Three best practices to engage and retain a changing workforce.
By Lilith Christiansen
The age of digital disruption driven by technologies like machine learning, automation, and artificial intelligence is here, and organizations are witnessing its impact on their talent. Is HR ready? Amid the uncertainty of how machines and humans will best work together, one thing is clear: Humans will be a necessary piece in realizing the benefits that new technologies bring.
In this transformative environment, the onboarding of new employees and the preparation of current employees to acquire new skills will be increasingly important. Interestingly, the United States saw historically low unemployment in 2018—the lowest in almost 50 years. HR executives have to employ new strategies to fill open positions, deal with ghosting from new employees, and generally learn to succeed in a tight labor market where the job seekers hold the upper hand.
With the landscape for employee recruitment and retention growing more challenging, the ways that organizations and HR departments utilize onboarding to engage their new and current workforce will differentiate successful and failing organizations.
Prioritizing an employee onboarding experience that is strategic and modern will help companies succeed as the job market and workforce evolves. In fact, according to research from SilkRoad Technology, 70 percent of HR leaders anticipate an increased focus on onboarding in the next three years, and strategic onboarding—defined as a process that provides thoughtful orientation, cultural acculturation, and strategy immersion—leads to a 75 percent improvement in long-term retention because of better employee engagement.
There are three best practices that result in an onboarding program that fosters satisfied, engaged, and productive employees:
1. Include the C-suite in onboarding and employee experience decisions. Organizations and HR departments that keep unwanted employee churn low are engaging the C-suite, primarily the CFO, in employee engagement through onboarding. Why? According to Forbes, the CFO wants to be involved: 88 percent of CFOs believe the finance function plays an important role in determining how employee onboarding and engagement affect productivity and labor costs. That makes sense since nearly two-thirds of CFOs say their company has a hard time keeping sought-after employees, citing the number one cause as low employee engagement.
Losing employees impacts the bottom line. Forbes reports that one in four CEOs say that unwanted turnover accounts for 25 to 50 percent of labor costs, and one in 10 say it eats up more than 50 percent of labor costs. Employee engagement can drive organizational efficiency, sustain competitive edge, and produce returns on employee investments. As executives continue to see a correlation between turnover, onboarding, and engagement, more and more HR leaders need to collaborate with the C-suite on engaging new hires immediately on their first day. Leadership views change as risk increases, so having a plan and strategy to reduce risk and ensure a consistent level of agility and readiness will go a long way to gaining buy in.
2. Leverage technology to not only standardize but personalize and customize. It’s important for onboarding programs to move from solely transactional and compliance-based tasks to thoughtful employee development programs that not only check the box on preliminary paperwork but also introduce care, culture, and engagement. Employees that come from younger generations have new expectations for their employers, according to the findings of a 2018 survey by Harris Poll. They want a seamless, tech-enabled process, according to a report from SilkRoad Technology and CareerBuilder.
In a market where more jobs are available than applicants, companies are faced with the unfortunate reality of candidates “ghosting” on an offer. When an organization can automate the offer and preliminary paperwork before an employee’s first day, they are not only solidifying the employee’s commitment, but also allowing the employee to research and make decisions on benefits and other administrative tasks. This ensures the employee’s first days are focused on integrating with new colleagues, learning the company’s goals, and sharing personal goals with their new managers.
Tech-enabled capabilities are especially attractive for 18- to 34-year-old candidates and employees who are twice as likely as their older colleagues to be searching for a new job even after signing an offer, according to a SilkRoad Technology and CareerBuilder report. Considering job seekers have become accustomed to the online experience of convenience and immediate gratification, HR with technology-driven yet customized onboarding programs will succeed in the long run.
3. Use onboarding to guide new managers and increase touch points between colleagues. In today’s fastpaced marketplace, a manager that utilizes a strategic onboarding program can make or break a new employee’s experience, leading either to fast turnover or sustained loyalty. According to SilkRoad Technology and CareerBuilder, 37 percent of new employees didn’t think their managers played a critical role in supporting their onboarding experience. And nearly one in 10 employees have left a company solely because of a poor new hire experience. When managers are engaged and involved in onboarding, the process becomes more inclusive and successful. Helping senior management see how strategic onboarding makes their lives easier can speed adoption and inspire employees in a new way to retain talent.
Lilith Christiansen is vice president of onboarding solutions for SilkRoad Technology.