An Under-Performing HR Process Gets Reimagined: Introducing “Immersive Onboarding”
Let’s start with two compelling but also startling data points from credible industry surveys:
- 30% of new employees voluntarily leave their jobs within the first 90 days
- 28% of employees do not feel fully connected to their company’s purpose or mission
Survey sources included within the hyperlinks
Related to the first research finding, the direct cost of voluntary turnover is well-chronicled, with estimates often approximating one or two times annual salary based on the fully loaded cost of recruiting, lost productivity, etc. These costs are often considerably higher when one considers the likely disruptive effect on other colleagues and business areas. And regarding staff who do not feel meaningfully connected to the mission of their employing organization, they probably also don’t feel connected to their company’s culture and core values, and in many cases, critical business plans and priorities. Moreover, when one feels disconnected, whether at work or anywhere else, it's certainly not an ideal place to be from a mental or total health standpoint.
All that said, we know the most material negative impact of this condition among employees is unquestionably the erosion of productivity. Based on the 28% metric cited, if 28 of every 100 employees in the workforce are experiencing reduced productivity, the net business impact on an entity of several hundred or thousand employees could well be in the millions of lost “value.” This can be confirmed by just using a revenue per employee metric of perhaps $100k and reducing it by 5%. The resulting (lost) $5k multiplied by the number of employees becomes a rather large number.
In the context of HR departments striving to mitigate the realities highlighted here, all signs arguably point to the one HR process or activity area that intersects with both findings above. That process is onboarding. Also, another reality to consider is that in many organizations, while HR leaders and other professionals might view some of the goals and desired outcomes of onboarding in strategic terms (e.g., compressing time to productivity), the current and potential workforce at large often has a much more tactical or administrative sense of this process. Sadly, the typical new hire onboarding process has, through the decades, mostly connoted getting on payroll, enrolling in benefits, and completing compliance-related forms.
Why is it that the longtime, commonly held perspective of this first stage in the employee journey is typically reduced to “housekeeping items” like getting on payroll, notwithstanding the major importance of getting paid?
It’s no doubt a combination of factors, including the notion that established patterns and expectations are quite difficult to reconstitute or reverse. Beyond that, let’s also realize that the agenda and focus of both back-office and technology teams are not always very aligned with what “the business” needs from this key HR process. The latter stakeholder group mostly looks to have engaged, productive, and well-integrated employees and team members as quickly as possible.
A modern view of onboarding is centered around a new employee experiencing the essence (including the many positive aspects) of what their new job/role, team, manager or supervisor, and organizational culture and values are all about. And “experiencing the essence” of anything can simply be considered an “immersive experience.” When this immersion is done right, the new employee is more prepared to navigate early challenges on the job by socially connecting with those who can readily offer various forms of support. Additionally, any ambiguity or confusion about key priorities or methods that can plague a new worker is also neutralized with effective onboarding.
Using the immersive lens, a best-in-class onboarding process would encompass such elements as:
- An employee fully understanding their initial or near-term goals and priorities, and how these fit into the longer-term expectations for their role and skills growth.
- The organization knows what the employee expects of their employer and management during their startup period and on-going, in terms of performance and career support, other types of coaching or employee-centered programs, clarity around company policies and practices as well as the consistent, non-biased execution of said policies.
The above amounts to a 2-way alignment between the needs, interests, and goals of both employee and employer. It is the lack of this alignment that absolutely contributes to the 30% of new employees leaving in the first 90 days!
Smart HCM Technology Paves the Way
There is a wide range of HCM systems capabilities that have been shown to directly enable the more evolved vision of onboarding being painted here. This is a sampling, and HR Technology buyers should be on the lookout for the following design features and functions if the “IOB” (Immersive Onboarding) vision outlined above resonates:
- A module or knowledge/content hub where all onboarding activities and resources are gathered in one place, the job-related tasks to focus on for 30/60/90 days are spelled out, suggestions are found about relevant people to meet – including colleagues in similar roles, events, and activities are matched to a person’s known interests, and other targeted and timely company information is quickly sourced.
- Automated process workflows such as where a brief set of questions is forwarded to the new employee’s manager the Friday before they start in order to compile some of the information highlighted above so it can then be shared with the new employee on Day 1. The contrast in experience between having these elements of an onboarding plan laid out on Day 1 … vs. relying on a combination of intended steps and (right place, right time) serendipity over weeks … couldn’t be more obvious, and the corresponding outcomes and effects just as obvious. This can be viewed as the foundation for an “immersion blueprint.”
- As a significant emphasis must always be on ensuring a high level of both employee engagement and productivity, continuous learning opportunities play a major role in the onboarding experience and throughout the entire employee journey. These must be supported by very easily navigated menus if not co-piloted by virtual agents. But just recognizing that the learning opportunities must be offered is not enough. Experiences must be automatically and effortlessly “served up” based on the HCM system’s ever-increasing set of insights into what each employee wants, needs, and values, including as these change. This might include, for example, the desire to learn or be exposed to different parts of the business or different roles after X days into the job. This is all part of the new age perspective on non-linear career paths, and it’s also a manifestation of the “personalization era” that has been ushered in by AI/ML.
Preventing and mitigating the very disruptive effects of early-stage voluntary turnover; and ensuring that employees are well aligned with the mission of their team, business area, and organization overall, demands a re-imagining of the perennially under-performing HR process of onboarding. This involves much more than just leveraging HCM technology innovation. It requires a completely different approach and thought process regarding what is likely the most determinative period in every employee’s relationship with their employer. It also needs an HCM technology partner that demonstrably shares this #IOB vision.