8 February 2016

How to create an effective employee onboarding strategy

What can you do to create an effective employee onboarding programme that actually works, in order to minimise expensive staff turnovers?

People’s careers are constantly changing: it’s estimated that 25% of the working population undergoes some type of career transition every year. Combine this with the fact that turnover can be extremely expensive- the average cost of losing and hiring a new employee costs around £30,000, and it’s easy to understand the need to integrate new staff into their work environment as quickly as possible.

Onboarding, a formalised process used to help new hires adjust to their new roles swiftly and smoothly whilst learning the skills and behaviours needed to work effectively within an organisation, is a hot topic in HR right now.

It makes sense. An employee onboarding programme is the first opportunity you have to get new starters on the right track. You’ve invested time and money in going through the hiring process so you want to make sure your new employee fits into the organisation quickly. By doing so, they’ll become more productive and more engaged, maximising your return on investment; which is what you hired them for!

But far too many companies are failing to invest in a properly effective onboarding programme, choosing a system that’s outdated and unproductive. You can’t just drop in employees after a few hours of ‘training’ and expect them to be good at their job. Employees need to be properly integrated- not just ‘slotted’ into their new company or role.

So what can you do create an effective employee onboarding programmes that actually works, in order to minimize expensive turnovers? Follow these simple steps:

Separate the induction process

Induction and onboarding may seem similar but they actually aren’t. An induction should be used as an initial top level introduction to the new starter of the actual company, its facilities, technology and so on. It should include some basic training so that the employee can start functioning (just at minimum level) straight away. But a more formal onboarding approach should be created that’s well planned and ongoing.

Tailor it to the individual

Since no two employees are the same, the first step in the onboarding process should be to assess your new starter’s skill set and identify their strengths, attitudes and willingness/ability to work with others. By understanding how each individual operates, you can personalise your plan and build out a long term play to determine where and how your new starter will fit into the company as a whole.

It can be tempting to do a en masse training with all new starters to save time and money, but since everyone learns at a different pace, this can prove ineffective and make it difficult to cater to the individual’s needs.  Keep it flexible and tailor the whole process so your employees can stand on their own two feet sooner.

Introduce people

As simple as they may sound, it can often be forgotten about in the hustle and bustle of working life.  Introducing your new starter not only to their new team, but to influential employees or external partners will begin the integration process. This also facilitates the training process, using interaction with others to help employees ‘learn on the job’.

Make it little and often

One of the biggest challenges a new employee faces is simply information overload. With so many new experiences and so much to learn it can be overwhelming and difficult to retain It all. Schedule your onboarding it smaller segments and tailor it to suit your new starter’s learning speed. Plus, since you want your new employee to stay in their role for a while, you should be willing to spend enough time on the process. Effective onboarding should last between three months and one year; by creating a ‘little and often’, sustained approach throughout this process you’ll have a much higher chance of success.

Use a ‘hands on’ approach

News flash: PowerPoints, lectures and videos are outdated. And when it comes to onboarding, they don’t work. Since most people retain information better when they’ve applied it in a practical way, your new starters should be as hands on as possible. Encourage them to interact with their trainers and onboarding instructions, all the while asking questions to clarify or expand on ideas. They say it takes two to tango and onboarding is just the same!

Track progress

The only way you’ll know if your employee onboarding programme is truly effective is if you carry out some testing. Using a standardised metric system will enable you to monitor an individual’s progress and work out if the process is having the desire effect. If not, you’ll be in a better position to understand what needs to be monitored to maximise success.

Keep them accountable

They may be new but your new employees are still paid members of staff.  They should take overall responsibility for their engagement in the onboarding process and although with some leeway, be held accountable for their actions in the same way other employees would.


Since your employees probably won’t be working alone once they’ve completed their training, it’s crucial that you make the onboarding process a social one. This will help with on the job training and it’ll help employees to build social bonds with their colleagues and the organisation itself.

Following these steps and taking the time to fully train and incorporate new starters into your organisation will mean your fully investing in your company’s future. Fully onboarded employees are happier in their jobs and therefore more likely to be in it for the long haul. These people are a far more effective part of your company’s success than those who’ve not been through the crucial onboarding process.

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