Onboarding in an Organization

Onboarding – What to Pay Attention to? 

William J. Rothwell, Ph.D., SPHR, Honorary Member CPLP

Onboarding can be defined as the process through which employees learn about their job responsibilities, organizational culture, and everyone’s efforts to make them feel “welcome” in the team. What should be included in the organizational introduction process? Why is this so important today? How should tasks be divided in this process? This article answers these questions.

Onboarding – Socialization and Personalization Simultaneously

The introduction to a company provides an excellent opportunity to facilitate the employee’s socialization into the organizational culture. New employees are socialized both formally and informally. Formal methods may include presentations from HR departments, managers, trainers during onboarding training sessions. Informal methods may include casual conversations with coworkers, anecdotes shared by coworkers about the organization, managers, and other employees. By combining these methods – both formal and informal – the employee is socialized into the organizational culture.

The onboarding program typically includes:

✅ Mission and goals of the organization

✅ Organizational structure

✅ Policies, processes, and work rules

✅ Compensation and benefits-related issues

✅ Job description and individual performance goals

✅ Training schedule

✅ Physical or virtual tours of the workplace, facilities

✅ Introduction to key individuals and colleagues

✅ Familiarization with the individual’s workspace

✅ Important information on where to find resources

✅ Safety regulations

✅ Health-related issues

Of course, with each new employee, the organizational culture also undergoes slight changes. This process is the opposite of socialization and is called personalization. Who the new employee is also affects the organization. Personalization is most significant for individuals hired in higher managerial positions.

Most organizations handle these basic issues well. One study found that about 95% of all American companies offer some form of formal onboarding.

However, formal introduction alone is not enough. New employees should integrate with other employees and feel welcome and appreciated. This means they should be invited to social events and get to know the people they work with.

One way to achieve this goal is to divide roles in the onboarding process into formal mentor/trainer and peer mentor, or so-called buddy. The role of the formal trainer is to help the new person “get into the role” as quickly as possible. This is usually done through planned hands-on training. In contrast, the buddy’s role is to make the new person feel welcome in the workplace by closer and more distant colleagues.

Why is onboarding so important?

The quality of onboarding is crucial. If hands-on training is done incorrectly or haphazardly, it will simply take longer for the employee to reach full productivity. This translates into costs, time, and can also lead to increased overtime and stress on overloaded coworkers. If informal socialization is done incorrectly, the newly hired person begins to build negative impressions about the organization they work for. This, in turn, can lead to early decisions to seek other opportunities.

It is widely known that the most likely resignees are those who have been hired last. In the context of inventory control, there is a principle called “Last In, First Out” (LIFO). The same principle applies to employee turnover. The most likely resignees are those who were hired last.

Why does this happen? It’s simple. First, they probably still have their CVs “in circulation” among potential employers from the previous job search process. Not all employers contact job candidates at the same time. Therefore, individuals hired last have the best chance of receiving new job offers. Second, individuals recently hired have the least to lose by leaving the company because they have the fewest built-up social relationships with coworkers.

To increase employee retention, it’s important to make them feel welcome. This is especially true for highly talented individuals, as they are the most desirable employees and may have the least to lose if they are hired last.

Roles Division in Onboarding?

The HR department should familiarize employees with organizational policies, work rules, compensation, benefits, and the overall organizational scheme.

The direct supervisor of the new employee should clearly define job responsibilities and performance requirements.

The trainer/mentor should explain daily job requirements and teach task or process execution.

The buddy should ensure that the newly hired person feels welcome by introducing coworkers and ensuring that the new employee is invited to social events (formal, like company picnics, or informal, like Friday night drinks).

After clarifying responsibilities, the HR team should ensure that each group is doing what they should be doing. One way to ensure this is to provide training for each group on what they should be doing and how they should be doing it.

William J. Rothwell, Ph.D., SPHR, Honorary Member CPLP