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Spending Enough Time Onboarding a New Employee Pays Off in 5 Big Ways

A quick Google search will reveal thousands of strategies for onboarding a new employee. And taking the “easy” way can be tempting. Every employer knows what it’s like… after months of searching through candidate pool after candidate pool, you’ve finally found the right fit for your team. Your new hire has demonstrated initiative, intelligence, and our six marks of professionalism in the workplace. It’s tempting to set up Candidate X with HR, hand them the workplace policies, and say, ‘Get to work.’ After all, they’ve presented themselves as a problem solver, right? A “quick learner” who can “get things done?”

This all may be very true, but consider this: The more you help them, the better they can help you. So in what specific ways does spending a little extra time onboarding a new employee pay off for your organization?

Twenty people with laptops at a business meeting around a wood table.

We need to reframe the process of onboarding a new employee as being part of a continuous investment. The CEO of BambooHR refers to the idea of new talent training as “an ongoing talent strategy.” But if we accept this, we should be able to draw a clear set of returns from any continuous training strategy we use. With that in mind, here are the 5 core reasons that employers should be putting more resources and energy into onboarding new employees:

  • Job Stamina
  • Team Morale
  • Reciprocal Investment
  • Curious Minds
  • Job Patriotism

The Research in Support of Extensive Employee Onboarding

Proper employee onboarding pays for itself in the not-even-so-long run. As an employer, it’s part of your job to consider the bottom line. Trust me, I get it. And few things eat away at that bottom line like ineffective new hires. In fact, data from a 2015 study by BambooHR shows that a whopping 17% of new hires reported leaving a job within three months of starting. That’s FAR from budget effective! As BambooHR CEO Ben Peterson puts it, “That means the average company is losing 1 in 6 of their new hires each month for the first three months.” Yikes! Clearly, employers need to be doing a better job onboarding new hires.

According to a team of writers working for Harvard Business Review, based on the research of Michael Watkins, author of The First 90 Days, “spending as much as a year helping new employees get up to speed in the workplace is necessary to capitalize on the skills, knowledge, and excitement they bring to the organization.” So what are the returns that make spending this amount of time and energy on training worth it?

The 5 Key Benefits of Onboarding a New Employee the Right Way

Job Stamina

This is a big one. As the statistic above shows, hiring someone does not mean you’re going to retain them for any length of time. If 1 in 6 employees of your new hires quits before three months are up, what does that mean for your productivity? The answer isn’t pretty. According to Kevin Oakes in Training Industry Quarterly, research shows an employee will not become fully productive for a year or two after coming onboard. So if you’re losing 16% of your workforce before they’re producing the way you need, that’s something to look at.

Employees who receive training and attention are more likely to feel like their job is a value add to the company. This sense of importance can help instill motivation and create a personal sense of value. Since new hires are unlikely to add a ton of direct value right off the bat in their new role, it’s important to make clear the path to greater contribution while providing opportunities for education and growth. Remember, employees up against a challenge will either rise to it or prove they weren’t the employees you wanted after all. But even the best employee, even the perfect fit for your organization, may quit from boredom, stagnation, or frustration if they aren’t properly equipped to thrive in their new role.

Team Morale

It’s not just about the new guy. How does the rest of your team feel about their new teammate? If, instead of adequately onboarding a new employee, you throw them into the mix, they may sink or they may swim. But even if they swim, guess what? That’s likely because other teammates are stepping in to help them out. While this can build bonds, it can also breed resentment. The thought process is easy to imagine:

Why should I have to help the new hire when I have a critical deadline on the horizon? Does my boss think this is my job? Wow, this guy isn’t picking up ANYTHING. He’s going to be useless in this role…

This scenario either creates a rift between management and employees, or it presents your new hire with an uphill battle to gain respect. Either way, it’s not great for your internal dynamics. It’s true that it may not play out like this every time. If you hire a superstar, they may not need training. Every scenario is a little different, but it’s good to be aware of what you’re really setting into motion by failing to address onboarding a new employee with the WHOLE team in mind.

Reciprocal Investment

Why does the average person do their job? The paycheck. Plain and simple. It’s not a very inspiring answer, but money is at the center of mind for most American workers. But have you ever worked for someone who really went the extra mile to demonstrate what you’re worth to their organization? Who imbued your role with a greater purpose? Who made sure you were set up to be as successful as possible?

If you haven’t been so lucky, let me tell you the effect that has on a new hire, fresh into an organization they know little to nothing about. A boss who treats you as more than a number on an Excel sheet and supports your individual needs in the workplace can have a real impact. Suddenly, you find that while you’re working to meet expectations for the paycheck, you’re also pushing yourself to be better. Something internally wants to prove your employer right for believing and investing in you. And that is a winning situation all around. Bigger sense of purpose. Better work. Friendlier work relationships. Higher returns.

Onboarding a new employee is more than setting them up with a desk and a couple of monitors like this employee.
Onboarding a new employee is about more than a couple days of online training.

Curious Minds

By supporting education in terms of your industry, your organization, and your team dynamics, you are fostering an environment of curiosity. And there literally is not a single profession I can imagine (with the possible exception of accounting) where curiosity doesn’t lead to better, more innovative work! Extensive training and targeted assimilation can set in motion an underlying sense of excitement for new hires. This can broaden their horizons to possibilities and contributions you may not even have in mind.

Job Patriotism

Have you ever started a new job and realized that no one else is as excited about it as you were? It’s deflating! You’ve agonized over the clothes you’ll wear, the things you’ll say… but when you ask a teammate what it’s like here, they basically tell you, ‘It’s a job...’ Managers: Beware job apathy in the workplace! This is about more than just onboarding a new employee, it’s about a culture of onboarding a new employee through consistent and ongoing training. It’s about giving your employees something to be excited and proud about. If the work isn’t all that inspiring, think about what you can do to amp up the work environment. There’s always a way to inspire the troops.

The best bosses and hiring professionals remain vigilant and dedicated to maintaining a sense of pride in the workplace. Employees don’t need to be doing cartwheels into the office on Monday morning (they probably shouldn’t for liability reasons), but some healthy job patriotism can go a long way. And it all starts with that first introduction to the workplace.

Final Thoughts: Onboarding a New Employee

It’s easy to lose track of some things as a leader in the workplace. You’re probably wearing a lot of hats and juggling a lot of projects. But when you make onboarding a new employee for true success a policy priority, you’re actually creating a long-term solution to being stretched so thin. Healthy and happy employees will make your job easier 100% of the time. And your organization will only flourish when those employees are set up for success, proud of their work, and excited to contribute more to a specific vision each and every day.

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