Onboarding is the journey an employee takes to connect to the culture, processes, and expectations of the organization. This journey involves multiple transitions throughout their time at the company. It begins from the moment a candidate accepts a job offer, to an employee's first day, and through the movements and promotions during their career, to the time they leave.

The goal of modern onboarding is to create an individualized, consistent experience that enables employees to be supported in preparation for and throughout the transition. This is the time in an employee’s experience to affirm their decision to make the change - whether it be to join the organization, assume a new role, or move to a different company. 

We have found there to be 6 core areas in modern onboarding programs that should be addressed to support a positive outcome during each of an employee’s transitions: Compliance, Day 1 Ready, Culturalization, Training, Socialization, and Retention.

1. Administrative and Compliance

Compliance is the non-negotiable of any onboarding program.  It exists to protect both the worker and the business. The “must-do” of all onboarding programs includes new hire forms and processes such as tax forms, I-9, payroll set-up, notifications, policies, and regulatory training. While these check-the-box items are required, that doesn’t mean they have to be tedious.  Companies who do this well utilize technology to ensure the candidate experience is maintained in all aspects of the program.  

Compliance considerations as part of the onboarding process: 

2. Day 1 Ready

Day 1 Ready is making sure the company, department, and leader is ready for the new hire on “day 1”.  Many companies use some combination of emails, checklists, and excel spreadsheets, combined with an employee self-service case,  to get this completed.  When you create a strategic process around all of the things that have to be planned and executed prior to a new hire starting - laptop, security logins, software access, business cards - even a desk to sit at  - not to mention the swag, t-shirts, branded coffee mugs or other personal touches to make them feel welcomed - you reduce the costs, time and risk of it not being completed.  You also make it easier on your internal teams and provide analytics and insights about where bottlenecks or issues are occurring to help improve processes. 

3. Culturalization

This is where onboarding really becomes more about the new hire in that role.  It is connecting them to the business - who you are, how you do things different and why what you do matters.  It is helping them understand the story of your company, mission, vision, goals, and what it is really like to be a part of the team. There may be some shared language, history or even brand colors you all wear certain days. Culturalization is letting them “in” to things they may not have known as a consumer or just researching your company and makes them feel part of something bigger. Companies are doing this step in one on one online sessions as well as in group sessions both in person or through co-hort training programs that feel very personalized to the participant and create a real sense of connection. 

4. Training

In nearly every role there will be some level of training needed - a CEO will need to better understand the details of the customers they service, a sales person will need to understand the product, a waitress has to learn the menu and flow to the kitchen.  Training during onboarding is about getting that person up to speed and productive as quickly as possible, while continuing to support the employee experience and confirm their decision to come work for you.  The training we are seeing today as part of the onboarding process includes some of the core “hard” skills to do the job right, but has had a much bigger focus on the soft skills.  A particular focus for many companies has been around inclusion, customer success and team dynamics.  This is different than the sharing of the companies inclusion or customer focus - and really helps the individual test and develop their skills individually. 

5. Socialization

Socialization is how well the individual feels they fit at a personal level.  Employees need to feel personally connected with people at work, and comfortable with their day-to-day - who is on my team, where is the closest grocery store, where do we go for lunch near work, etc.  This includes that informal level of details and connection to their team as well as more formal programs like mentors or a pre-scheduled series of meetings with co-workers both in and outside of your team over your first few months.  More recently, we are seeing hybrid approaches emerging - especially at organizations with a high number of remote workers - that creates cohort and group-guided conversations covering culturalization, some training, and this socialization process all in one over a series of months.  

6. Retention

The final step in onboarding is retention.  This is really ensuring you have a strategic approach to each of the other components and they all tie into your employee experience strategies.    Modern onboarding programs today run 4-12 months, with many organizations wrapping up around month 6..   As part of this stage, there is ongoing feedback and conversations with the new hire ensuring their needs are being met, questions are being addressed and they feel individually valued.  A generic onboarding survey isn’t ideal as a touchpoint for their day 3, 7, or even 14 check in when someone they know should be who reaches out (coordinator, recruiter, etc) - but may be fine at day 60, 90, and 120 for a soft check-in.   

Want to reduce turnover in your organization? Meet your DEIB goals? Create a better employee experience? Support talent from underrepresented communities? Have an easier time recruiting Gen Z talent? Your organization can accomplish all of this and more through one strategy: mentorship.

Providing mentorship to early career talent not only creates a supportive work culture where these employees can learn and grow, but it can also go a long way toward fostering an employer brand that values diversity and inclusion, as well as overall employee satisfaction.

Mentorship is also a tool for boosting retention. According to Gallup, organizations around the country lose $1 trillion annually because of turnover.

No, you didn’t misread that—$1 trillion.

More astonishing is the fact that these workers could have been retained if only companies had taken action. Gallup’s survey found that 52 percent of workers who quit their jobs said their former employers could have prevented them from leaving if they had intervened. For example, 51 percent revealed their manager showed no interest in employee satisfaction and had not discussed their experience or future at the organization at all in the three months prior to them quitting.

Your organization doesn’t have to make these mistakes. By creating a work culture that values mentorship, you can make your employees happy while saving the money you would have spent on replacing them.

Benefits of Mentorship in Employee Attraction and Retention

When companies adopt a mentorship practice, they reap many benefits that aid in the attraction and retention of talent. The following are some reasons why.

1. Promoting Career Development

During the mentoring process, mentees learn about their position, company, and industry while hearing their mentor’s own experiences in obtaining career success. This learning not only benefits the mentee, it also benefits the organization because mentoring makes it easier to retain employees: Gartner reports that when an organization has a mentorship program, there is a 72 percent retention rate for mentees compared to the 49 percent for those who don’t participate in mentoring.

And mentoring is not a one-way relationship: Mentors also reap benefits from lending their knowledge to younger workers. In fact, Gartner also found that people who mentor others actually earn more money than those who don't, with 28 percent of mentors increasing their salary grade, while only 5 percent of non-mentors accomplish this. Mentors are also significantly more likely to be promoted than non-mentors.

Also, mentors can learn from their mentees, since young professionals come into the workplace with fresh perspectives and technological expertise that can benefit their older counterparts. As a result, mentorship becomes a cyclical professional development strategy that your whole organization can benefit from.

2. Promoting DEI

If you have a diversity recruitment plan in place, or you're thinking about establishing one, a mentorship program can help you reach your goals. Talent from underserved communities and their allies alike want to work for companies that value diversity, equity, and inclusion—and having a mentorship program helps to increase the representation in a company, which means mentorship actually facilitates hiring of workers from all demographics.

Although having a formal mentoring program can be beneficial for workers, keep in mind that mentoring can take place at any time. Companies can foster a culture of mentorship where seasoned professionals regularly share their experience and knowledge with younger colleagues, so there’s a steady accumulation of information circulating that can help early in career talent grow. Also, by establishing employee resource groups, workers from underrepresented backgrounds can get together with like-minded peers who share their lived experiences. This helps employees bond with those who understand them most, and early career professionals can learn how experienced employees have overcome obstacles to succeed.

3. Prioritizing Good Mental Health 

Mental health in the workplace has been on everyone’s mind in recent years, but it seems that Gen Z workers bear the brunt of the issues that lead to poor mental health. A survey by the American Psychological Association found 27 percent of Gen Zers report that their mental health is fair or poor—a much higher percentage than Millennials (15 percent) and Gen Xers (13 percent). There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is Gen Z’s concerns about their careers.

Deloitte reports that some of the biggest stressors Gen Z talent have are related to the future of their careers and their ability to earn a good living in the long term. Mentorship can help alleviate this worry because it positions workers to increase their career advancement and salary potential, as well as give them a clear path they can travel to get where they want to go professionally.

Although early career talent comes to the workplace with valuable knowledge and skills that organizations need, they also have a strong desire to learn and grow—and offering mentorship is a great way to help them do that while demonstrating you actually care about their future. This coupled with the benefits to mentors, as well as organizations as a whole, makes a good business case for starting a mentorship program and encouraging employees to mentor each other on a more informal basis.

Our team has assessed thousands of buying processes - from point solutions to global full-suite rollouts at companies of all sizes and industries. We combined our experience with conversations we had with leaders from some of the top digital transformation firms in the HR Tech space and practitioners that have gone through this process - with failure and success. We found incredible consistency between all of the success stories and even more with the failures.   While more than 80% of companies have undertaken digital transformation initiatives in the last five years, only 16% say these have successfully improved performance and equipped them to sustain changes in the long term

We have identified three key steps when buying HR technology: Planning & Building a Business Case, Evaluating & Selecting the Solution, and Implementation & Digital Transformation. All stages are essential to the success of the process regardless of company size, industry, or type of technology being assessed. 

Today's blog focuses on Step 1: Planning & Building a Business Case.

The planning stage of the buying process is often overlooked but is essential for understanding why the purchase is being made, selling the project internally, and staying focused as the process unfolds. It consists of three main components: Identifying Business Needs, Being Clear on what Success Looks Like, and Understanding the Business Impact and ROI. This will help ensure that decisions are straightforward and that the project is successful.
Identifying Business Needs
During this initial information-gathering step, the goal isn't to focus on the technology or what you want out of the technology but rather ensure you understand the outcome you want. Look beyond your current process or technology limitations to your ideal state if you could create a "dream" scenario. Are you looking to simplify your payroll and get your employees same-day pay access? Do you want to improve your employees' mental wellness and retention? Is having better insights into your total workforce for your executive team needed? 
Include people from other departments in this step simply by having conversations with them. 
Be Clear on What Success Means
Success is different than the business impact or ROI of the technology, the timing for the "go live" of the technology, or the budget and is tied back to the initial business need to be solved.
If your goal is improving retention, your metrics for success may be tied to improving your employee engagement scores, making internal mobility and transfers easier, decreasing the turnover rate by X%, or gathering more information about why people are leaving.
Understanding Business Impact and ROI
At this stage, it is less about the cost of the technology you are considering and more related to how solving the identified needs will benefit your company. Sometimes that is a clear savings of time (overhead) or money. Often, it is assessed with a bit broader understanding of the impact.
As you evaluate different tools and learn more about them, ask vendors for clear specific examples of the solution's ROI. Nearly every vendor has these on hand and ready to share - don't be afraid to ask.

Some common areas to think about when looking at the business impact of HR Initiatives: 

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