Strategic Onboarding – Part 3: Beyond Day One

Welcome to the third post in this series on strategic employee onboarding where we tackle the second of six common onboarding questions. Question #2:  How long should a strategic onboarding process last?

As companies look at designing their strategic onboarding process, a common question is “how long should our onboarding process last?”

Research findings on this matter have been consistent.  According to Aberdeen Group:

  • 77% of best-in-class organizations say that onboarding starts before day 1
  • 76% say it lasts for over 1 month
  • Best ratings were from companies with an onboarding process longer than 3 months

Forrester Research reached similar findings:

  • Effective onboarding takes six to nine months

In a recent webinar, Aberdeen Group summarized their findings: best-in-class companies start before and continue after.

“Starting before” prepares employees for their first day and their career at your company.  We’ll explore this topic, aka preboarding, further in our next blog post.

“Continuing after” changes onboarding from a one-day event into an ongoing process and experience.  This is the result of changing expectations and goals for onboarding, evident in its definition “the strategic process designed to acclimate new employees into the organization and prepare them to contribute to a desired level as quickly as possible”.  It is easy to see why more time is required as these outcomes simply cannot be accomplished in one day.

To better understand the benefits of a longer onboarding process, let’s revisit the components of onboarding: forms management, task management and socialization.

Forms management requires less time when fully automated by a capable HRIS with preboarding and onboarding features, which pre-populates forms with data pulled from the applicant tracking system.  Many employees will voluntarily complete form work before their first day just to get it out of the way.

Task management benefits from additional time.  Human Resources can build out a series of tasks for new employees to accomplish during their first day, week, month, quarter, six months, year or any other period of time, accomplishing two things:

  1. Creating a consistent and track-able onboarding process optimized for each role which transitions seamlessly into an ongoing system for employee excellence, and
  2. Giving employees a clear path forward.

The company is able to take a long view of what it wants employees to accomplish.  It can plan out everything (learning management, performance management) required to make employees successful in their role, team, department or location.  The result: onboarding changes from a one day event into an ongoing process focused on employee success.

Socialization (consisting of culturalization and socialization) is the most obvious component to benefit from additional time because it is about building an ongoing experience creating a connected workforce of socially skilled and networked employees.

Based on this, it is clear companies will fail at two key components of strategic onboarding if they still see it as a one-day event.

But how long should your strategic onboarding process last?  This will depend on your goals, company culture and even the type of business you are in.  Think of it as the beginning of an ongoing process and experience fostering employee success in their current role and their entire career at your company. List what you want employees to accomplish then map it out over time.  Maybe you’ll find that for your company everything can be wrapped up within two months before transitioning into your ongoing system of employee excellence.  Or maybe it will take a full year.  The important thing is you will have thought this through and planned it out, then made sure you measure and incorporate results and employee feedback to continually optimize your onboarding solution.

Thanks for reading and join us next week when we examine the next onboarding question, “How do preboarding and crossboarding fit into the strategic onboarding process?”

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