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Weathering the Great Resignation: Onboarding New Hires for Long-Term

Michelle Genser September 27, 2021

2021 will long be remembered not just for COVID-19, but as the year of the “Great Resignation,” when millions of employees called it quits. This mass exodus began for many reasons, from employees who put off leaving at the height of the pandemic, to those in search of better pay or greater flexibility in their work lives.

Whatever the cause, it remains to be seen how long the trend will continue. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 11.5 million employees resigned in April, May, and June alone – and there’s currently no end in sight.

In this three-part blog series, we’re examining the immediate and lasting implications of this turnover trend for HR pros, and how businesses can turn the challenges of the Great Resignation into opportunities at every step of the employee journey.

In our first blog, we discussed how organizations create a healthy pipeline of future leaders. Our second blog will tackle how to optimize the onboarding experience from the moment of hire, and set your new employees up for long-term success with your company.

Why the Great Resignation Means That Great Onboarding Matters Now More Than Ever

The Great Resignation has left companies struggling to fill an unusually large number of open positions, a challenge that’s further complicated by a very tight labor market. Employers that are fortunate enough to find the right candidates must do everything they can to create a positive employee experience from the very beginning.

If an employee accepts your job offer, you’ve clearly done something right. Yet a poor onboarding experience can quickly turn your new hire’s enthusiasm into regret.

Consider the numbers: research by Glassdoor found that a great onboarding process can improve employee retention by 82%. And yet, according to a Gallup poll, just 12% of employees strongly agree that their company does a great job of onboarding.

That adds up to plenty of room for improvement, and lots of motivation for businesses to nail the onboarding process. After all, the Great Resignation is proof that today’s unhappy employees won’t hesitate to jump ship.

Now more than ever, employers need to formalize, personalize, and optimize their onboarding process to lay the groundwork for new hires to thrive. The following tips can help you create a great onboarding experience that helps produce dedicated, productive workers.

Begin Onboarding ASAP

Imagine you’re a job candidate who’s just been offered a position following an intense interview process. You’ve accepted, given your two weeks’ notice, and you’re eager and raring to go! And now…you wait.

As a hiring employer, wouldn’t you rather stoke that fire of enthusiasm, rather than risk it fizzling out? Early outreach can help build your new hire’s excitement, make their first day less stressful, and help them hit the ground running.

An employee’s jam-packed first days often result in information overload. Sending personalized messages prior to their start date can give new employees a jumpstart on essential tasks like filling out forms for employment eligibility, taxes, and direct deposit. It can also give them more time to review and consider benefit options and other materials.

Allowing new hires to review information over the course of a week or two can relieve some of those first week pressures and help ease the transition into their new role. You may even consider holding a quick introductory call before their first day with teammates or other colleagues they’ll be working with closely, to welcome them and help them feel more comfortable.

Beginning onboarding efforts early and keeping that line of communication open can bridge the gap between your new hire accepting your offer and starting the job. It shows that you’re just as excited as they are to get started, and makes them feel valued even before day one. All of this helps lay the groundwork for a great employer-employee relationship that will hopefully last for years to come.

Formalize Your Onboarding Process

First impressions matter. You need a formal orientation program, because a haphazard approach to onboarding can leave your new employees feeling lost and unappreciated.

Getting a new employee up to speed involves hundreds of details, and doing it well requires help from across your organization. By setting a timeline, documenting the details, and assigning responsibilities, you can streamline the process and make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

Outline each task involved, determine who is responsible, and set a deadline for completion. For self-directed tasks that your new employee must complete on their own, like online training, benefits enrollment, or logging into systems and setting passwords, be sure to provide clear instructions and a handy resource to answer any questions.

Incorporating automated, data-driven messaging into your formal onboarding process is an excellent way to check in with new hires, and provide timely reminders about benefit options, deadlines, and other information.

Assigning a mentor is another good way to help new hires settle in faster. Even if that person is simply a teammate who’s been tapped to answer questions and provide guidance, a designated resource may provide crucial support when your new hire needs it most.

Formalized onboarding provides an important framework, but it doesn’t mean that you have to take a cookie-cutter approach to new hire orientation. Personalizing the process is also a critical part of creating a positive new employee experience.

Personalize the Onboarding Experience

Starting a new job can be a nerve-wracking experience. Being the rookie is never easy, and finding ways to personalize the orientation process for your recent hires can make them feel appreciated and supported from the get-go.

Personalization simply means that throughout the orientation process, you’ll provide each new employee with information and communications tailored to them. Beginning with your initial welcome letter, focus on their role, their team, and what they can expect during the orientation process. You can further customize their onboarding experience by sending periodic, automated messages and reminders about the benefits and training opportunities most relevant to them.

Setting up automated messages to check-in periodically through the first 90 days is also a good way to garner feedback and check in on their progress.

Even if you have multiple individuals starting at the same time, the onboarding process should be a mix of group activities and personalized experiences. For example, you could hold group sessions to introduce your company’s history or complete standard tasks like new hire paperwork and IT setup. Individual sessions could focus on meeting team members and other close colleagues, introducing systems they’ll regularly use on the job, or training on knowledge they’ll need in their roles.

Don’t Cut Onboarding Short

The onboarding process is about more than making intros, filling out forms, setting up equipment, and providing job training. While these are all important aspects of the process, onboarding is also a time to provide extra support for new employees as they transition into their role. In an increasingly remote work world, this safety net is critical to long-term success and should continue for at least the first 90 days, if not longer.

Onboarding is a great opportunity for managers to start an open dialogue with new hires about their career aspirations, and help them to set goals related to their current job and continuing development. It’s also a chance for human resources to connect with employees and collect feedback.

Messaging employees about upcoming training like workshops or lunch-and-learns, on-demand LMS courses that align with their goals, or available mentorship programs can all support employee’s growth and development. Automated, personalized messages celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and other milestones require little effort, and help employees feel valued and appreciated. And surveying new hires at key points in the onboarding journey can generate valuable feedback to gauge employee satisfaction, needs, and opportunities to improve your onboarding process.

By formalizing, personalizing, and prioritizing your onboarding efforts, you can create a positive employee experience from the very beginning. Investing this time and effort can pay dividends down the road, enhancing employee satisfaction and fostering great employer-employee relationships that can last for years to come.

For additional information on creating an onboarding process that knocks it out of the park, check out this onboarding toolkit that gives you everything you need to be successful.