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ATD Blog

Redefining Employee Onboarding as a Journey

Friday, August 12, 2022

Given that up to 20 percent of employee turnover happens in the first 45 days and 34 percent occurs in the first year, it’s not a stretch to say that the current onboarding approach isn’t working for many organizations. Turnover happens when organizations don’t treat employee onboarding as a journey—one that starts before sending the offer letter and ends when the person is performing the role independently and confidently.

Employee onboarding typically has a narrow definition: orienting new hires to the company and their role. Yet, when you think about the impact onboarding can have on growth, people development, scalability, and customer and employee experience, a larger picture comes into focus. It’s not enough to think of onboarding as a single day or week; depending on the role, the onboarding journey could take months or even years. It’s also an emotional journey. People leave organizations when they feel disconnected, overwhelmed, frustrated, or undervalued.

Onboarding should help people feel confident in their new role as well as competent. However, the typical onboarding approach fills people with the facts they need to know before starting their jobs without supporting their emotional journey.

Three factors can redefine employee onboarding at your organization:

1. Consistent brand experience.

Business success is directly tied to creating a consistent brand experience for customers, which builds customer loyalty and trust that generates demand and growth. The same is true about the employee experience. As an organization grows, its ability to deliver an incredible customer experience is directly tied to the investments made in creating and upholding an equally powerful employee experience. This results in engaged and loyal employees that you can trust to uphold your brand experience because they believe in what they’re doing and feel like a valued part of the organization. To move the needle on your employee experience and create a more consistent brand experience for your customers, onboarding is the place to start.


2. Speed to competency.

Speed to competency is commonly used to show the value of onboarding. It’s hard to measure, but it’s one of the biggest business cases for investing in more effective onboarding. What does it take to perform competently in a role? No one learns everything about a role at once, so spread out role development over a period of time based on the complexity of the role. Equip and enable managers to support new hires as they make connections, take on new or harder things, and reflect on how it’s going.

Going through these intentional steps helps people build competence. It’s not about adding more time or content; it’s about designing an experience that helps someone develop and grow within a role. It includes providing strong performance support tools and creating personal networks early on. This approach takes more time, but it also leads to desired business results.


3. Employee engagement.

A conversation about redesigning the onboarding experience becomes a launching pad to solve organizational challenges related to retention and employee experience. Engage key stakeholders in the process of reimagining the desired state and addressing the challenges of getting there, so they not only create more effective solutions but they also feel ownership and energy around the change.

  • Individual team members feel more engaged as they reap the benefits of an experience that better connects them to people, their work, and the organization.
  • Teams feel more involved and valued as they’re invited to solve organizational challenges and align on preferred practices.
  • Managers feel more engaged as the organization invests in their development or empowers them to prioritize the time to develop their team.
  • Executive leaders become more engaged in the process as they see the benefits of replicating what has worked to get them to where they are today.

As a result, the organization begins to see right turnover (the employees who are a great fit, stay, and the ones who aren’t, don’t) because the ecosystem is designed with the end in mind.

Want to dive deeper into creating a supportive onboarding program? Sign up to receive TiER1 Performance’s Onboarding Tool Kit in the mail.

About the Author

Dustin Shelli is director of strategic growth, healthcare at TiER1 Performance Solutions. He is passionate about empowering people and organizations to thrive. Drawing on his previous experiences in counseling, music, technology, experience design, innovation, and starting a thriving business, Dustin is an advocate for building trust within teams and re-inventing organizational structures that are conducive to creativity and agility.

1 Comment
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If you want to have an engaged workforce and a profitable growing business, I suggest you look at what companies do that excel at both. Industry leaders like Southwest Airlines and Costco partner with employees around the noble cause of serving customers profitably. They outperform their competitors and engage their managers and employees in the process. This article provides more background on the partner concept:
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