Onboarding: The path to productivity, engagement and employee retention

Onboarding matters more than any other activity for speed-to-productivity and employee retention.

Onboarding employees today has taken on a new significance. No longer just “new employee orientation,” It can set the stage for long-term success, engagement and employee retention.

A recent SHRM report stated that Onboarding has four distinct levels, called the Four C’s: Compliance, Clarification, Culture, and Connection. The problem is the order—that model needs to be stood on its head, in exactly the reverse order.

Connection comes first. First employment days are wasted with forms and compliance… stop that! Spend that first day—the entire day—connecting with the newbie in a fun, meaningful way,

Make onboarding fun!
                             Make onboarding fun!

that lends value to the new employee first, the organization a distant second. Create an environment that someone wants to be a part of… demonstrate values today that will be reinforced tomorrow. Early connections are lasting connections. Later connections are just that—late.

Culture. Speaking of values… Included in that non-compliance first day, and possibly many more, is the weaving of culture norms and organizational values in demonstrable form, so that words and actions are immediately congruent, and new employees don’t have to wonder what things like “we value innovation” really mean.

Clarification starts assimilating that new employee into the organization and their specific role. Here we help these new folks understand their place in the company, their contributed value, and their significance in the long term for doing the job they were hired to do. It also reinforces their career direction and potential path—something critical for newer employees today.

Compliance events only occur after we have produced distinct connections, shown demonstrable culture and values, and provide some real job and career clarification. Compliance is an organization-only need, and as such brings up the rear in establishing long-term value to an employee. It’s important, but only to us. The employee doesn’t need it to realize his or her value. It must be done, but minimize its significance and distraction.

Onboarding today is the real deal. This is a challenge that can allow Human Resource professionals to play an absolute critical role in the long-term success of new talent. But you’ve gotta do it right, and focus on what’s important for the talent first.

I have a client where we just implemented a rigorous onboarding effort, that includes recruitment, orientation, and also the first several weeks of after-orientation employment. It’s already had a positive effect on retention and engagement, and both of those translate into significant organizational results.

Be Brazen.

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