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Nicholas Roi

SilkRoad UK

Managing Director

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Onboarding: do we know it all yet?


You might think that there is nothing new to learn about onboarding but you’d be wrong. Onboarding is one of the most important strategies for business at the moment and that is because many companies are still trying to perfect the process.

So it was with great interest that we read a recent survey report on onboarding by Aberdeen Group. By offering examples from 230 surveyed organisations, Aberdeen Group aimed to demonstrate best practice onboarding; within the report, these organisations are classified as best-in-class.

Here’s what the Aberdeen Group found:

Strategy is the key to success…

According to the report, best-in-class companies display a number of common characteristics; primarily they are all very strategic in their approach to onboarding. They can be seen to align the objectives of their onboarding programmes with the long-term goals of their business and have similarly put schemes in place to drive staff engagement and productivity.

More than that, every best-in-class organisation has invested in some form of technology in order to centralise and aid the onboarding process.

…or is it technology?

This last point confirms what we believe – that a centralised process, supported by technology is important for smooth onboarding. It enables every team member to be well prepared for a new employee’s arrival, helps managers allocate and track onboarding roles, reduces the associated administrative burden and eliminates process inconsistencies. It has been proven to reduce the time it takes for a new hire to reach full productivity in their role and can even decrease staff turnover.

Yet it would be naive to assume that technology alone can secure success. As the report indicates, onboarding must also be measurable with key metrics defined and accountability made clear; there should be clear ownership of the programme – an HR Director for example. Without these there would be no checks in place to ensure that the onboarding practice was being managed correctly.

Time is precious

Though the benefits of a successful onboarding programme can be equated to staff engagement and job satisfaction, Aberdeen Group found that only 15% of companies continue with their onboarding programmes past six months. Only 2% extend onboarding to a year and beyond, and yet 90% of businesses recognise that employees choose whether to remain with a company or move on within the first year.

The assertion is that companies should dedicate time throughout an employee’s first year, and beyond, to engaging with them and convincing them that the company objectives are aligned with their personal career goals. Doing this would contribute towards the lowering of staff turnover figures and would therefore increase profitability – hiring new employees is an expensive process. Aberdeen Group supports this suggestion with the fact that best–in-class organisations improved revenue per full-time employee by 17%.

A strategic future

Aberdeen Group also points out that best-in-class companies tend to focus on new hire socialisation. Socialisation, whereby new employees are immediately introduced to colleagues in order to build rapport, has been a growing trend for some time now and has been shown to significantly improve staff morale.

But socialisation isn’t the only strategy being employed by businesses looking to improve their onboarding process. Gamification, in which new hires are taken through the company and their new role in the form of a game is gaining traction, as is cross-boarding, in which onboarding is linked directly with learning, requiring fewer tactical activities than traditional onboarding.

What Aberdeen Group’s report confirms to us is that there is still plenty to learn about onboarding, and much of this can be gleaned from businesses already experiencing the benefits of strategically implemented onboarding programmes. And while we can’t definitively say what strategy will dominate onboarding in the next five, ten or fifteen years, we can say with confidence that treating the onboarding process as a ticklist of tasks will not result in happy, engaged and therefore productive employees.  

One Response

  1. ‘Onboarding’

    No wonder we have to restate and revisit management best practice, year after year after year, when we still insist on coming up with fancy new names…………………like in this instance induction!!!!!!!!!!!!

    We get used to terminology, and everyone understands what it means, until someone somewhere somehow believes that by giving it a new name people will begin doing what they should have been doing all along.  Everything I read about this 'onboarding' convinces me nothing about it is new. 

    Rather than insisting on getting processes right we appear to be doing what the politicians do best……….when something is not working write new regulations or a new law!!

    Forget about the new terminology………..Aberdeen should have focussed on what those companies were doing well rather than the fact they were prepared to go along with this latest apparent fad.

    No wonder our frontline managers and supervisors put these things in the too-hard basket.


    Cheers.  DonR.

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Nicholas Roi

Managing Director

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