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Faster Isn\'t Always Better for Onboarding

People tend to live their lives at a frenetic pace, and the rush-rush mentality often crosses from the personal realm into the professional one.

March 1, 2007
Related Topics: Technology
KEYWORDS metrics / technology

People tend to live their lives at a frenetic pace, and the rush-rush mentality often crosses from the personal realm into the professional one. Onboarding employees is no exception — most, if not all, companies want new hires acclimated to their job duties, the company culture, etc., as quickly as possible.

To accelerate the onboarding process, many things can be compromised that ultimately leading to poor results down the road.

“I think onboarding is more of a long-term process,” said Jodi Starkman, ORC Worldwide director of talent management consulting. “It’s about bringing employees into a company, making sure they know what’s expected of them, making sure they know how they’re going to add value, making sure they understand how they fit.”

Further, Starkman — whose company has specialized in HR management since 1953 — said onboarding should take place over an extended period, lasting anywhere from two months to a year.

Many organizations, though, regard onboarding as a quick process that just scratches the surface of what it ideally should accomplish, she said.

“I think in a lot of organizations, people talk about onboarding, but they’re really talking about the orientation process, which really includes filling out the forms, getting your benefit issues taken care of and filling out your W-4 form for taxes,” Starkman said. “In some cases, there’s probably some content around the company, its mission, the way it’s organized, different businesses, etc. In a lot of organizations, once you’ve done that, and you’ve got your computer and your access to whatever systems you need access to, it kind of ends.”

Additionally, Starkman said efficacy should be the goal for onboarding and that too much emphasis on speed might detract from that.

“I think, fundamentally, the objective ought to be about how effective it is — have you helped somebody build a network for themselves?” she said. “It would be great if we could do that more quickly, but I don’t know fundamentally if speed should be the primary objective. You can only collapse the timeframe so much because it takes people time to learn their job but also to learn the organization and spend time with people, to figure out what questions they have. And I think you need to have those monthly or quarterly kinds of comebacks to the person to see how it’s going and take them to the next level.”

Another issue organizations should consider when they do onboarding is whether the process needs to be tailored to the unique needs of certain individuals or specific groups.

“I would definitely say one size can’t fit all, although I do think there are some general objectives or principles and probably a core program that you could probably use,” Starkman said. “Obviously, onboarding for an executive is going to be different than onboarding for an engineer or somebody for administrative work or a plant employee, but I think there are still some core objectives or philosophies that you really want to get at: It’s about retention, it’s about communicating values and vision, it’s about getting out consistent information about the organization and how to get things done.”

The effects of ineffective onboarding run the gamut from new hires leaving the organization to lower productivity.

“I think the worst-possible effect is to have people come on and think, ‘Oh my God, what did I do?’ They were so excited about this new job — and new jobs are pretty major life events — and the idea that you had wonderful thoughts about this employer and they haven’t worked out,” Starkman said. “In addition, it’s about frustration that grows. In organizations where onboarding is not done well, obviously, there’s a hit to productivity. It takes more time to get people up to speed on what they’re supposed to be doing, and it takes more time for them to find the resources they need to get things done.”

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