4 new onboarding frameworks to help prevent ‘The Great Regret’

U.S. employers are not making the grade when onboarding new employees in today’s COVID-driven hybrid/remote work era, according to new research from Eagle Hill Consulting.

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Specifically, recent new hires report that their onboarding fell short in adequately providing information about many of the basics that employees say they need to be successful, including understanding relationship building (71%), organizational culture (62%), how to use technology to do their job (54%) and their benefits (46%).

The findings, based on the Eagle Hill Onboarding Survey 2022 conducted by Ipsos in February, included 782 respondents from a random sample of employees across the U.S. They all had started a new job in the last 18 months.

Melissa Jezior, Eagle Hill Consulting
Melissa Jezior, Eagle Hill Consulting

Melissa Jezior, president and CEO of Eagle Hill Consulting, notes that the survey sentiment comes as employers are experiencing an unprecedented surge in onboarding in a post-Great Resignation landscape. For example, the number of Americans quitting their jobs continues to rise, up to 4.4 million in February, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

The research also found that only 50% of workers expect to be at the same job three years from now. Also, about 49% of employees who started a new job are not getting trained in person—it’s either virtual (31%) or hybrid (18%).

“Onboarding is so much more than paperwork and checklists,” Jezior says. “What you don’t want is for your company to become ‘The Great Regret’ for new employees because of an onboarding failure.”

Jezior adds that when done wrong, onboarding can damage performance and morale, which often drives employees right out the door. Done right, she says, onboarding can set employees up for success in terms of strengthening their career development, enabling them to live your culture and values, and developing strong relationships across the organization.

“Ultimately, strategic onboarding helps retain employees, creates an engaged workforce, and boosts organizational and individual performance,” she says.

Other findings of what employees want during their first month on the job include:

  • 83% want to know more about how performance is measured;
  • 76% want more information on mental and physical health resources;
  • 75% want more opportunities to make personal connections with team members;
  • 74% want more guidance on how to be successful in the corporate culture;
  • 74% want more details on how workplace practices could change due to the pandemic, such as moving from remote to hybrid work models; and
  • 68% want more tips on how to network in remote or hybrid settings.

Related: 6 strategies to improve the onboarding process for hybrid workers

With virtual and hybrid onboarding on the rise, Eagle Hill’s Jezior offers some ways—in her report on the research—that HR leaders can improve the process:

  1. Go beyond paperwork. Rethink onboarding to create a sense of belonging for people. Hold virtual events to bring the company culture to life through activities that reflect its core values. Plan to have new hires work on actual work activities with teams either in-person or using collaboration tools. Finally, she suggests organizing virtual team lunches to create informal relationship-building opportunities.

2. Make it personal and meaningful. Help new employees not only see how their role supports the organization’s purpose, but how the organization is dedicated to their well-being and success. Highlighting the unique value proposition for workers and how the organization helps build careers, provides development opportunities and maintains a focus on people’s mental and physical wellness all are key, she says.

3. Build a longer tail to onboarding. Consider extending onboarding beyond a single event by creating a series of events and experiences for helping employees feel connected to the organization. In this framing, Jezior says, think about how onboarding should look for the first year and regularly offer experiences that continue to build employees’ affinity for the organization.

4. Pinpoint the right people. Finally, create repeatable processes and frameworks to engage managers, supervisors and team members in onboarding new employees. She says this can help ensure that people know what their role is and can clearly show employees how their day-to-day work and their team connect to the larger business. Thread both in-person and virtual connection points into the framework.

“What’s key for employers is to stop thinking about onboarding as just a short-term human resources function,” Jezior said. “Successfully folding new hires into your organization happens over time with many people involved, which is all the more complex given the growth of remote and hybrid work.”

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Tom Starner
Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be reached at [email protected]