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by Mike McCurdy
GEA Executive Director

Welcome On Board! (Here’s your life preserver)

Keith arrived for his first day of work at the new company. He was excited and still a little surprised that a recruiter had called with not one, but two openings. The interviews at both firms went well, and Keith made a decision to go with the company offer that just seemed a slight bit sweeter. Now it was time to report in and learn the ropes.

As expected, there was paperwork to fill out and the obligatory review of insurance program and company policies. The HR associate provided a short tour of the building and Keith figured out where the restrooms were located. Then the waiting started. His new department manager wasn’t aware that Keith would be arriving today. Nothing was prepared – no office, no desk, no computer, no passwords. At lunchtime, Keith considered calling the recruiter back to see if the other position was still open.

Wow! What a welcome!

Bad experiences stick with us. You remember the time you arrived in a strange city and the car rental company had no record of your reservation. What about the party where everyone knew everyone, except you? The first impressions at a new job stick the same way, and they can be a strong influence on a new employee’s ability to engage and contribute in his or her new position.

With the unemployment rate for many skilled positions at less than 2%, the time required and cost for acquiring new talent is increasing.  According to CEB Management, the time to hire for the average business role has increased by 26 days since 2010.1 SHRM’s 2016 Human Capital Benchmarking Report reports the average cost/hire for US businesses at $4,192, with positions requiring an average 42 days to fill.2

At the same time, the prospects for reducing turnover and increasing tenure don’t look so great. According to IBM research:

  • One in six employees (16%) are actively looking for a new job
  • 19% of Millennials are actively seeking new employment.
  • 51%  are passively open to a new opportunity.3

No Mystery: Positive Experience = Higher Retention and Better Results

Another interesting stat from IBM’s research – Employees with the most positive experiences at work are three times less likely to be searching for a new job (9 percent vs. 31 percent).4  A structured onboarding program starts every new employee off with a positive experience.

Here’s the point: It doesn’t make sense to increase efforts and expense incurred to recruit if there isn’t an equal effort to improve employee retention and success. A structured onboarding program can do just that. A well-conceived on boarding program starts every new employee off with a positive experience.  Statistics compiled by Click Boarding, an onboarding software company, indicate that a structured onboarding process can make a big difference:

  • 91% first year retention
  • Higher employee engagement
  • Increased revenue and customer satisfaction
  • 58% more likely to retain employees after three years5

What are Successful Employers Doing?

Proactive employers are moving from conventional orientation to structured and effective onboarding programs. Onboarding goes beyond policies, dress codes, and paperwork. It is a true process that introduces the new employee to the company. The process should familiarize new team members with the company culture – values and how the customers and community are served. The objective is to make sure that the positive image that was conveyed during the recruitment process is confirmed during the first weeks of employment.

Distributing life preservers on the first day of work isn’t part of the process.

Here’s are some of the elements of a good onboarding program:

  1. Required paperwork is sent to the new employee before Day 1. This provides more time to understand insurance programs and company information. Employees can make decisions and complete the paperwork accurately before they arrive for work.
  2. New employees are sent a copy of the departmental organizational chart and information about the company, culture, and the products and services that are provided to clients and customers.
  3. A mentor is assigned to help guide each new employee through his or her first days and weeks at work. Information about the mentor is sent to the employee before Day 1.
  4. IT knows about the new employee ahead of time, so computers, technology (and passwords!) are set up before he or she arrives.
  5. The office or cubicle is ready. It’s clean and prepared with supplies and furniture.
  6. There’s a welcome schedule prepared with times and names of people who will be involve in activities.
  7. Someone is assigned to take the new employee to lunch.
  8. At the end of two weeks or 30 days, a stay interview is scheduled to recap the onboarding program, see how the new employee is faring, and to answer any questions.

Better Onboarding Can Help Ease the Pressure on Recruiting

It’s easy to see that a structured and effective program for onboarding new employees can do much more that prevent a bad first impression. With increasing competition for the best talent, onboarding can ease the pressure on recruitment by increasing retention. Even better, employees who start well are more productive, with higher levels of satisfaction and engagement as they learn the ropes and begin to contribute in your organization.


1CEB Global Website, Quality of Hire,
2Average Cost-per-Hire for Companies is $4,129, SHRM Survey Finds, Society for Human Resource Management, 8/3/16.
3Zhang, Haiyan and Feinzig, Sheri,  Should I stay or should I go? Global insights into employees’ decisions to leave their jobs, IBM Smarter Workforce Institute, 2017.
5Morning, Kathy, 21 Eye-Popping Onboarding Stats, Click, 8/4/17.