Does your onboarding experience measure up? How would you know?
A successful onboarding strategy can have a huge impact on everything from engagement, performance and retention, to administrative costs. But how do you measure the impact your onboarding is having – teasing apart its effect from the effect of a host of other HR initiatives? And how do you measure impact in a way that helps you not just to understand what’s working and what isn’t, but also to use the knowledge you’ve gleaned to continuously improve the system?
What do we mean by success?
To some degree, this will be subjective. When you’re looking to change your onboarding strategy, whether it’s an entire overhaul of process and technology, or just a few important tweaks, you’ll have key objectives you’ll want to address. Perhaps you feel that retention in the first 12 months of employment needs to be higher. Or that there are certain areas of the business where engagement could be substantially improved. Or maybe you think that employees’ productivity during their first year could be enhanced. Once your objectives are set, you can devise ways to measure what success looks like.
Data, data, data
The most meaningful data is comparative data. Which means that collecting the widest range of information right now – even if you’re planning changes – is key. The more detailed the data, and the longer the time you have collected it for, the easier it will be to pinpoint what initiatives and changes in process are having the biggest impact in helping you to achieve your objectives. But what form should this data collection take?
Of course, there is the data HR can collect itself – including attrition rates, performance rates, and time to competence of all new starters. Then there is the information you need to gather from your new starters themselves. A mixture of qualitative and quantitative data is essential to really pinpoint strengths and weaknesses.
So you’ll want to ask new starters to rate the quality of individual aspects of onboarding in numerical terms (induction day, ease of technical process, line manager performance). You might also want them to score a range of factors from their level of engagement, to the likelihood they would recommend working at the company to a friend, or stay with you long-term. But you’ll also want to include freeform answers, so people can make suggestions about new ways of doing things – or explain exactly why something isn’t working.
Onboarding surveys delivered to new starters within six months of them joining are obviously key to pinpointing what’s working well, what needs improvement, and where there may be gaps which you’ve not even considered. An onboarding portal such as Eli makes this very simple. New starters can let you know their thoughts on a range of aspects of their onboarding at the click of a button, throughout the onboarding process, and then all the results are automatically collated and analysed for you.
In a recent onboarding roundtable discussion hosted by CA3, Ascential, the specialist global information company, shared that they find their surveys invaluable for identifying themes, trends, and best practice. For example, their surveys have revealed that employees who had contact with their managers before day one, a clear induction in place, and who had 1:1 time with their brand or functional MD - no matter how junior - showed significantly higher levels of employee engagement. There’s no real surprise here, but having data like this to prove it means you can drive change across the rest of your business and continually improve your onboarding results.
Include ‘Time started’ data in your employee surveys
This can be a useful tool in helping to pinpoint the effects of your onboarding initiatives on your people – particularly at points where you make big changes in the process. AstraZeneca can break down data from their 6-monthly pulse survey that goes out to all employees by time in the company. In this way, the company is able to extrapolate key differences between people in their first year at the company and those who have been at the company for longer. Where this indicates big differences – for example, in an understanding of the business vision and purpose – this information can be used to amend the onboarding process with a bigger emphasis on delivering information in these areas.
Line manager data – and onboarding KPIs
You can have the best onboarding strategy in the world, combined with user-friendly technology, and highly efficient processes. But if the line managers who drive it aren’t implementing that strategy correctly, it can seriously damage its success. Collecting data that shows retention, engagement and performance by manager can reveal those who are achieving onboarding success – and those who are struggling to swiftly engage and develop those in their team.
This process doesn’t have to be punitive – instead, it can be about supporting managers to succeed – and sharing best practice on how to do so. Ascential have encouraged any manager who has scored 85% or over in a survey to be interviewed on video and be asked “What’s your recipe for being a great leader?” It’s a strategy that’s perfect for improving line manager’s onboarding performance. As is the practice of linking success in onboarding to line managers' KPIs and bonuses. Metrics from HR data (time to competence and retention rates, for example) along with reports from new starters themselves, could be used to provide the necessary data.
Don’t just compete with yourself
Success, of course, means improving on your organisation’s performance. But it also means benchmarking yourself against other organisations – especially direct competitors. Regularly assessing your performance against others in the market, and keeping abreast of new developments, is key to continually drive success.