Why Your Employee On-Boarding Experience Really Matters

7 min read
07-Dec-2020 14:00:00

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5 steps to delivering a great on-boarding experience, made simple with modern service management technology

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Employee Onboarding is a Key Part of the Overall Employee Experience

45% of organizations struggle to find the skilled workers they need. And when they do, they struggle to keep them. 47% or organizations expect to lose 10%+ of their workforce every year. 

In a competitive business environment where talent is hard to find (and retain), the employee experience matters. If they have a great experience, they’re likely to stay. If they don’t, they’ll get what they’re looking for elsewhere. 

43% of organization struggle with low or declining employee engagement, and employee engagement starts with the onboarding experience; the employee’s first taste of what a company is really like. Research shows that 69% of employees are more likely to stay for 3 years when they get a great onboarding experience.

Onboarding is Complex

It’s obvious that the quality of the onboarding experience is a critical success factor for long-term business success, but getting it right isn’t easy. The average onboarding process involves 54 activities, including 3 document signatures, 41 admin tasks (like desk setup, device provisioning, application logins, buildings access and more), and 10 learning outcomes (about the company, the culture, the market, and the responsibilities of the role itself). It’s a complex process of many moving parts. 

Onboarding is what we call in service management an “enterprise process”; it involves dozens of tasks happening in different internal service providers across the enterpriseHR, IT, Facilities, Security, Health & Safety, and more (depending on what your business does). All these tasks need to be coordinated. Some have strict dependencies. Many need to be completed long before the employee’s first day. There is nothing worse than an employee turning up to start work to find they are missing the tools they need to get started—but this is not uncommon.

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Success Requires a System

As a complex enterprise process, there is a lot of scope for failure: tasks get forgotten or duplicated, timelines are missed, and the organization gets tied up in knots over who is doing what and when. Coordinating a great onboarding experience in a small organization is difficult enough, but in large organizations (with more complex environments and more moving parts) success must be underpinned by a coordinating service management system. Where a small organization can manage with a simple checklist or spreadsheet, large organizations with many different departments and roles need to manage a diverse set of onboarding processes—with each one customized to the needs of the employee. 

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5 Steps to Delivering a great Onboarding Experience

Improving your onboarding experience can have a huge impact on your business. As a cross-departmental process, this can seem like a daunting task as it requires change management across multiple stakeholder groups. However, if you take a structured approach (supported by the right technology) you can achieve some rapid gains and quickly establish a baseline for ongoing improvement.

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1 - Take the Employee's Perspective

In the same way that organizations need to put themselves in their customers’ shoes to understand what the customer experience looks like; organizations need to apply the same principle to the employee experience—of which onboarding is a key part.

Take a step back. View the onboarding experience as a whole, from the employee’s perspective. It is an important human experience; one which has a profound impact on the way the employee views your organization. For them, the onboarding experience is an indicator of how well they will be supported in their mission—which, in turn, indicates how much your organization values them as a new part of the team. A poor onboarding experience sends out all the wrong signals.

2 - Engage Stakeholders

As a complex process which spans multiple service provider departments, getting the constituent stakeholders to work together is a critical success factor. However, it can be difficult to make collaboration happen for the employee when conflicting departmental priorities are at play. It is essential to get an executive champion onboard—somebody with the authority to break deadlocks and push things forward. As an enterprise process which flows across department divisions, the culture must be collaborative.

Measuring the quality of the onboarding experience and holding all supporting service providers accountable can help to ensure people take it seriously (and continue to do so)—and commit to working together on an essential, highly visible business process which has the potential to make these teams look very good, or very bad. When a new employee turns up to spend a day at an empty desk, everybody sees it.

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3 - Establish an Enterprise Process

William Edward Deming, the famous quality management guru said, â€œIf you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing”. When you have a process, you have a map: a defined path from trigger to outcome; from demand to delivery (See The ITIL 4 Service Value Chain). Having this map is especially important for an enterprise process like onboarding, as there are multiple groups involved in the process who need to collaborate.

4 - Automate the Process

In large organizations, it is critical to manage the flow of work between teams. Otherwise, tasks get lost in a “black hole” and the customer or employee is left waiting—sometimes forever. Workflow automation is a key component of a great onboarding process—modelling the tasks happening across IT, HR, Facilities, Security, and others—and the order in which they need to happen. 

While automating the workflow is critical, automating the work (the individual tasks within the workflow) will deliver a step-change in productivity. For example, if you automate the provisioning of application access, you take number of previously manual admin tasks off IT’s plate. Today, the availability of powerful service management automation options means that it is now possible to automate the majority of the “heavy lifting” associated with employee onboarding. 

For example, for one of our customers in South America, if a blank workstation is plugged into the network on the day before a new employee’s arrival, it is automatically detected and set up overnight—ready for the employee the next morning. Depending on which branch of the network they are in (e.g. which department they are in) they get a desktop with the specification they need. New staff get what they need, with just a few minutes of effort from the desktop support team. Without automation, application provisioning can take hours, or even days.

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5 - Collaborate for Improvement

Nothing is ever perfect first time. But one thing is for sure; your competitors are working on delivering better and better employee onboarding experiences. Building a truly great employee onboarding experience doesn’t happen in one step. There are some quick wins, but continuous improvement should be a key part of your plan. Get stakeholders together to assess performance and work out ways to improve. One of the best ways to assess performance is to ask new employees for candid feedback on how they felt about their experience. Employee satisfaction relating to onboarding should be a key metric by which the whole process is measured.

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