The Importance of Onboarding New Hires

By Bob Kelleher

Employee engagement in your firm can begin within the first few days of a new hire’s time with you. Studies show that roughly 33 percent of employees decide to stay onboard with a firm or jump ship within their first 30 days of employment. Given this, you’d think companies would work to put their best foot forward with new hires through effective onboarding (new-hire orientation).

Surprisingly, however, many firms treat onboarding like a chore, sort of like laundry. To them, it’s a necessary evil — something that just gets done before an employee becomes productive. For most organizations, onboarding is a matter of shutting the new recruit in a room by himself or with other lonely souls (read: additional new hires) in a conference room, reviewing and filling out mountains of paperwork.

The onboarding process is often even worse in smaller companies or satellite locations of a larger firm. These locations may not have an HR presence, so the onboarding role usually defaults to the receptionist, administrative assistant, or worse, whoever draws the short straw. (“Hey Mickey! It’s your turn to greet the new hire and help her with her paperwork!”)

The fact is, effective onboarding is key to engaging new hires. An effective onboarding enables new hires to grasp the firm’s culture, history, customer base, performance expectations, job requirements, communication expectations, and more. The best onboarding programs are well planned out in advance, with special attention given to “what” (the mountains of paperwork that must be completed), the “how” (the environment and handling of the onboarding process), and the “who” (the team with whom the new hire will be working).

As an example, onboarding is so critical to Zappos, the notable e-commerce firm, that it puts all new employees through three weeks of company orientation before they start their new job, even going so far as to pay these new hires $3,000 if they decide not to stick with the company afterward.

In other words, Zappos understands that the company’s culture is so important that they’re willing to pay you to leave if you determine you aren’t a cultural fit. (Of course, people rarely take Zappos up on its offer, because Zappos does an outstanding job of determining a person’s cultural fit during the interviewing and selection stage.)