Onboarding for success

Jun 04, 2023

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A standardized onboarding process is critical for the overall success of any organization, but especially in our industry.

In today’s competitive job market, companies must find ways to stand out from their competitors. One important but often overlooked way to do this is by implementing a standardized onboarding process for new hires. Research shows that up to 20 percent of employee turnover happens within the first 45 days of starting a new position. Having a well-defined onboarding process is critical as it provides new hires with their first genuine experience at the company they’ve committed to work for. This experience is different from the image of the company that was presented in job postings and interviews; it represents the actual company as it exists.

When new employees are effectively onboarded, they more quickly become familiar with the company’s policies, procedures, and culture, allowing them to work more effectively and efficiently from the start. On average, companies with a structured onboarding process experience a 50 percent increase in productivity compared to those without.

Retention rates also experience a significant boost when onboarding is effective. Research states that new employees are 58 percent more likely to stay with a company for three or more years if they experienced a structured onboarding process. A well-executed onboarding program immediately allows a new employee to feel connected to their new place of work, reducing the likelihood of them leaving due to feelings of uncertainty or disengagement.

A structured onboarding process also enhances employee satisfaction and engagement by creating a welcoming and valued environment for new hires. This, in turn, boosts job satisfaction and leads to happier employees who tend to be more productive and stay with the company longer, ultimately reducing turnover and recruitment costs.

An effective onboarding process involves more than just a one-day orientation. In fact, some companies have onboarding programs that can last over a year. To be effective, the onboarding process should be divided into four stages:

  1. Pre-boarding. This requires communicating with the new employee and providing them with necessary information/documentation before their start date. This is also an opportunity to get a head start on tasks such as activating email accounts, getting payment information set up, completing government forms, and answering any questions that may arise.
  2. Orientation. On your new employee’s first day, they should be introduced to the company’s culture, values, and policies. This should include a tour of the office and an introduction to their team and the management team. Take the new employee to lunch with their team to allow them to begin to socialize with their new colleagues and get an early feel for the company’s culture. A welcome packet/box with some company swag is a great chance to help a new employee feel welcomed and connected to the company.
  3. Training and development. In the first few weeks or months, provide the employee with job-specific training and opportunities for professional growth. Ensure a mentor or a work-buddy has been assigned to the new employee for when any questions arise. See if there are any gaps in the employee’s skill set that can be quickly remedied and gradually allow the employee to take on more tasks.
  4. Evaluation and feedback. In the first six to 12 months, this should be ongoing. Periodically check in with the employee (and their superiors) and get feedback on how they feel about their performance and progress. This is also an opportunity to address any questions or concerns if they arise, as well as an opportunity for the individual to communicate their career goals/aspirations at the firm. Take the time and ask the employee how they feel about the company’s onboarding process and if there is anything that could be done better. An onboarding process is something that can and should be continuously improved.

For a process like this to be implemented, companies should establish a clear plan and timeline, establish roles and responsibilities for current employees to participate, utilize technology and automation (for filling out government documents, payment info, employer specific training programs, etc.), and encourage feedback and continuous improvement.

In closing, a standardized onboarding process is critical for the overall success of any organization, but especially in our industry. By providing new employees with a structured and supportive introduction to their new role, companies can boost productivity, increase retention rates, improve morale, and so much more. At the end of the day, employers need to show their employees that they care, and the best way to do this is to set new employees up for success on their first day.   

Conrey Guy is a strategy and operations analyst at Zweig Group. Contact him at cguy@zweiggroup.com.

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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.