All posts

From Paperwork to Performance: Why Your Onboarding Experience May Be Falling Short (and how to fix it)

March 15, 2023
Parker Pell

Employee onboarding processes and employee onboarding experience are two related, yet distinct, concepts in the world of human resources. Both are required for organizations to provide comprehensive, competitive advantages when welcoming new employees, however, many organizations overemphasize onboarding processes, leaving the overall onboarding experience, well, lacking

An effective onboarding experience is often overlooked and underappreciated: many organizations simply hand a new hire a stack of paperwork and introduce them to the company and colleagues on an ongoing, ad hoc basis. However, when onboarding is done properly, it can create a strong foundation for both the employee and employer to achieve long-term success. In this post, we’ll explore the differences between onboarding processes and onboarding experiences and share how building a positive experience can enhance productivity, foster company, and culture buy-in, and empower and engage employees. 

Onboarding process vs. experience. What’s the difference? 

Employee onboarding processes refer to the formal procedures that an organization follows to integrate a new employee into the company. Sapling reports that the average new hire onboarding process incorporates a whopping 54 activities: including anything from signing, uploading, or acknowledging paperwork, completing administrative tasks such as email set-up, desk set-up, setting up payroll and benefits, getting a tour of the office, and meeting fellow team members, it’s no surprise that onboarding processes take work (and time!).  

On the other hand, employee onboarding experience refers to the overall perception, feeling, and sense of belonging that a new employee has during their onboarding process. This can include things like the level of support and advocacy they receive from their immediate team, manager, and other stakeholders, the degree of clarity and communication they receive about their role, responsibilities, and expectations, and the extent to which they feel valued and welcomed by the organization.

How employees view onboarding today

Gallup reports that only 12% of employees feel their company does a good job of onboarding new team members, resulting in an overwhelming majority of workers feeling uninspired by their onboarding experience. However, it’s not surprising that nearly 9 in 10 workers feel unsatisfied…58% of organizations say their onboarding is focused solely on processes and paperwork. 

The same Gallup report found that companies that implement a structured onboarding program see a 50% increase in employee retention among new recruits, in addition to 62% greater productivity. In addition, employees who have positive onboarding experiences are nearly 3x as likely to feel prepared, supported, and confident in their roles. In short, onboarding experience matters and is the biggest differentiating factor in your employees contributing and growing within the organization versus leaving after their first 30, 60, or 90 days. 

The best employee onboarding experience incorporates structure as well as a blend of administrative and people-focused tasks… not just straight paperwork. Let’s explore how you can make the shift from process to experience.  

How to shift from process to experience

Use the 5 Cs

To create a successful onboarding experience, it’s essential to begin by evaluating the goals and outcomes of your experience. Run your objectives through the “5 Cs”: compliance, clarification, culture, consistency, and connection. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you identified and reviewed the policies and procedures employees are required to comply with? 
  • Did you clearly set new employee expectations and tie them to objectives or measurable outcomes?
  • Does your program facilitate an understanding of and buy-in to your company culture?
  • Do your new hires feel comfortable, confident, and empowered to build the necessary relationships for success in their role?
  • Where does your organization need to improve to execute and iterate on your onboarding program?
  • How do you plan on supporting new hires in their first 6-12 months? 

Quantitative metrics such as retention rate, coupled with qualitative metrics such as feedback from new hires on their onboarding experience can give you a baseline to measure your efforts, and identify areas where you may need improvement. 

Leverage the right type of technology

A proper onboarding experience will prioritize coaching, foster connections, and build confidence and competence, all while reducing the time spent on administrative tasks. Providing the right type of engagement, motivation, and support is crucial in moving from process-oriented onboarding to a full-scale experience. Some ideas to consider:

  • Using an onboarding experience platform. Post-offer/Before Day 1, have your new hire use an onboarding portal or platform (like Abode!) to view engaging content like welcome videos, testimonials, their week 1 schedule, and more. Ensure they have the necessary tools to connect with or contact their HR contact, hiring manager, and/or fellow new hires. 
  • Use feedback to your advantage. Solicit feedback throughout their journey. Understand where you may need to take corrective action or provide more/less communication.  
  • Evaluate and monitor. Track their progress through pre-boarding or onboarding processes. Monitor whether or not they’ve consumed critical information, check for completion rates on initial documentation and better understand candidate engagement. 
  • Get a 10,000 ft. view. Use a dashboard to get a comprehensive view of your program’s efficacy. By the end of your onboarding experience, a dashboard can be immensely helpful in understanding candidate engagement levels, survey results and feedback, retention, and establishing benchmark data to use with future new hires. 
  • Think about automation and integration. Lastly, it’s important to consider integrating your onboarding platform with your other HR management systems (like your HRIS or ATS). This will enable you to track the effects of your onboarding experience, retention, and employee satisfaction levels with ease. 

Involve the right stakeholders

Providing an effective onboarding experience also means leveraging individuals that work beyond HR. Consider looping the following personas into your onboarding experience:

  • The immediate team. We’ve talked about how beneficial it is to introduce new employees to their team as soon as possible (the data backs it up!): it creates a sense of emotional stability for incoming hires and ensures the supporting team is familiar with the new hire(s) and their role(s). While establishing robust, positive team relationships may require an initial upfront time investment, it can pay off in the long run with improved employee productivity, performance, and satisfaction. 
  • Managers. It’s commonplace that new hires will interact with other stakeholders outside of their immediate team, however, it’s not always clear how to connect with these individuals or how they will be working together (or at what cadence!). Managers can facilitate these relationships by creating a list of names and contact information, along with notes about who they are and their relationship to the team and company. As a manager, facilitating your new hire’s network is key in helping them feel connected to the larger company.  
  • Leadership. Although meeting the CEO or executive-level team isn’t a realistic possibility at every company, connecting new hires to company leadership is a critical connection that’s often overlooked. If your company is small enough, consider scheduling 1:1 or group meetings with the new hire(s) and the company’s leadership team. Larger companies can organize events like town halls or lunch and learns with the newest employees and leadership. Either way, connecting new hires to company leaders accomplishes several things: fostering a sense of inclusion within the organization, reinforcing the notion that their growth is vital to the company, and providing them with a direct view into the company culture and the type of experience they can anticipate. 

Key Takeaways

As we’ve discussed, a well-designed employee onboarding program is methodical, purposeful, and adaptable. It extends beyond merely handling paperwork and logistics and instead, aims to make new team members feel valued, welcomed, prepared, and confident in their roles. It’s not surprising that onboarding experience platforms remain a popular technology investment, with nearly 9 in 10 employers leveraging onboarding technology to enhance their processes and experiences. Investing in the right solutions, such as Abode, can make the entire end-to-end experience more efficient, structured, and smooth, leading to increased job satisfaction, retention, and productivity. For more insights like these, or to get a free demo of the Abode platform, get in touch with our team

See what our customers say about us.