Companies need to do a better job of greeting new employees

Smiling front-desk employees
Making the work experience a happy one from day one can pay off for companies. (Getty Images)

A CEO is only as good as his or her employees, so bringing new ones into the fold is a crucial task for companies, as freshly hired staff begin assimilating with their new organization and operations.

Whether companies are doing a good job of onboarding, however, is questionable. The latest available data, from a Harvard Business Review article in 2015, said only 28% of companies indicated they had a highly successful onboarding program, and 22% didn’t have a program in place at all.

The figures are still valid, Franco Girimonte, associate principal at HR consulting firm The Hackett Group, told FierceCEO. The reasons are that sometimes onboarding is not a fully integrated process and sometimes HR owns it, not the business unit the employee will work in.

But onboarding programs are extremely important, Franco said: “Without them it would be an inconsistent experience for the employee. If you don’t have a formal program, that first impression could be pretty poor.”

The stakes are indeed high. In a survey by the Allegis Group, 54% of candidates were “somewhat” or “very likely” to leave an organization based on a poor onboarding experience. When it came to readiness for a new hire’s first day—encompassing introductions to teammates and key stakeholders, manager meetings and facility tours—more than 70% of hiring managers said they “always” cover these activities, yet only 23% to 50% of candidates agreed.

Companies starting to catch on

“Organizations are maturing and starting to understand how to engage employees to make them more productive,” said Robert Cojocaru, a leader in KPMG’s Talent Management Group.

KPMG developed software 3 years ago that is meant to aid onboarding. It is designed as a portal with content and tasks to complete so employees can finish onboarding paperwork and acclimate themselves, Cojocaru said. Employees also have mentors.

First days crucial

The first 90 days of employment "are critical, and during the onboarding process, leaders must ensure new employees have a deep understanding of their jobs and begin to immerse themselves in the organization’s culture," said Debbie Ritchie, president of the Studer Group.

“We recommend 30- and 90-day meetings with new employees and their supervisor or mentor to build a solid employee/leader relationship and provide an opportunity for the employee to give feedback,” Ritchie said.

In the first 30 days of employment, the primary focus is to familiarize the employee with the organization and assess how they are settling in. The 90-day meeting demonstrates a manager’s commitment and support for the new employee and identifies whether they need additional help, Ritchie said: “These meetings also uncover learning opportunities for the new employee to become successful in their new role and enable the new employee to share observations and ideas to improve the workplace.”

Be prepared

Prepare for their arrival in advance, said Michael Perez, president of Nautilus HR. “Make sure their work area is stocked with supplies, computer and phone are activated, nameplate is in place and they are updated in the company directory.”

Also, plan to spend time with the new hire and orient them to the role, the company’s expectations and details about the organization, Perez said. “Walk them around and make personal introductions and take them to lunch. Organize prescheduled training so that they get up to speed quickly and can hit the ground running.”

And, “don't forget about them,” Perez said. “Regularly check in and keep two-way communication going, encourage them to share their progress and be open to feedback yourself.”

Virtual onboarding

At Appirio, a technology services company, employees are onboarded virtually since they work remotely. The company uses a virtual training class that provides new staffers with orientation and gives them a bit of training, and when a number have been brought on board, the CEO speaks to them remotely.

“Cultivating a productive workforce starts on an employee's first day, with all levels of organizational leadership,” Steve Pruden, senior VP of human resources, said. “Not only does this set new hires up to be more productive, it increases the likelihood that they’ll stick around longer. In fact, our onboarding process begins before the employee is hired, as expectations are being set.”

New approaches

Mphasis, an IT services company, is in the midst of creating a formal program called TalentNext, launching 10 to 15 new training platforms tagged to different skills, competency levels and geographies. New employees will be trained in digital IT services skills, including cloud, automation, and neurolinguistic programming. 

What makes the training modules unique is that diverse methods are being employed for effectiveness, said Srikanth Karra, chief human resource officer. “For instance, storytelling and theater are being used to train employees in soft skills, and competency boards are being used for others.”

Training “must foster a learning culture and create a solution-centric mindset for employees,” Karra said.

AdTheorent, a predictive advertising company, goes full throttle so that employees do not feel disengaged. New employees meet with each division head and get to know about what that department does and how it fits into the overall organization, as well as how that group specifically works with the employee's division. Executive breakfasts are held at AdTheorent's favorite diner, where new employees get to know the vision of the company and spend time with its executives in a relaxed setting. To foster culture, new employees spend time with key team members and larger groups through lunches, team cocktails and dinners.

“We also share interesting tidbits that are submitted by the employees with the larger group when announcing their arrival so that it can spark common interests with other employees," said Amy Raucher, director of HR.