Starting a new job is like diving into a swimming pool. A refreshing and invigorating dive can make for a memorable experience, while a belly flop can leave you in pain and feeling embarrassed. The onboarding process is the dive, and just like a dive, when done poorly, it can leave lasting consequences on new hires, especially remote and hybrid workers. A recent survey by Paychex reveals the effects of poor onboarding on new employees and their inclination to stick around.
First Impressions Matter: The Onboarding Experience
Picture this: you’re attending a party, and the host greets you with a warm welcome, introduces you to the guests, and offers you a drink. You’d feel comfortable and well-received, right? Onboarding should be like that – a seamless, positive, and engaging experience. But the reality is different for many employees.
Only 52% of new hires feel satisfied with their onboarding experience, with 32% finding it confusing and 22% disorganized. Remote workers fare worse, with 36% of them finding the process baffling. It’s like trying to assemble an IKEA furniture without the instructions.
Interestingly, 54% of finance industry employees are most likely to be satisfied with their onboarding experience, compared to only 31% of employees in the business industry. Generationally, Gen Zers are the happiest (62%) while Gen Xers lag behind (43%). This generational gap is a crucial factor for HR departments to consider while designing their onboarding processes.
Onboarding Gone Wrong: The Fallout
A poor onboarding experience is like an ill-fitting shoe; it leaves employees feeling uncomfortable and dejected. The most significant impact is that 52% of new hires feel undertrained, with small company employees (66%) and remote workers (63%) suffering the most. It’s like trying to win a marathon with flip-flops.
The generational factor also plays a role, with 58% of Gen X feeling undertrained compared to 45% of millennials. Addressing these gaps is vital for companies to retain their workforce and maintain productivity.
Pushing New Hires Out the Door
An undertrained and disoriented new hire is like a fish out of water – they’ll flop around, gasping for air, and looking for an escape. In this case, escape means quitting. A staggering 50% of newly hired employees plan to leave their job soon, skyrocketing to 80% for those feeling undertrained due to poor onboarding. On the flip side, only 7% of well-trained employees plan to leave soon.
Size does matter, as small-company employees are more likely to quit (59%) compared to those in large companies (38%). Surprisingly, despite feeling satisfied with their onboarding, Gen Zers are the most likely to plan a swift exit (58%). It seems that onboarding is a crucial make-or-break experience for new hires, particularly for older generations.
Re-onboarding is like giving your employees a second chance at a first impression. By taking all employees through the onboarding process again, you can re-engage and revitalize your team. The results are impressive: employees become more focused (47%), energized (42%), productive (34%), and efficient (33%). Plus, re-onboarding increases employee retention by a whopping 43%.
Case Studies of Poor Onboarding
I’ve seen a number of case studies of poor onboarding harming companies. For example, a middle-market SaaS firm experienced high turnover rates among its remote and hybrid employees due to a poorly executed onboarding process. New hires were not provided with clear guidelines, expectations, or adequate training. As a result, employees felt undertrained and undervalued, leading to a lack of engagement and commitment to the organization. Within six months, the company saw a 60% turnover rate among remote and hybrid employees, leading to significant recruitment and training costs.
A large marketing agency encountered growth challenges due to their poor onboarding process for remote and hybrid workers. New employees were not equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in their roles, leading to subpar work quality and missed deadlines. The company’s reputation suffered as clients became dissatisfied with the level of service provided. The agency struggled to attract new clients and retain existing ones, which hindered their growth and expansion plans.
A mid-sized financial services firm faced compliance issues due to poor onboarding of its remote and hybrid employees. The onboarding process did not adequately cover essential policies, procedures, and legal requirements, leading to errors and oversights by the new hires. The firm was eventually penalized by regulatory bodies for non-compliance, causing financial strain and damage to their professional reputation.
In each of these case studies, the organizations faced significant challenges due to poor onboarding of remote and hybrid workers. Proper onboarding is crucial to ensure employee satisfaction, productivity, and company success in today’s increasingly remote and hybrid work environments.
The Psychological Pitfalls of Onboarding
In addition to the logistical challenges of onboarding new remote and hybrid hires, cognitive biases can also play a significant role in shaping the experience. These biases can cloud judgment, hinder decision-making, and create misconceptions about new employees’ performance and potential. Let’s explore two specific cognitive biases and their impact on the onboarding process: the halo effect and optimism bias.
The halo effect occurs when an individual’s positive qualities or achievements in one area influence our perception of them in other areas. In the context of onboarding, a new hire with an impressive resume or a glowing recommendation might be seen as more competent and capable than they actually are. This can lead to unrealistic expectations and a lack of appropriate training and support during the onboarding process.
For example, a remote employee who is an expert in their field may be assumed to excel in all aspects of their job, including time management and communication skills. However, they may struggle with the unique challenges of remote work, such as staying organized and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Failing to recognize these potential shortcomings due to the halo effect can lead to insufficient support and training, ultimately affecting the new hire’s performance and job satisfaction.
To combat the halo effect, it’s essential to provide equal training and support to all new hires, regardless of their past achievements or qualifications. This ensures that each employee receives the necessary resources to succeed in their role, setting them up for long-term success.
Optimism bias is the tendency to overestimate the likelihood of positive outcomes and underestimate the probability of negative ones. In the onboarding process, this bias can manifest in several ways, such as underestimating the time and resources required for effective onboarding or assuming that new employees will easily adapt to their new work environment without much support.
For instance, a manager might be overly optimistic about a hybrid employee’s ability to balance their time between the office and remote work. This misplaced confidence can result in inadequate training and support, causing the employee to struggle with time management, communication, and collaboration.
To counter optimism bias, it’s crucial to approach the onboarding process with a realistic mindset, recognizing the potential challenges that new hires might face, especially in remote and hybrid work settings. By proactively addressing these issues and providing appropriate training and resources, you can create a more supportive and successful onboarding experience for your new employees.
How to Optimize Your Onboarding Process
Having worked with a number of large and middle-market companies to optimize their onboarding process for hybrid and remote staff, I can say that a successful onboarding process should be like a warm embrace, making new employees feel welcomed, informed, and valued. By refining the onboarding process, you can boost employee retention, morale, and productivity. Customizable onboarding software and tailored approaches can help create a smoother experience for all employees, especially remote and hybrid workers who require extra attention. By focusing on the unique needs of employees in different industries, generations, and company sizes, you can ensure that everyone has the support and resources they need to succeed.
Here are some tips to enhance your onboarding process:
Prepare a Comprehensive Onboarding Plan
Develop a thorough onboarding plan that encompasses all aspects of a new hire’s integration into the company. This should include an overview of the organization’s culture, values, and mission; introductions to team members and key stakeholders; a detailed explanation of the employee’s job function, expectations, and performance metrics; and any necessary administrative tasks, such as paperwork and IT setup. By providing a comprehensive plan, you set a clear path for new employees to follow, ensuring they have the necessary tools and information to excel in their roles.
For example, during the first week, schedule an orientation session to introduce the company’s culture, values, and mission. Arrange for new hires to meet their team members and key stakeholders, such as managers or department heads. Provide a detailed job description outlining the employee’s responsibilities, goals, and performance metrics. Ensure that administrative tasks, like paperwork and IT setup, are completed efficiently. A well-organized onboarding plan, such as Google’s two-week program called “Noogler Orientation,” can effectively set up new employees for success by addressing all aspects of their roles.
Assign Buddies or Mentors
To foster a supportive and welcoming environment, pair new hires with experienced colleagues who can serve as buddies or mentors. These individuals can act as a go-to resource for answering questions, offering guidance, and sharing insider tips on navigating the company culture. By establishing a strong connection between new hires and seasoned employees, you can help to build a sense of community and belonging within the organization.
As a case in point, at Salesforce, the “Trailhead Buddy” program pairs new hires with seasoned employees who can help them navigate the company culture, answer questions, and provide guidance. By establishing these relationships early on, new employees can quickly acclimate to their roles and feel more connected to the organization, fostering a sense of belonging and camaraderie.
Offer Continuous Training and Support
Recognize that onboarding is an ongoing process and provide continuous training and support for new hires as they acclimate to their roles. This may include offering regular check-ins, providing access to online learning resources, organizing workshops, or hosting team-building events. By investing in the continuous growth and development of new employees, you can help them to feel empowered, engaged, and more likely to succeed in their roles, especially for remote or hybrid workers who may face unique challenges.
Take an example from IBM, which offers a comprehensive onboarding program that includes regular check-ins, access to online learning resources, workshops, and team-building events to help new employees acclimate to their roles. By focusing on the continuous growth and development of new employees, companies can ensure that they feel empowered and engaged in their work, especially for remote or hybrid workers who may require additional support.
Encourage Open Communication
Promote a culture of open communication by encouraging new hires to express their thoughts, ask questions, and seek assistance when necessary. This can be achieved through regular meetings, anonymous feedback channels, or establishing an open-door policy for management. By fostering a culture of transparency and dialogue, you can create an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas and concerns, ultimately contributing to a more collaborative and effective workplace.
For instance, at Asana, new hires are encouraged to ask questions and share their thoughts during weekly team meetings, fostering a sense of trust and transparency within the team. By creating an environment where employees feel comfortable expressing their ideas and concerns, companies can promote a more collaborative and effective workplace.
Gather Feedback and Iterate
Continuously assess the effectiveness of your onboarding process by soliciting feedback from new hires and making improvements based on their input. This may involve conducting surveys, hosting focus groups, or holding individual feedback sessions to gather insights on what worked well and what could be improved. By regularly evaluating and refining your onboarding process, you can ensure that it remains relevant, engaging, and effective in setting up new employees for success.
For example, Airbnb conducts surveys and focus groups to collect insights on the onboarding experience, using this information to refine their process. By continually iterating and adapting the onboarding program, companies can ensure that it remains effective in setting up new employees for success, ultimately leading to higher employee satisfaction and retention rates.
A thoughtful and engaging onboarding experience is the foundation for employee success, particularly for remote and hybrid workers who face unique challenges. By investing in a comprehensive onboarding process and providing ongoing support, companies can foster a motivated, well-trained, and loyal workforce that is ready to contribute to the organization’s growth and success. Just like a well-executed dive, the right onboarding process can make a splash and leave a lasting impression on your new hires.
Key Take-AwayEffective onboarding is crucial. Only 52% are satisfied, with 32% finding it confusing. Poor onboarding leaves 52% feeling undertrained, impacting retention and productivity. Generational differences highlight the need for tailored approaches. Click To Tweet
Dr. Gleb Tsipursky was lauded as “Office Whisperer” and “Hybrid Expert” by The New York Times for helping leaders use hybrid work to improve retention and productivity while cutting costs. He serves as the CEO of the boutique future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts. Dr. Gleb wrote the first book on returning to the office and leading hybrid teams after the pandemic, his best-seller Returning to the Office and Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage (Intentional Insights, 2021). He authored seven books in total, and is best know for his global bestseller, Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters (Career Press, 2019). His cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 650 articles and 550 interviews in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, USA Today, CBS News, Fox News, Time, Business Insider, Fortune, and elsewhere. His writing was translated into Chinese, Korean, German, Russian, Polish, Spanish, French, and other languages. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training for Fortune 500 companies from Aflac to Xerox. It also comes from over 15 years in academia as a behavioral scientist, with 8 years as a lecturer at UNC-Chapel Hill and 7 years as a professor at Ohio State. A proud Ukrainian American, Dr. Gleb lives in Columbus, Ohio. In his free time, he makes sure to spend abundant quality time with his wife to avoid his personal life turning into a disaster. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, follow him on LinkedIn @dr-gleb-tsipursky, Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Facebook @DrGlebTsipursky, Medium @dr_gleb_tsipursky, YouTube, and RSS, and get a free copy of the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace by signing up for the free Wise Decision Maker Course at https://disasteravoidanceexperts.com/newsletter/.