The widening gap between onboarding expectations and reality

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Sanne Villemoes

Information about Sanne is on the way

2018-10-17 | Sanne Villemoes

Do your onboarding process needs a reality check? You might believe that you got everything in place and that you are fulfilling your new employees’ expectations, however, you might want to reconsider. Let us elaborate.

You properly know that employees who are well prepared for their first day at work often find their integration process smoother and also have a more positive impression of their new employer. However, at one in three companies, new employees encounter difficulties during their first period of time in the job. They are often left with a million questions and unclear of what to do.

These are some of the most important conclusions from a recent study conducted by professor Dirk Buyens and researcher Astrid Vandenbroucke of Vlerick Business School. The study researched the use of onboarding processes where 143 employees and 115 HR professionals were interviewed.

The employees’ experience – being new at a company

We have said it before but we happily say it again: the employer should remain in touch with their new employee from the time the contract is signed to their first day on the job and continue the integration process from here to ensure that everything is organised behind the scenes to certify that the new employee has a great integration experience and can get to work as soon as possible. Hence, a good pre- and onboarding experience is vital. However, the research shows that 40% of the companies provide insufficient support and information to the new employees before their first day at work.

What goes wrong?

  • 66% believe that they got insufficient information about specific expectations, tasks and the results to be achieved.
  • 64% believe that they lack clarity about their new role.
  • 57% state that they were missing computer, phone, office materials or desk at their first day; this was resolved for half of the respondents within the week, however, in 43% of the cases, it took more than a week to be fully up and running at an operational level.

Furthermore, the study has found that the employees indicate that they are not given the necessary time for training during their first weeks and months and getting to know their new colleagues is often difficult due to that no one in the company take the responsibility of introducing them. Actually, 34% of the respondents state that they did not go through an official onboarding process even though that 83% express that it would be very useful due to that they believe that such a process contributes to a positive mindset and experience, greater motivation and a rapid integration into the company’s culture. Instead, for 55% it took three months until they had an idea of the company’s culture, mission, and values – something which could have been changed with a simple and easy-to-implement preboarding process.

Finally, 58% expressed that they felt that their manager of superior was not invested in their needs. According to Astrid Vandenbroucke, managers should be more aware of the fact that adjusting to a new employee takes time, however, the more accessible they are, the sooner the new employee will be contributing to the company and position.

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HR’s point of view – companies and onboarding

According to the study, and our own first-hand experience, HR professionals do believe that a good onboarding process will help integrate new employees more quickly and 77% believe that onboarding will be more important. Actually, the HR professionals are convinced that a good onboarding experience is beneficial:

  • 74% state that employees reach time-to-performance sooner
  • 86% believe that employees feel integrated more quickly
  • 41% think it saves money; in fact, the study found that the longer the process, the higher the savings (nevertheless, only 5% of the companies continuously invest in onboarding)
  • 53% are assured that the employee will stay at the company longer as a result.

However, they struggle with several practical challenges:

  • 49% express lack of good monitoring of the employees.
  • 43% miss clarity about who is responsible for the onboarding process.
  • 48% state that there is an inconsistent approach to and application of onboarding across the company.
  • 43% do not know how to measure the success and effectiveness of the onboarding process.

Already here, we see a huge challenge on how HR professionals believe that onboarding is of vital importance to the employee’s and company’s success, however, they lack the right tools and approach to do so.

Additionally, another challenge arises when the HR professionals were asked about their perception of the challenges that new employees face. Here, 61% of the HR professionals expressed that they believe that new employees find it difficult to integrate into the company culture. However, only 37% of the employee respondents perceived this as in issue. Likewise, HR professionals believed only 29% of the new employees had questions about their new position, however, a whopping 64% of the employees indicated confusion about their new position and their role herein.

Surprised? We are. Surprised that there is such a gap between the HR professionals perception of the employees in the onboarding process and the reality of how employees experience it.

So, how can we change this? How can we improve the employee and employer experience and create a stronger foundation for both?

According to the study, one of the ways is technology.

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Why technology is the future

Almost every company in the study expressed that they believe that technology can be a useful tool in onboarding. The study found that the reason why companies utilise technology is:

  • To save time and reduce administration
  • To involve the new employees more actively
  • To increase communication between employee and employer
  • To integrate digital training
  • To gather data in order to improve the process

__We could not agree more. __

However, surprisingly, only one in three companies in the study used technology in their onboarding process either through specific software, web application, own system development or a mixture of software and web. One of the main reasons why the companies expressed that they are reticent when it comes to switching to a technological solution is because of the cost.

However, who said that it needs to be costly to improve your onboarding process?

We do not…

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