On-boarding best practices, pitfalls, and ROI

In April, the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) released the results of a new survey about organizations' on-boarding practices and programs, the timing and length of on-boarding programs, and organizational barriers to offering formal on-boarding activities.

We've talked before about the importance of on-boarding and its role in cultivating employee engagement. So we were impressed to see SHRM's survey results that more than 80 percent of organizations surveyed have formal or informal on-boarding programs in place. Also interesting is that almost 75 percent of respondents use on-boarding more now than five years ago as a key element of their retention strategies.

Here are some of the other key findings of the study:

  • On-boarding begins when? One-third of organizations begin on-boarding activities when a job offer is accepted. An additional one-third begin the process on the new hire's first day.

  • On-boarding lasts how long? Almost 50 percent of organizations' on-boarding programs last less than eight days. Nineteen percent of respondents said the duration of their on-boarding programs is in the two-to-three month range.

  • What are the most crucial elements to on-boarding? Communication (88 percent), training (85 percent) and the provision of resources (84 percent) rank as the three most important on-boarding activities.

  • What are the biggest barriers to on-boarding? Time constraints (60 percent), insufficient HR staff (52 percent) and financial constraints (33 percent) are the three most common obstacles to developing a formal on-boarding program.

So based on these results, how does SHRM recommend improving or, for the almost 20 percent of organizations who don't already have one, developing a new hire on-boarding program? And more importantly, how can organizations measure the success of the programs they have in place?

For the answers to those questions, we went straight to Howard Klein, chairman of the SHRM Foundation Board of Directors and one of the collaborators on this on-boarding research. Howard is also a professor of management and HR at the Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University.

In our podcast interview, Howard likens starting at a new job and company to moving to a new country: There are new rules, customs, politics, and language to learn. And depending on the employee, the role and the organization, the naturalization process can range in duration.

Howard cautions companies that a "one size fits all" on-boarding program doesn't work, and offers advice for how HR managers should account for varying degrees of experience and company familiarity during the on-boarding process. He also identifies the biggest pitfalls companies should avoid, and gives tips on how you can measure the ROI of on-boarding program. (We're not going to give that away here though. You'll just have to listen to the interview for that one!)

Take a listen when you get a chance. Also, if you're interested in the full breakdown of results from the on-boarding practices survey, check out this slideshow from SHRM.

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This post was written by Doug Lubin, a successful Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) Practice Leader and Consultant, who brings over a decade of expertise building sustainable solutions for clients and partners.  Doug helps firms develop high performing talent acquisition and management strategies locally and globally.  Learn more about Doug.

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