Thursday, January 26, 2017

Orientation vs Onboarding


Consider this interesting law of nature. A newly hatched duck will bond maternally with the first moving object it sees. This relationship is solidified during the first day or so after hatching, a brief window known as the critical period for bonding. As you may have learned in school, this process is called Imprinting. Much like our fuzzy friends, we too have a narrow margin of time during which we engage or disengage from the organizations we join.

This critical imprinting period for new employees largely depends on the success of the first impression - the New-Hire Orientation.

45% of employees who decide to voluntarily terminate their employment make their decision during the first ninety days of employment. As awareness of this ‘failure to bond’ statistic grows, organizations today need to take a closer look at the first impression they are leaving with new employees.

What is typically a 2- hour paperwork dump, the traditional Orientation format does nothing to engage new employees. Once just a necessary evil, this welcoming experience is now being regarded as a tool to increase retention, jump-start productivity, and forge employee loyalty. This fresh take on Orientation is known as Onboarding.

Unlike typical Orientation meetings, Onboarding focuses on acclimating AND engaging new employees into a company. To engage someone is to become interlocked, or to bring something together; to attract and hold somebody’s attention. This describes a collaborative process spurred on by shared values, mutual goals, and a sense of trust and direction. Employee loyalty is the sign and symptom of employee engagement at work.


Consider the following differences between traditional Orientation programs and Onboarding.


Compliance vs. Commitment
Most companies have looked at Orientation programs as a task to be completed, resulting in a sea of compliance oriented paperwork. Also, as the pace of hiring sped up, so did the push to cut corners and get the new employee to their workstation as quickly as possible. The unfortunate focus is often on protecting the organization from liability.

By contrast, under the Onboarding method, the primary focus of the program is long-term integration; to connect the employee into the heart of the company, to align them with the organizational values, gain their commitment to the goals of the organization, and help them see how their role contributes to making those goals a reality.


One size fits all vs. Customized
Most traditional new-hire Orientation programs utilize a standard template updated periodically to reflect new information or policies. The majority are grandfathered, have no ownership, and are the same for every new employee regardless of their role, title, past experience or department.

Instead, the Onboarding and engagement process is well researched and designed thoughtfully, with the audience in mind. Check your content for meaning instead of volume. The best way to accomplish this is through employee surveys of recent new-hires. Ask them what information matters most when joining a new company. Ask them what areas they felt needed improvement in the current new-hire process.


One-time event vs. On-going experience
While 75% of companies say they have an orientation process in place, only 15% have strategies in place that sustain the process beyond the first month of employment. This is where Orientation and Onboarding differ the most. To engage someone requires the strategy extend beyond the “it’s now or never” philosophy of shoving a week’s worth of information into one day or less. Consider your own practices. Is it a tiered program designed to grow and expand as they do? Does it involve checking in with them periodically?


HR task vs. Direct leader’s relationship building
Has the responsibility for integrating new employees fallen through the cracks and into the hands of HR? Historically, the person who has the least day-to-day impact on the employee is the first face of the new employer. If the long term wellbeing of the relationship between the employee and the company hinges on the first day (as studies prove) what role should the direct supervisor be playing in shaping that initial experience? If your front line supervisors aren’t playing a key role in your program now, it’s time to train-the-trainer.

There’s some solid ROI for revamping a tired Orientation process. Engaged employees are happier, more creative, require less management time, are highly productive, and increase the morale of others. What have you got to lose? (besides them)

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