3 Must-Haves Top Talent Expect from Your Employee Onboarding Process

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, between April and July in 2021, 11 million Americans quit their jobs. Forty percent of these employees left in July 2021. In August 2021, PwC reported that another 65% of employees were searching for a new job, while executives at nearly nine out of ten companies have reported higher than normal turnover. The reason? Dissatisfied employees are walking out.

The Great Resignation (sometimes referred to as the ‘Big Quit’ or ‘Great Discontent’) is having a tremendous impact on the world. So many employees are churning that organizations need to go above and beyond to attract and keep top talent. An onboarding and orientation program that wows new employees is central to achieving that goal.

Unfortunately, when it comes to onboarding new employees, it’s easy for onboarding and orientation efforts to fall to the wayside. In some cases, employers may not have an employee onboarding process, choosing instead to provide new hires with basic job descriptions, minimal tools to work with, and poorly fleshed-out policies. At the same time, organizations fail to emphasize interpersonal skills like teamwork or how to work effectively in groups. Often, a lack of time is cited as the culprit.

But even a lack of time can prevent companies from attracting and keeping the talent they need to make their organizations thrive. From recruiting to hiring, internal mobility, and more, employee onboarding plays a larger role than you might think in keeping top talent from jumping ship. 

Onboarding programs should be more than extended orientation programs for new hires. Several Fortune 500 companies and many SMEs are shifting away from traditional orientation programs—which often leave new hires overwhelmed—to embrace systemic and strategic onboarding for their new hires, especially in their critical first year.

Where do companies go wrong with their employee onboarding process?

Onboarding is an important process, especially during the first few days and months of a new hire’s time at a company (20% of new hires turnover within 45 days). Experts say a new hire’s early days are formative; they shape the course of new hires’ experiences at your company for years afterward. Onboarding can have a tremendous impact on how new employees settle and operate, but what if there is no employee onboarding process in place? There are many reasons for this, including rushed or poorly documented processes. Let’s take a look at a few of the common employee onboarding mistakes to avoid:

  • Disorganized approach: A study by CareerBuilder shows that 36% of companies don’t have any defined process in place for new hires. A lack of a defined and structured employee onboarding program can lead to various adverse outcomes, including lower morale, decreased employee engagement, and even an adverse impact on employees’ confidence in the organization. 
  • Onboarding is seen as a purely administrative task: 58% of organizations see onboarding as purely administrative, tending to be more focused on paperwork. In this case, it’s not surprising that 88% of organizations don’t onboard effectively. Yes, paperwork is paramount, but missing something—the social angle needed to form relationships. New hires aren’t introduced to other colleagues, nor are they properly introduced to the company’s culture.
  • A generalized concept of orientation: The new hires’ orientation process can be enough to put off even the most passionate employee. To further mar the welcome, some organizations provide generic orientation material to groups of recruits regardless of their prior career experience or their specializations. New employees are then sent off to their posts without any further help adjusting to their new roles.

The difference between onboarding vs orientation

Does your company experience high turnover rates? Do you wish you could attract better candidates more consistently? If so, you need to implement a strategic onboarding process rather than simply offering orientation. However, many organizations conflate these two. Let’s look at the difference between onboarding and orientation. 

What is employee orientation?

Employee orientation, which is often confused with onboarding, is the process of introducing new employees to your organization. This typically includes introductions to coworkers, teams, senior leadership, and processes around health and safety.

  • Orientation can be a part of the onboarding process, but it’s usually a one-time event that takes place over the course of a few hours or a couple of days. 
  • Orientation can be thought of as an initial stage where new hires learn about their role and its expectations.
  • It serves as a means for new hires to settle in quickly with a brief overview of the company’s goals, mission, and values. 
  • Unlike onboarding, orientation often stops after administrative tasks are sorted out and completed.

What is employee onboarding?

Onboarding is the process of introducing and familiarizing new employees with the culture of your company, along with skills, processes, expectations, skills, and team objectives (like OKRs).

  • In contrast to orientation, which is timely, onboarding involves orientation and acclimating new hires to their work. During this time, new employees will be trained, provided with the knowledge and resources they need to succeed, and even spend time with mentors or leaders to understand the organization. 
  • Onboarding is a long-term, ongoing process that builds engagement from the first contact until employees become fully established within your organization. In some cases, new hires may begin onboarding before their first day. 
  • It’s a process that motivates employees to go above and beyond in achieving the company’s goals.
  • Onboarding also deals with how both the employee and the organization become productive partners.

Outcomes of orientation vs onboarding

Orientation (which is part of most companies’ hiring process) helps new hires get moving as soon as possible, but onboarding is a bit more involved and has much more to do with employee engagement and retention. If you want committed hires who stick with you beyond their first few months, implement strategic and systemic onboarding.

3 things top talent expect from onboarding and orientation

Many companies don’t take the time to properly onboard their new hires (only 37% extend their onboarding beyond a month). This can lead to an unfulfilling experience that does more harm than good for both employers and employees involved and can result in a poor reflection on the company’s employer brand. Let’s look at what top talent expects from onboarding and orientation. Let’s take a look at the top expectations new employees have when it comes to employee onboarding and orientation.

Employees want to get acclimated right away

Hiring new talent is a tough enough job on its own; onboarding them is even more challenging. A new hire is like a plant that needs sun and water to grow—they need to get acclimated starting on day one in order to thrive in their new work environment. 

Top talent expects that the onboarding process includes what Mark A. Stein and Lilith Christiansen refer to as the four organizing pillars:

  1. Early career support that sets them up for success
  2. Orientation towards the culture and values within an organization
  3. Insight into their role in the organization so they know how they fit into the whole
  4. Activities to help them form and build upon beneficial relationships with their peers and leaders

When new hires understand an organization’s culture and understand the role they play, they’re motivated and want to drive the company towards its missions and goals.

Talent wants to be engaged from the get-go

An important part of any effective onboarding process is making sure everyone feels valued. An organization is more likely to experience high retention and low turnover if its employees are committed professionals—recognized for talent and excited about what they do. Creating a supportive team environment where new hires are engaged through initiatives like mentorship is one of the best ways for employees to succeed.

Group mentoring programs for new hires, in particular, are a great way to set up new talent for success. Organizations can leverage group mentoring to build strategic relationships between leaders and peers. These groups come together to support each other, discuss challenges and goals, and share ideas. It’s an opportunity for new hires to meet new people and get valuable exposure to leaders. 

Offering a group mentoring experience during the onboarding process connects teams so that new hires have the help they need to adjust to their new roles. Effective onboarding puts new hires in the driver’s seat because it emphasizes that they’re a vital team member and not just a cog in a larger wheel.

An effective employee onboarding process will engage new hires in their work while helping them feel recognized and appreciated, creating an accepting working culture where people can grow.

Employee recognition is crucial. Consider that:

Some studies have even found that, when evaluating the difference between employees who received recognition and those who did not, recognized employees are:

  • 2x more likely to go the extra mile
  • 2.2x more likely to embrace innovating thinking
  • 2.6x more likely to believe promotions are based on merit and performance

Employees want reasons to invest in your company

At this point, a new employee has been acclimatized and engaged. They’re becoming invested in the company and want it to succeed. However, as an employer, you have to understand that your new hires view their job as a stepping stone to success towards their personal and professional goals. 

There is a sizable gap in employee skills and their work; 64% of L&D leaders say reskilling is a major concern in today’s workplace. Likewise, 46% of global employees want their employers to give them the means to upskill so that they can grow and progress within your organization. For leadership, this means focusing on internal mobility. Managers need to keep in mind that their employees want to develop beyond the company’s learning and development skills. The most valuable employees want to thrive in today’s workplace. 

According to Pew Center of Research, millennials dominate today’s workforce. The US Bureau for Labor Statistics projected by 2030, they will make up 75% of the workforce. Employers and managers will need strategies that help them engage this significant employee segment to keep top talent past the first few months of onboarding. 

To engage talent, you need to connect your company’s missions and values to theirs. Millennials long to be part of something bigger than themselves; 75% of Millennials, for example, want to work for a company that shares their values; they will even choose lower-salaried roles if their values are aligned.

Attract and keep top talent with an onboarding process that encourages mobility

Don’t shut out rising talent with a bad onboarding and orientation program. Show new hires the ropes while making the ropes fun to swing on. Remember: Orientation is your short-term welcome. Onboarding is your way of letting your new hires know you care about them and their growth at your company. Be sure you make them feel like they’re part of something great with an employee onboarding process that encourages growth and mobility. Get your free copy of our internal mobility eBook!

Further reading