The Crucial Role of Onboarding in Employee Engagement

The first few weeks and months of an employee’s experience in a new job are often considered to be the most important. It is during this formative period when the corporate culture is ingrained, the employee learns his or her duties, and initial training takes place.

Not to be confused with orientation, a full onboarding process can take upwards of a year or more, until the new hire becomes comfortable and proficient.

Experts in the human resource field have long noticed the correlation between a structured onboarding program and increased employee engagement and loyalty. From a 2017 Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) study, it indicated that new hires who are introduced as part of a well-designed onboarding program are 69% more likely to remain at the company for up to three years. In a time when skilled talent is getting harder to find and Millennials tend to leave jobs during the first couple of years, employers need to do all they can to roll out the best onboarding programs they can afford.

What’s the purpose behind employee onboarding?

You may think that onboarding is simply about introducing a new hire to the company and the responsibilities of the job. However, it’s so much more than this.

The real purpose behind employee onboarding is to create a fully engaged employee. If this doesn’t happen early enough in the new hire’s experience, you can bet they will be looking for a new job quickly. Only after the employee becomes ‘plugged in’ to the company can you say that this is someone who is productive and has a future.

Reducing turnover with onboarding

During the onboarding phase, a new hire can quickly become overwhelmed and confused. The initial excitement of starting a new job wears off and panic sets in. Studies have shown this is when many new hires will jump ship.

However, a well-structured onboarding process gives employees a pathway to success, with guided steps that they can take. They feel supported and they know what to expect. This can greatly increase their ability to ramp up knowledge quickly and move into the next productive stage.

A good onboarding process also includes giving employees a chance to provide feedback, ask questions, and get support. Having a employee engagement communication system can accomplish these needs. Introduce new hires to the employee engagement survey platform from the start. They can feel safe knowing their information will be handled with confidentiality and seriousness. This helps to make sure that employees feel valued as part of the organization from the get-go.

Onboarding should also cover some of the cultural aspects, such as how to treat peers and customers. New hires should feel valued by more seasoned employees too. Everyone should have a chance to share ideas and better ways of doing things. A strong core value of respect and inclusion helps to drive this message home.

During the first critical year on the job, new hires will be evaluating the relationships they establish with their manager and colleagues too. Social interactions can be enhanced by hosting celebrations on a regular basis and recognizing the achievements of employees. It is from this common ground that new hires will discover where they fit in with peer social groups as well as their assigned team. Bring employees who have become loners back into the social network to help them develop positive working relationships with others.

One study indicated that as many as one-third of new hires will leave a job in the first six-months from hire, in the absence of a structured onboarding program. The top four things that employees said they expected from an onboarding program included:

  • Relevant, on-the-job training opportunities
  • A good review of company policies
  • Job related technology ready for them and direct supervisor support
  • Assignment of a buddy or mentor at work

What employee engagement means to the organization

One may assume that employee engagement is focused on the happiness level of employees, making them more productive at work. But after the ‘honeymoon’ period is over, employee engagement is the glue that makes employees stick around long enough so that the organization gains a positive return on investment.

From a human resources standpoint, your organization needs a structured onboarding process that includes a way to measure employee engagement from day one.

Dealing with generational differences in onboarding

Another factor that all employers need to consider when designing onboarding is the increasing evolvement of multi-generational preferences. With five distinct generations of employees in the workplace, how feedback and information are delivered matters.

For example, older workers generally prefer face-to-face meetings with supervisors, but they are learning how to vent on social networks if they don’t get what they want. This can be prevented by guiding them towards the process for getting support. Younger generations are accustomed to using non-verbal formats, like email and text messaging, to communicate. The employee engagement system needs to be adaptable to allow for written communication to be handled promptly too.

Maintaining high levels of employee engagement throughout the onboarding, training, and subsequent evolvement phase of each new hire can have a positive impact on your bottom line. It makes sense to have a plan in place to monitor and measure this from the very first day onward.


Find out how Thymometrics can help with your onboarding processes and an embedded employee engagement culture from day one. Contact Thymometrics via email [email protected], call +1 646 760 9323 (US) or +44 (0) 1223 750 251 (Europe) or visit thymometrics.com.

Image courtesy of bugnin at freedigitalphotos.net

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