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Onboarding Success

The most successful onboarding programs work with groups of employees and last one to two years. They should help new hires build relationships with peers and experienced colleagues.

September 26, 2008
Eew hires, especially Millennials fresh out of school, need help to learn their jobs and absorb the organization’s culture. They should be assigned to caring managers who offer frequent feedback.

"If you hook Millennials up with managers that don’t connect, they are lost souls," says Caela Farren, CEO of career development and talent management firm MasteryWorks.

The most successful onboarding programs work with groups of employees and last one to two years. They should help new hires build relationships with peers and experienced colleagues. "Companies that have a well thought-out formal period including training, tours and opportunities to speak with executives have the best retention rates," Farren says.

Although Farren thinks rotations are a good idea in principle, some companies require so many new assignments so quickly that the new hire can’t figure out what works for him or her, she says. "Rotations should be customized for the individual," she says.

One of the most frequently cited reasons that new hires leave employers is that the job doesn’t match the recruiter’s description.

"When you’re designing jobs for people, the work needs to be meaningful and challenging," Farren says. Rewards and recognition can play a role in successful onboarding and engaging new hires. But when they don’t provide a sense of personal accomplishment, they can backfire.

"If a person thinks, ‘Oh, I just got the same thing everyone in my group got,’ it can make the recipient unhappy and cynical," Farren says.

Rewards and recognition may not do much for early engagement, either. "Employees leave managers, not companies," says Harry G. Graham, the managing director for compensation and benefits at SMART Business Advisory and Consulting. "So if you have a bad manager, that’s showing more effect on turnover than a rewards and recognition program. Employers try all kinds of rewards and deferred compensation to prevent [turnover], but whatever they do, it’ll have minimal effect."

For rewards to be meaningful, especially to Millennials, they must be personalized and show that the company recognizes the employee’s value to the organization.

"People remember rewards they really like," Farren says. "[They] must be meaningful to the recipient. [They] can’t be rote."

Even when rewards are memorable and meaningful to recipients, they still may not hold Millennials to the job. "This new generation of employees doesn’t view jobs as long-term commitments," Graham says. "They see them as five-year commitments, at the most. So high turnover rates have more to do with the attitude of this generation [than] anything else. Employers should offer good career-path opportunities. Employees—especially recent college graduates—really want this, not rewards."

Workforce Management, September 22, 2008, p. 29 -- Subscribe Now!