The three-month period after Tet is considered the golden period of recruitment, when workers are eager to start anew, and companies welcome new hires. This period then highlights the importance of an onboarding process — how new employees feel about their first few days and whether or not they feel welcome in this new environment.
The terrible state of onboarding
Onboarding can be a tough nut to crack and has been an issue for companies even before the advent of hybrid work, with more than one-third of companies lacking a structured onboarding process.
As new employees navigate the hybrid working model, onboarding issues have become more apparent. In a 2020 survey by Workable, HR practitioners reported remote onboarding or training as the biggest hiring challenge during the pandemic. Alarmingly, 10% of HR practitioners weren’t even sure how the new hires were adapting, according to a 2021 survey by Principles.
Other surveys by Silkroad and Gallup found that only 29% of new hires feel fully prepared and supported after being onboarded. As much as 10% of employees left their companies because of their poor new hire experience.
Since a lot of the new hires are fresh graduates or young professionals, they may find the culture, community, connection, and collaboration of the company extremely challenging and complicated, especially now that they spend less time interacting face-to-face with their team members and other colleagues in the hybrid work models.
Getting it right pays off
As a result, teams who can provide new members with a positive onboarding process will do wonders for the new hire experience. In his interview that I previously wrote about, Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella mentioned how interns come back to work for Microsoft simply because of a great immediate manager.
Formal onboarding programs could see 50% greater employee retention, and employees with a positive boarding experience are almost three times more likely to feel prepared and supported in their roles. This, in turn, boosts their performance and productivity.
Additionally, new employees can be a huge driver of change. It’s much harder to change the behavior of existing staff in taking more active roles in driving culture and community. But new hires learn from scratch, and coaching them on the right behaviors is much easier.
Managers can help drive this process by designing a customized onboarding experience to instill desirable behaviors right from Day 1.
Providing new hires with an onboarding buddy is essential in making them feel they’re in the right place. This will also allow them to better understand company culture without feeling intimidated.
Here are some clear benefits of onboarding buddies:
- Onboarding buddies provide context. New employees will get lost in the unwritten rules and abstract areas of a company culture where long-time team members are well-versed. Helping new employees learn about those can lead to a much smoother transition into the company. The tenured employees can show their fresh peers the context they can't find in the employee handbook, such as the relevant stakeholders, the matrix of different organizations, and other valuable tips that could help them hit the ground running.
- Onboarding buddies boost productivity. New employees often experience the tension between wanting to be efficient as soon as possible while still having to learn the ropes. Having an onboarding buddy can help improve the new hire's speed to productivity significantly, and they don’t have to meet each other that often. Microsoft reported that despite meeting as little as eight times in 90 days, fresh hires could be 97% more productive.
- Onboarding buddies improve satisfaction, not just of the new employees but of the onboarding buddies themselves. According to Microsoft, new hires with onboarding buddies were 23% more satisfied with their overall onboarding experience than those without, and the satisfaction increased by 36% in the following 90 days. Similarly, employees who become onboarding buddies also report satisfaction in showcasing and honing their managerial and leadership skills and developing a firmer grasp of their expertise.
Given how crucial onboarding buddies are to the onboarding experience, companies should do more to help employees who volunteer to be onboarding buddies for new hires.
Companies should reprioritize or reassign the workload of employees who become onboarding buddies, communicate a predetermined duration for the onboarding experience, and allow onboarding buddies to report to the same manager for a better understanding of the new hire’s role.
Additionally, there are a few things that immediate managers can do to help their new team members:
- Engage new hires immediately and make expectations clear. Engaging them early on is extra effective if the manager meets with them one-on-one during their first week in the company. Harvard Business Review lists the early benefits as a 12% larger internal network and double network centrality (the influence people in an employee’s network have) within 90 days. They also have higher-quality meetings and nearly three times as much time collaborating with their team as those who did not have a one-on-one. Another overlooked type of meeting is one-on-one or group coffee between the new hires and the company’s CEO, especially for smaller organizations. This coffee chat will give the new employees a sense of inclusion and commitment, which drives better retention and performance.
- Focus on the manager-employee relationship. Research done by Microsoft has shown that employees are 3.5 times more likely to be satisfied when their managers play an active role in the process.
- Ensure new employees feel welcomed at the beginning of the onboarding period and give them a comprehensive summary of their achievements and onboarding goals. In the process, managers can track whether their new hires have completed their daily schedules or onboarding modules.
Finding the right match
Personalization should be the top priority when tailoring the workplace experience to cater to the employees’ needs.
Suppose you get matched with an onboarding buddy with overlapping interests. In that case, you’ll have a more realistic impression of the company, plus you get to hear the inside stories/tips/tricks for that company that you care about.
Like-minded onboarding buddies are more likely to provide relevance. Who to work with, which spaces are best for you, where to go for help, and how to make sure your time with the company is loaded with fun and fulfillment all become easier to grasp through the help of a dedicated onboarding buddy who’s most likely to become the new hire’s first office friend as well.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.