Onboarding for Acculturation Move Beyond Transactional Process to Enable Acculturation, Engagement, Productivity and Retention

SilkRoad technology recently conducted a survey, “The State of Talent Management: Developing the Agile Workforce, Driving Business Value,” asking over 850 HR professionals a series of questions to uncover what they understand about aligning HR program goals with greater business objectives. One area of focus for the survey was onboarding -“ a good place for alignment to begin.

When asked to list their top three goals for onboarding, the majority (69 percent) of respondents answered, “Ensure that employees are engaged with and socialized into the company culture.” The second highest response, from 60 percent of respondents, was “Align employees with the priorities and goals of the organization.” With these objectives in mind, HR can begin to develop a strategy by which employees are continuously engaged, developed and rewarded.

Both acculturation and alignment are key ingredients to a successful onboarding program that will have a lasting impact. However, they also require moving beyond transactional necessities, which tend to overwhelm a new hire’s first day in the office. Does the process you’re accustomed to look something like: tour and staff introductions, paperwork, overview of policies, paperwork, lunch, paperwork? If so, you’re likely not achieving engagement, or long-term retention.

Day one, and even earlier, is not only time for a new hire to impress his or her new colleagues, but also the time for companies and managers to begin engaging and installing company values in their new hires. Here’s how:

Pre-hire preparation. If you’ve made the right hire you’re likely excitedly awaiting their first day, and they, in turn, are looking forward to becoming an integrated member of the team. That process can be kick-started in advance. Corresponding with an email that invites the new hire to connect with the team on LinkedIn, or other social sites the organization uses, enables personal connections. Forming those relationships makes the workplace environment sticky for its inhabitants, improving retention and engagement.

Giving new hires access to the profiles of their colleagues takes some of the edge off on day one. There will be less anxiety about remembering names during an introduction and more focus on understanding the relationship with and between their teammates. But the preparation isn’t all fun and games -“ it should also include gathering all of the required forms. The I-9’s, tax documents, emergency contacts, direct deposit and forms with signatures needed should be well organized, and ideally already populated with information if you don’t have an electronic system. This will help day one become less about transactions and more about setting the stage for the work environment at the company.

Social onboarding. In the survey, the majority of HR professionals listed acculturation, or ensuring employees are engaged with and socialized into company culture, as the top goal during onboarding, and rightfully so. By immersing employees into the organizational culture, they are able to reach full productivity in a shorter time span.

Many companies have begun to employ multimedia such as video introductions from a CEO and interactive videos of business culture and organization to showcase their mission statements in action. Companies are also focusing on the importance of an immediate mentor. With this relationship, the new hire has a line of support for questions about anything from ongoing projects to basic skills, or navigating the company’s org chart to locate co-workers for collaboration. If an employee is going to be impactful, they need to know and have access to the other key players on the team. The sooner they do, the sooner they’ll reach full productivity.

Immediate engagement. Don’t let a new hire’s first day be a bore. Look to supplement the time reserved for paperwork and general introductions with time to start projects and complete a real assignment. Show, from day one, that the new employee was brought on because their intelligence and skills are valued. Employees value opportunity and career growth.

In the “2011 Employee Engagement Report” by Blessing White, when asked why respondents would leave a job, career opportunity was the top reason. To motivate employees to work toward a high performance level, introduce both meaningful and challenging work immediately, as well as a comprehensive training plan. One-on-one sessions with teammates, conferences and trade shows, or online learning courses will help new hires succeed and be motivated in their positions.

Goal alignment. Performance management begins on day one, as an organization gains commitment from a new hire. For this to happen, they must understand and buy into the long-term business objectives, know exactly what their goals are and most importantly, understand how they will impact the greater business goals.

The cascade of goals should be well articulated and instilled on day one by management -“ both in writing and verbally. And, to follow up, the process for tracking alignment to those goals should be delivered in the following days. Employees are engaged when clear performance expectations are set up front and regularly revisited.

In the talent management survey, employee retention, time-to-productivity, reducing redundant efforts, and improving customer service -“ all clear business goals -“ ranked lower than the goal of socializing employees into the organizational culture, and forms management (transaction onboarding) was the most common element in the process. By keeping these onboarding and engagement strategies in mind, HR can better align their programs with business goal and create a solution to those evergreen challenges that organizations will continue to face.

Tracy McCarthy brings more than 25 years of HR and business leadership experience to SilkRoad technology, where she is responsible for the overall strategic direction of human resource initiatives. The State of Talent Management survey can be accessed at www.silkroad.com/Resources/eBooks.html. McCarthy can be reached via www.silkroad.com.

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Richard Blanchard
Rick is the Managing Editor of Corp! magazine. He has worked in reporting and editing roles at the Port Huron Times Herald, Lansing State Journal and The Detroit News, where he was most recently assistant business editor. A native of Michigan, Richard also worked in Washington state as a reporter, photographer and editor at the Anacortes American. He received a bachelor of arts from the University of Michigan and a master’s in accountancy from the University of Phoenix.