survey also found misalignment between the HR and IT Departments: Half of employees say IT resolution is too slow, and 40% say getting a response to HR questions takes too long.

Employees are embracing automation: Three out of five (59%) employees think automation may benefit their company.

Given all that is at stake, companies may want to put more into onboarding, said Victor Thu, global head of marketing for Digitate, which makes onboarding tools.

“The onboarding process has not improved over the last decade or so,” Thu told FierceCEO. “The stakes are quite high because companies have spent a lot on recruiting these employees.”

The tight job market is closely related to onboarding, Thu said. “If your employees leave after a short time, employers are going to have a hard time replacing them.”

Onboarding is a prime opportunity for employers to win the hearts and minds of new employees, but that opportunity is often blown, say experts quoted by the Society for Human Resource Management.  

"Onboarding is a magic moment when new employees decide to stay engaged or become disengaged," said Amy Hirsh Robinson, principal of the consulting firm The Interchange Group. "It offers an imprinting window when you can make an impression that stays with new employees for the duration of their careers." 

Robinson bemoans the many ways organizations squander those precious moments. Instead of using the time as an opportunity to connect emotionally with new hires, HR professionals often overwhelm them with bucket loads of materials and information at the new employee orientation. 

To illustrate, she tells the story of Anne Baughman, an employment experience manager who started her new job with Lawrence Memorial Hospital in December going through the kind of chaotic, disorganized experience Robinson calls "death by orientation."  

No one had told her where to park on her first day of work. Once inside, she was given outdated materials and a handwritten agenda that included what she called "irrelevant topics." The experience illustrated the significant changes the hospital's onboarding process needed. 

New employees whose initiations are so badly planned and executed may conclude that the organization is poorly managed and decide that it was a mistake to take the job. Under uncertain circumstances, Robinson said, new employees are prone to jump to premature conclusions. As they make their way through the organization, those early experiences get magnified and calcified. 

To keep new hires from prematurely heading for the exits, organizations have to give more thought and attention to how they convert attractive job candidates into successful longer-term employees. Otherwise, they are wasting the time and energy they spend on recruitment and selection, the article said.