Onboarding is the process of integrating and acculturating new employees into an organization by providing them with the tools, resources, and knowledge needed to become successful and productive. It refers to the mechanism adopted by organizations and companies to help new employees acquire the needed knowledge, skill, and behavior to become effective members of an organization (Bauer, & Erdogan., 2011).
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Onboarding practices focus on welcoming of new recruits, an affirmation that the recruit made the right decision by choosing the job and that he fits well into the company and finally enhancing a good relationship between the employee and the company managers. It creates a feeling that reaffirms the decision of new recruits that the new place of work is a great place.
This ensures that the worker feels welcomed, contented, prepared, and appreciated thereby improving his engagement in company activities. Through onboarding, the employee feels as part of the company and understands better the roles and expectation of the organization. He makes a difference in the company by performing meaningful and demanding tasks that make the company to succeed.
Onboarding process is important for employees in an organization to display behavioral characteristics, which are necessary if the organization is to achieve its goals. This includes changing the beliefs of the employees in a manner that they conform to those of the company.
Through this, the workers develop a better understanding of their job in relation to what is expected from them to fit in the company. This results to job satisfaction and increased performance since new recruits gain stability.
The methods used in introducing new workers in an organization or department include formal meetings, computer-based orientations, talks, brochures or videos. Research has shown that when these socialization techniques are applied, they lead to positive outcomes for new employees. This includes higher job satisfaction, organizational commitment, job performance and reduced stress levels (Ashford & Black, 1996).
Onboarding process outcomes are crucial to companies and organizations that are seeking to maintain their competitiveness during times of increased change of jobs by the employees. For example in America, close to 25% of workers are organizational newcomers involved in the onboarding process (Rollag, Parise, & Cross, 2005).
Getting a new employee off to a good start can make a big difference in their feeling welcomed and in their effectiveness on the job. Proper onboarding helps employees get up to speed much more quickly and reduces the costs associated with learning the job.
There is a need to retain new employees and enable them to adapt quickly and become productive within an organization. This is important in the private sector as well as in federal and public organization.
New workers are needed to adjust in the new environment and make them more resourceful in the organization in the shortest time possible. Through onboarding, workers in an organization understand and accept the principles, norms, and beliefs of the organization.
According to a report by Booz Allen and colleagues, there is need for onboarding in any organization. The report says:
After playing his first game, does a rookie or newly acquired free agent instantly become a veteran who no longer needs extra coaching and additional evaluation to ensure he is assimilating well to his new team and fully utilizing his talents? Of course not.
Sports franchises understand that a player’s first year with a team is disproportionately important to his long-term professional development and his relationship with his new employer. From the moment a new player is acquired to the last game of his first year, that player is still considered a rookie and receives extra attention and guidance (Hamilton, 2008).
The report continues and gives the various uses of onboarding and it states, “When done intelligently, it improves employee engagement and performance. It increases employee retention. And it accelerates the time it takes for a new hire to become productive” (Hamilton, 2008).
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Onboarding is ongoing and is not an event. The process of onboarding should begin before the employee arrives and the process should continue throughout the first year. The process of onboarding should be a team effort and should involve all the members in the organization.The process should be well planned and structured.
The plan should be flexible in a way it meet individual’s needs. In terms of integration, the process must include introducing the new employee the formal and informal culture as well as the values and practices of the organization. The process can be applied to include other people besides new employees such as government employees who are coming back from a long leave or people who are transferring from other departments.
This paper will look at Onboarding process for U.S. federal & public employees and finally compare the process to that applied in the private sector (Hamilton, 2008).
Tips for a Successful Onboarding Program
For onboarding to be successful, the company should make fun with the new recruits in the first few days of employment. The organization managers should give a wholehearted welcome since this makes the employees to have a feeling that they have made the right decision in choosing to work in the organization.
Checking in with the new recruits should be done as many times as possible in the first week of employment. The company should work hard in maintaining an encouraging and sociable environment in the workplace. The qualities and talents of the new employees that appear to have impressed the managers involved in the employment decision should also be reiterated.
It is the responsibility of the organization managers to find out what motivates their new recruits. They should know the names of the new recruits and should never pronounce them wrongly. They should assign the new recruits some responsibilities even when in orientation.
Organization managers should keep the families of their new recruits in mind since a new job entails changes for the entire family, especially if they have moved from their original home. The managers should try hard to help the family members feel comfortable in the society.
Precursors of Onboarding success
Onboarding operation is influenced by various factors that pertain to both the new employee and the company or organization. Renowned researchers have broken down these factors into three main categories: characteristics of the new employee, behaviors of the new employee, and organizational efforts (Bauer, Bodner, Erdogan, Truxillo, & Tucker, 2007).
Employees joining a company are different in their personality and previous work experience. The behavior of the new employee refers to the actions the new employees take in socializing with the rest of the employees. Organizational efforts assist the process of familiarizing the new employee to the establishment through processes such as orientation and mentoring programmes.
Research has shown that employees joining federal or public organization must possess certain personality traits and experiences so that they can adjust in the organization more quickly (Saks & Ashforth, 1996).
These personal traits include openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. They should also have a certain level of curiosity and experience levels that are going to help them in fitting in the organization.
Proactive personality in this case refers to the tendencies of the new employee in taking charge of various situations and controlling their environment. This prompts most employees to engage in behaviors, which lead to information seeking and acceleration of socialization process.
This helps the employees to adapt to the organization more efficiently and become more productive members of the work force (Bauer, Bodner, Erdogan, Truxillo, & Tucker, 2007). Studies have demonstrated that, the proactive employees have increased levels of job satisfaction and work performance (Erdogan & Bauer, 2009). Curiosity also plays a substantial role in new employees adapting in the corporation.
Curiosity is defined as the yearning to gain knowledge that motivates the individual to explore the organization culture and norms (Litman, 2005).
New employees who are curious to learn about the organization tend to view challenges in a positive way and are eager to seek out information that will help them appreciate their new organization and job description. This leads to a faster and smooth onboard experience for them (Ashford & Cummings, 1983).
The work experience that a new recruit or employee has affects the onboarding process. The more experienced ones are able to adjust in the new environment more easily than those who lack experience. This is because experienced employees can borrow from their experiences to assist them in adjusting to their new environment and, therefore, they will be less affected by certain socialization efforts.
This is because they have a better understanding of what they want and require to do their job (Beyer & Hannah, 2002). They are also are more familiar with the things that are acceptable in the context of the job (Kirschenbaum, 1992).
Moreover, veteran workers who use their past experience to seek out information on organizations they are joining tend to be a better fit, as this gives them an advantage in coping in the new job (Carr, Pearson, West & Boyar, 2006).
Onboarding process of the new employee can be enhanced if the new employee is ready to build relationships and seeks information and feedback from the other colleagues. The new employees can also hasten the speed at which they adjust in the organization by demonstrating behaviors that assist them in clarifying expectations, learning organizational values and norms, and gaining social acceptance (Bauer, & Erdogan., 2011).
Information seeking takes place when new recruits or employees, in their effort to learn about the organization and the job ask their superiors and co-workers questions.
According to Miller and Jablin (1991), new employees seek certain types of information, which include information about referrals, information regarding the job, information on appraisal, information on ability to function in relation to the job requirement, and finally information regarding relationships between employees.
The new employees, who look for information about the company, do not suffer the problem of uncertainty and can settle easily in their new position (Miller & Jablin, 1991). New employees can gather information by monitoring their surroundings and viewing relevant materials published materials about the company.
Research has shown that when new employees seek information then they are more likely going to experience high levels of social integration, satisfaction of the job, job performance, and commitment to the organization (Menguc, Han & Auh, 2007).
New employees may ask their co-workers for feedback on their progress and how they are performing assigned work or whether their behaviors are acceptable in the social political framework of the organization.
New employees get the opportunity to learn the behaviors that are expected of them by the organization when they seek for feedback. In doing so, they can also learn the behaviors that are frowned upon and this can be important in helping them adapt and cope with colleagues (Wanberg & Kammeyer-Mueller, 2000).
The socialization efforts by the organization also determine the success rate of onboarding. Possible socialization efforts that can influence onboarding include, the recruitment strategies, mentorship opportunities, and the formal orientation programmes that an organization will undertake in welcoming the new employees (Hamilton, 2008).
Advantages of Onboarding
Effective onboarding improves the performance of the work force. Research conducted in 2005 shows that onboarding practices enhance the performance of workers by 11.3%. Major Onboarding practices such as communicating performance anticipations of the employees in a clear manner, providing responses, involving work assistants and friends and the provision of training are important in enhancing employee performance.
On boarding makes it possible for managers in an organization to assess the weaknesses and strengths of new employees hence are able to identify whether the new employees’ are suited to the job. In the federal government, all the employees are kept under probation in their first year of employment and low performing workers are removed from the organization during this period.
It is, therefore, clear that an efficient onboarding program in the government confirms that the employee is ready to work in the organization and helps the management to assess the employee in terms of quality. Through onboarding, the engagement of employees in company activities is improved.
The chances of the employee quitting from the organization or even becoming disinterested in his job and the company are minimized. Research on the federal government shows that, organizations that have put more time and company resources in onboarding activities benefit from high levels of worker engagement (Hamilton, 2008).
Research shows that 90% of company workers choose whether they will stay in a company or start searching for a new job while on onboarding. About 10-18 % of employees in the federal government voluntarily quit from their companies in the first few months.
This turnover is high when compared to the normal 3-3.5% employee retention rate in the government over the same period, stressing the fact that the first year is a consequential period in the federal government. A company has higher chances of retaining its workers if it on boards them well.
Research shows that efficient onboarding programs can enhance employee retention by 25% and this lowers high turnover costs that may cost an organization about 30-50% of the yearly salary of entry-level workers, 150% for workers in the mid level and up to 400% for high-level workers.
When new employees stop working for an organization, it may take the company more than twelve months to hire and train the substitutes and these leads to losses in productivity, which may demoralize other workers who may even decide to leave the organization as well (Hamilton, 2008).
Onboarding practices in the federal government hastens the company’s time-to-productivity. New workers who go through an effective, organized onboarding process reach high productivity levels fast.
Research on onboarding practices in Texas shows that workforce subjected to an effective onboarding program reach full productivity two months earlier than their counterparts who were not subjected to similar onboarding practices (Hamilton, 2008).
Onboarding process for U.S federal and Public Employees
New federal employees are compared to rookies on sports team according to a report prepared by Booz Allen in collaboration with The Partnership for Public Service.
The report addresses the need for onboarding in organizations and states that after recruiting a new employee there is need to “make the first day a compelling and valuable experience” (Hamilton, 2008). The government has been accused of failing to implement an onboarding process that is effective and helpful to the new employees.
The report examined how the U.S federal government carries out onboarding new employees and according to the report, few government agencies advance onboarding strategically. In most of the agencies, orientation for new workers is seen as a short-term activity that is needed to get the new employee started.
Instead of it being carried out over a period, onboarding for many new employees takes only a day and they are left to “fend” for themselves. The research shows that there is no constant approach to onboarding in the U.S government.
Few companies in the federal government view the recruiting of new workers in their companies as an inclusive and coordinated effort. The use of terms such as “onboarding” or “orienting” to describe the manner in which companies welcome new workers is a good indicator of how they approach onboarding.
Research, however, shows that few companies in the federal government use this approach while bringing in new employees (Hamilton, 2008). Based on the research, Onboarding-related activities in the federal government do not focus on the mission, vision, and customs of the company.
The most common onboarding practices used by companies in the federal government include the processing of paperwork for new workers, explaining worker benefits, and major managerial and safety policies.
Few companies in the government view onboarding as an inclusive, strategic practice or include actions that directly relate to the mission, vision, and customs of the companies. Companies that incorporate their mission, vision, and custom do so during employee orientation and use senior leaders to pass the information to the new recruits (Hamilton, 2008).
Booz in his research further shows that onboarding process in the federal government does not integrate the actions of shareholders or hold them responsible for success or failure. Most Onboarding programmes are carried out within the offices that own them.
For instance, the IT sector provides electronic machines, human resource department administers orientation, security department provides entrance badges and managers allocate work to new recruits. All this perform their tasks without understanding other onboarding practices that are related to their tasks, comprehending the relationship between the processes or even accounting for achievements and breakdowns.
New workers in these companies are frustrated by the incapacity to start work or training during their first days. Delays in receiving necessary tools, rights of entry into accounts and internet training reduce production efficiencies during the employees first days at work (Hamilton, 2008).
According to the research, Onboarding is inconsistently implemented across worker groups and localities. In the federal government, workers who are not given positions as members of the onboarding panel do not take part in comprehensive onboarding activities apart from orientation and have only few programs accessible to them.
These discrepancies are further exaggerated by differences in the onboarding program across companies with location or subject components.
In the federal government, companies are concerned with the use of technology to support onboarding though few have advanced when it comes to developing these capacities. There is extensive recognition of the role that technology can play in onboarding new recruits and considerable interest in realizing how technology can be practically used in onboarding.
Few companies in the nation use technology in onboarding and the mostly used forms of technology include electronic forms, information web sites, and case management systems. Many new recruits prefer the use of electronic forms since this saves time and eradicates the tiresome process of filling out forms as a team especially during the first days of work.
Information web sites act as a major source of information in onboarding and this makes the onboarding process more efficient. It increases the ability of the companies in satisfying the needs of both new recruits and shareholders who are partakers of the onboarding program.
Case management systems support onboarding by alerting several shareholder departments about incoming workers just after the reporting date has been set.
Most organizations gather immediate response on orientation but do not gauge the lasting impact of onboarding practices. The companies carry out orientation session assessments and to a minor degree, new recruit surveys.
They use the response to make modifications in their orientation practices. Few companies, however, gauge this long-term effect of onboarding and though some have desire in comprehending the associated efforts, they are challenged by how to gauge the lasting impacts of the whole process (Hamilton, 2008).
The research finally showed that in the federal government, companies with more complicated onboarding activities often incorporated them as part of larger employee retention strategies.
For instance, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has initiated comprehensive programs for new employees whose retention is vital to the company’s mission. The program measures the progress of new recruits in relation to its mission (Hamilton, 2008).
Onboarding in the U.S Public and federal Sector
Executive onboarding focuses on the use of onboarding policies to facilitate new company executives becoming fruitful and successful within the company or organization. In the U.S public sector, executive onboarding entails the acquisition, accommodation, integration, and acceleration of new executives.
It is one of the most significant contributions that any employment manager, supervisor, or human resource manager can make to achieve long-term organizational success. If done appropriately, it can result to improved productivity and executive maintenance in the company.
Executive onboarding however may be highly valuable for externally employed executives who are moving from simple to complex responsibilities since it may be hard for them to discover individual and organizational risks involved in their duties without formal onboarding support. It is also important to executives who have just been promoted into new responsibilities or transferred from one organizational unit to another (Bauer & Erdogan, 2011).
Onboarding process in U.S. Private Sector
The process of on boarding in the private sector has been criticized by various researchers and organizations. According to TMPGovernment:
Even in corporate America, where recruitment and hiring processes have matured, the practice of onboarding remains a “work in progress.” A perennial problem is that traditional orientation programs have focused on new employees alone rather than the teams of which they are a part.
Recent onboarding process only think about the person being hired and does not carter for the existing personnel. Hence, an onboarding communications program should consider how to prepare “rookies” and “veterans” to accommodate each other (TMPGovernment, 2010).
However, the onboarding process in the private sector has been growing over the years and is more successful than in federal and public sector. Various factors can be attributed to its success. A great amount of time and resources are invested in the training and assimilation of new employee into the company or organizations.
The private sector invests in socialization tactics that are designed on their need, values, and structural policies. Successful organizations in onboarding process use a systematic approach in bringing new employees onboard. The less successful ones do not invest in this process and new employees are left to figure out the existing norms and expectations of the company without help or guidance.
Companies and organizations in the private sector use several models in their onboarding process. This includes the 1979 model proposed by Van Maanen and Schein. The model proposes six ways that a company can apply in their socialization and onboarding process.
The first one involves taking a group of recruits faced with the same problem through similar sets of experiences together. This includes basic training, pledging for fraternities or sororities, training and so forth. The process can also focus on an individual employee rather than the collective group. In this approach the employee undergoes an apprenticeship program or an “on-the-job” training.
This helps the employee to gain experiences that are different from other new employees (Van Maanen & Schein, 1979).
The second approach deals with the formal or informal socialization. In the formal socialization approach, new employees are more or less segregated from other employees and they are trained about the requirements of the job. This is mostly seen when the companies take their employees through internship or apprenticeship.
On the other hand, the informal socialization process companies do not separate the new workers from the existing ones and there is no difference in the role that both take. The informal approach helps the new employees to learn their roles through trial and error. This is mostly seen where new employees are taken through apprentice programs without a clearly defined role (Van Maanen & Schein, 1979).
The third approach considers a sequential or random socialization and onboarding process. The sequential socialization approach looks at how the organization can improve and create steps that new employees need to pass through. Random socialization looks at the sequence that will lead to achieving a certain goal in helping the new employee settler in their new job and does not follow any specific steps.
In other terms, though there are many steps that lead to specific organizational roles, there is no specified order through which they have to be taken (Van Maanen & Schein, 1979). Another dimension that is proposed by the theory is the fixed or variable socialization.
Fixed socialization proposes that the new employees should be equipped with the exact knowledge of time that the onboarding process will be completed. Variable socialization does not follow any set timetable and therefore there is no date given or a specific date set for the completion of the process.
This model can be seen mostly in mobile careers that are within organizations as a result of uncontrolled factors such as turnover rates (Van Maanen & Schein, 1979). Serial and Distinctive socialization process is also proposed by the model where a serial socialization process focuses on the experienced members of the organization helping the new employees in the same capacity within the company or organization.
A good example is a managerial trainee who may tag along an experienced manager for a specific period and learn about the work. Disjunctive socialization, on the other hand, focuses on the time when new employees do not find a role model to guide them through the process of learning about the job.
In this case, they do not have guidance and they are left to learn on their own (Van Maanen & Schein, 1979). Another tactic employed by organizations in the private sector based on the model is investiture and divestiture.
When the organization uses investiture approach, the new employee is expected to behave naturally and the importance of the employee is based on their ability to deliver work and use values and attitudes that the company believes the new employee posses.
In divestiture, the organization tries to eliminate certain characteristics of the employee that they view does not reflect the company. In this case, employees are required to cut off previous ties, change their habit, and create a self-image that reflects the company based on the recommendations or assumptions made (Van Maanen & Schein, 1979).
Another model that the private sector has used and proven to be successful is the 1986 of Jones. The model is built on the work done by Van Maanen & Schein. According to jones the six approaches advanced by Van Maanen & Schein in 1979 can be reduced into two approaches. These approaches are institutionalized and individualized onboarding or socialization.
The institutionalized can be found not only in the private sector, but also in federal organizations such as military. In this approach, recruits or new employees undergo an extensive training program through participative cohort.
On the other hand, when individualized approach is adopted, the employee starts working on his position and by doing so begins to learn the norms and values as well as expectations of the company. In this approach, the new employee has to seek information and forge relationships with other workers (Klein, Fan & Preacher, 2006).
The private sector has also tried to incorporate formal orientations in their onboarding process. In spite of the approaches used in socialization, there is need for formal orientation in processes of helping new employees settle in their new environments and appreciate the culture in the company. It helps to introduce the new employee to their jobs roles and the organizational structure of the company.
The orientation programs will include lectures, videos, and brochures. Advancement in technology has seen adoption of computer based orientations in organizations, where the company offer training to various new employees in different branch locations.
Another strategy used in facilitating onboarding process in the private sector is recruitment events. This approach is useful in identifying potential employees who are a good fit for the organization.
The recruiting events help future employees to get information about a company that relates to the norms and virtues held by the organization. By undertaking this approach companies are able to weed out potential employees that are misfits to the organization. Research shows that new employees who get a lot of information that is accurate about the organization tend to perform better in their new roles (Klein, Fan & Preacher, 2006).
Mentorship is also an important approach that is applied by the private sector in their onboarding process. According to research by Ostroff and Kozlowski (1993) when new employees are mentored, they learn more about the organization than those that lack mentors.
Mentors have been proven instrumental in helping new employees to better manage their expectation and adjust within the new environment.
They do this by advising the new employees and offering a social support (Ostroff, & Kozlowski, 1993). In the research carried out by Chatman in 1991, it was found that if new employees spend time with their assigned mentors, they are likely to internalize key values and norms held by their organization.
He states that this can be done during company social functions where the new employees attend with their mentors. Chatman also found that there is need to consider demographic matching between new employees and mentors if the process is to be effective (Chatman, 1991).
Enscher and Murphy in 1997 carried a similar research to that of Chatman, but focused on race, gender, and its effect on the amount of contact and the quality of the mentorship. According to their research satisfaction, liking and contact was high in mentorship programs that where the new employee and the mentor were seen to share common traits (Enscher & Murphy, 1997).
Onboarding process for U.S Private Sector vs. the Public Sector
Organizations in the private sector monitor how well their new recruits adapt to the new responsibilities, cohorts, managers and the company at large. Research on the private sector shows that role clarity, social recognition, self-efficacy, and familiarity with the organizational culture are good pointers of recruits who have fully adjusted to the new organization.
Employees in the private sector understand their duties and responsibilities more than in the public sector. New recruits in the private sector are aided when it comes to reducing uncertainty so that it is simpler for them to get their duties done correctly and effectively.
The public sector, however, produces employees with sub-par productivity since they are unsure of their responsibilities. A strong onboarding program as in the private sector generates productive employees since they know what the company expects from them.
Employees in the private sector have the capacity of successfully completing duties allocated to them and accomplishing their responsibilities. This is known as self-efficacy. Research has shown that job satisfaction, company dedication and proceeds are all related with feeling of self- efficacy.
Social recognition by employees is evident in the private sector. This gives new recruits the encouragement needed for the company to be successful. While role clarity and self-efficacy are vital to a new recruit’s capacity in fulfilling the needed job requirements, social recognition is important when it comes to the employee’s perception of the work place.
Research has shown that social recognition increases dedication to a company though it decreases turnover. If a worker feels less appreciated by his colleagues, a personal investment in the company develops and quitting becomes rare.
Familiarity with organizational culture depicts how well a new recruit understands the values, objectives, responsibilities, beliefs and the environment of the company. For instance, some companies may have stringent, yet unspoken, policies of how relations with superiors should be or whether overtime is a belief and anticipation.
Familiarities with the cultures of the company is vital for recruits seeking to adjust to a new company since it allows for social recognition and helps in completing duties in a manner that meets the standards of the company.
Generally, familiarity with organizational culture has been associated with increased satisfaction and dedication, as well as reduced turnover. Onboarding practices does not only involve seeking high productivity it is involved in seeking to have job satisfaction and the employee to be committed to the company.
Recommendations for onboarding process
Organizations and companies in both the private and public sectors should develop strategies for their onboarding processes. The strategy should be structured in a way that it takes into consideration the individual’s personality and support proactive behavior.
The organizations should also encourage new workers to seek information that will help them to settle in their new jobs This generates valuable outcomes in job contentment, organizational dedication, and job performance. It also leads to reduced turnover rates and low intent to leave of employees in quitting from the company.
In terms of structure, the public sector in the federal government should adopt formal institutionalized socialization since it is the most efficient onboarding technique. New recruits who adopt this kind of program experience constructive job attitudes and reduced levels of turnover compared to those who adopt individualized techniques.
In-person Onboarding techniques are more efficient than virtual ones. Though in the start, it may seem cheaper for a company to adopt standard computer-founded orientation; workers learn more about their responsibilities and organizational culture through direct contact orientation.
Despite the benefits associated with onboarding programs in the federal government, onboarding is not a silver bullet for worker productivity and commitment. For a well-organized onboarding program to have great impacts, then management must incorporate it into human resource programs and with strategic objectives.
Effective onboarding does not compensate for other issues that lead to sagging engagement and other practices such as unfair recruitment processes and weak organization managers. The good news is that well structured and successful onboarding practices can be relatively cheap yet generate many temporal and permanent benefits in the organization.
The costs involved when companies ignore onboarding practices on new employees are relatively high. Companies in the federal government need to onboard new recruits in a strategic manner to deal with the expected increase in employment in the future.
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