Hiring for keeps

Jan 09, 2017

Research shows that a good onboarding program is the best way to keep the people you hire, and save a chunk of change on recruitment and training.

The process of accepting a job seems much akin to accepting a first date – you perform online research (or, in the case of dating, secretly stalk them via social media), you ask a plethora of questions to ensure values align, and you seek the opinions of others. When the big first day/date finally arrives, you’re excited, nervous, a bit cautious, and, most of all, curious – curious as to how you will like it and where it will ultimately lead.

Whether a first date or a first day at a new job, it’s the impact of the overall experience that determines whether you walk away feeling eager to pursue or dreadful of what’s to come. For a new hire, it’s day one and the subsequent few months (the honeymoon period) that can determine whether a new employee stays; therefore, creating an effective onboarding experience is more important than ever.

According to a study by Equifax Workforce Solutions, more than 40 percent of turnover happens within the first month and another 10 percent or more leave before their one year anniversary. Studies show this turnover can be attributed to a less formal onboarding program.

Who should be responsible for this program? The simple yet complex answer is everyone. Your HR department can lead the effort and help arm your new employees with forms, general information and a go get em’ attitude. But in today’s improved economy, where firms are competing for the best and brightest talent, you need multiple “players” who can help make your onboarding program a key differentiator.In addition to an HR team member, key players should include the employee’s manager, an appointed “buddy” who can provide day-to-day advice/guidance, and all other employees who are prepared to fully welcome the new talent.

Along with multiple players, you’ll want to dedicate several months for each new employee to complete your successful onboarding program. Based on a recent survey Little conducted, it is clear the majority of new employees need approximately three months to get fully acclimated to their new job, co-workers, and surroundings. Our survey also revealed that deliberate engagement throughout an employee’s first year is particularly important. Formalizing a successful onboarding program means thinking beyond the traditional desk supplies, a name plate, and a stack of business cards. The following are a few things we learned through our survey of newbies and the critical components of a more formal program:

  • Start before they begin. Years ago, it was the norm to receive a three inch binder on your first day that was chock-full of forms to complete, materials to review, and articles to read. These days much of this information is electronic, so why not go ahead and share with employees before they start? This allows them time to fill out paperwork and a chance to get acclimated to the company prior to day one.
  • Keep it simple. As with many things, less can be more when it comes to a successful first week for new employees. Consider extending your new employee orientation to a few hours over the course of a week rather than cramming it into several eight-hour days. Breaking up the information and focusing each day on one specific point (for example, benefits) allows the employee to better digest the information and deepens their engagement with the company.
  • Demystify any buzzwords and acronyms. The AEC industry is full of programs and certifications that mimic alphabet soup. New hires with related experience may recognize these but, for those who don’t, you can mitigate confusion with a fun cheat sheet that introduces industry and internal organizational terminology. After all, no one wants to try to decipher FU (follow-up) on the POS (point of sale) presentation.
  • Create a buddy system. Feeling connected is one of the most critical components of a new employee’s onboarding experience. Assign a buddy to each new employee who can serve as a single point-of-contact for work questions, concerns, and/or guidance during the first few months of employment. To ensure a level of comfort, be certain the buddy is a peer and not a manager who is responsible for the new employee’s job performance.
  • Give them the lay of the land.Through our survey, we found this to be the number one thing we can improve upon here at Little. New employees want to feel comfortable navigating their new surroundings. Depending on the size of your space, you may want to provide them with a graphic map/floorplan that highlights various support groups (accounting, HR, marketing, IT), printers, restrooms, and conference rooms. Also consider providing a map or list of nearby restaurants, gyms, or attractions they can check out during lunch or after work.

Many factors can play into a new employee’s decision to leave a company. Research shows, however, that not only can a formal onboarding process cut attrition, it also cuts the exorbitant cost of recruiting, hiring, and training a replacement. Take the time to implement the proper program and you’ll take weeks off the learning curve and get a fully-productive employee faster than ever.

Kelly Thompson is a senior associate and marketing communications manager at Little. Contact her at kthompson@littleonline.com. Kimberly Cassella is a recruiting manager at Little. Contact her at kcassella@littleonline.com.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.