Strategic Onboarding – Part 6: Onboarding is Now in Session!


Welcome to the sixth post in this series on strategic onboarding where we tackle the fifth of six common onboarding questions. Question #5:  How can you judge the effectiveness of a strategic onboarding process?

Properly judging the effectiveness of your strategic onboarding process is important.  It helps identify opportunities for improvement.  It can also build credibility within your organization and support for both this and subsequent future HR efforts.

So what does effective onboarding look like?

Simply said, it is going to be unique to each company.  I was going to go into great detail on this until I came across a presentation KnowledgeAdvisors put together wa-a-a-ay back in 2009 entitled “Evaluating On-boarding Program Effectiveness”. Check out slide 12 where they define what is and what is not effective onboarding. But don’t stop there – go through this presentation start to finish, as it is truly excellent. Kudos to writer Gina Jesse and KnowledgeAdvisors on this great work!

Gina Jesse defines effective onboarding as something that:

  • Builds employee engagement (builds relationships between new hires and peers & colleagues, defines expectations, tailored to specific job positions), and
  • Demonstrates value to the organization (reduced costs, speed to competency, return on salary costs, increased employee retention)

I couldn’t agree more. And here’s another great definition used in the presentation:

“An effective onboarding program consists of supplemental efforts taken early in a new employee’s tenure to help him build a better understanding of your organization’s culture, his job responsibilities, and how they tie into company and departmental priorities.”

                -Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International Inc.

Now that we understand what an effective onboarding program is, how do you judge if yours is effective or not?

Begin by clearly defining the outcomes you want onboarding to achieve. Start general and work your way down to specific, measurable outcomes. For example the general outcome of building employee engagement can lead you to more specific outcomes like delivering an onboarding program that 95% of new employees rate as “meets or exceeds their expectations” in a new employee survey administered after their first day, week and/or month with the company. Another example could be the specific outcome of reducing new employee churn within their first year of employment by 50% from current levels, this goal being based on the general desired outcome of demonstrating value to the organization.

Choose outcomes which speak to your company’s values and business objectives. And like SMART goals, make sure they are specific and measurable.  It also pays to put yourself in the employee’s shoes – what is it that you want them to experience? Are there specific jobs or departments, divisions or countries where you would like to see improvement as a result of onboarding? What does that specific improvement look like?

Once you have clearly defined your specific desired outcomes, it is critical for you to design and adopt a process to measure, report and review your results (ideally leveraging HR Metrics and Dashboards to quickly access and analyze information) and then use them to change and refine your strategic onboarding process.  Be sure you have the ability to drill down into your data so that you can find the root causes and answers to questions that will come up as the results are reviewed.

In summary:

  • Use both HR and Business outcomes of value to your enterprise
  • Be specific when defining your desired outcomes
  • Measure and report results regularly
  • Analyze and incorporate results to refine your process

With this mechanism in place, you will ensure your company has a clear definition of what your strategic onboarding process must accomplish in order to be judged as effective, that you track how well you reach your goals and that you keep improving your ability to achieve your desired outcomes.

Blog Adjourned!

2 thoughts on “Strategic Onboarding – Part 6: Onboarding is Now in Session!

  1. Just found this great report on Onboarding prepared for the US Federal Government in 2008 by the Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton: “Getting on Board – A Model for Integrating and Engaging New Employees”. I like their analogy to sports teams investing disproportionately into a new player’s rookie year, whereas some new employees only experience “opening day”.

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