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Frontloading Your Onboarding: How to Improve a New Employee’s Time to Productivity

No one is able to perform and contribute at top capacity their first day in a new position. In fact, the first few weeks a new hire spends in the workplace are a critical time period that can help predict future engagement and retention. The stakes are even higher when you consider the costs associated with recruiting, training, and integration. The longer it takes for an employee to adjust and start producing, the more those costs pile up. But without effective onboarding in the first place, employees are less likely able to perform well in the long run.

It’s widely suggested that a new employee needs at least 90 days before he or she is fully integrated into the workplace—fully on board. However, this isn’t necessarily a hard and fast rule. While check-ins and feedback-based reviews should continue long after the initial onboarding, involving the right resources can help your new employees start contributing faster. New hires are an investment; a solid onboarding program helps that investment start showing returns.

How can you boost your own initial onboarding program for better results? Here are a few suggestions.

1. Step away from sink or swim

It may seem intuitive to cut corners with onboarding through a loose, informal system—one where new hires are given an orientation and then dive headfirst into a challenging work environment. However, this kind of baptism by fire can be a problem for both the employee and the company at large. Some risks of this approach could include:

  • Increased stress and decreased satisfaction in new hires
  • A longer period of time necessary to build confidence and competency
  • Higher turnover rates (and, therefore, a waste of resources and effort spent recruiting)

Creating a formal, structured onboarding program instead of giving a sink or swim ultimatum reduces these risks and is generally more effective overall. In fact, most “best in class” onboarding programs are highly formalized and taken very seriously. Not only do these types of programs lead to more employee engagement, they can also help boost productivity faster.

2. Keep company culture at the forefront

The social aspect of adjusting to a new position is more important than you might think. For an employee to reach their performance potential, they need to feel confident in their position as part of the team. By focusing on the company’s culture from day one, new hires can develop an understanding of how they fit in with the bigger picture.

Another important role an introduction to company culture can play is by setting realistic expectations. New employees need to understand who and what they will need to know in order to be successful. For example, L’Oreal created a comprehensive onboarding system that helps new team members adapt to its “culture of confrontation.” The result? Employee turnover was slashed by more than half.

The faster new hires feel welcome and prepared to play their part, the faster they will be able to make a meaningful contribution. Understanding company culture helps them understand how they fit within their team’s mission.

3. Incorporate mentorship into the process

Good leadership can make or break an onboarding system. There should be more of the team involved in the process than the HR department. The more members of management that take part, the easier it will be for the employee to get integrated.

Even better—assign a peer mentor to the new hire to show him or her the ropes. This person can be the go-to for any questions that need to be answered, and a resource for solving problems on the job. This may cut down on the mentor’s productivity until the trainee is up to speed, but it provides an opportunity to flex leadership and problem solving skills. Most importantly, this kind of connection is incredibly valuable as mentoring aids in helping new employees perform at a high level as a new hire.

Onboarding is an opportunity to drive engagement and loyalty, and prepare new team members to work toward that potential you hired them for. Want more ideas on how to get the most out of your onboarding program? Check out these articles for a few examples of companies that went above and beyond.