Plek blog

Onboarding is a necessity if you want new employees to stick around

At Plek we believe in a warm welcome for new employees. We spend time to get to know new colleagues and we ensure that they are able to find their way around the organization. For Amin, our Iranian senior back-end developer, we even arranged an apartment. This is called onboarding. Our platform Plek provides our clients with the right tools for a smooth onboarding process. But why is this important? I discussed this with Bea Aarnoutse, managing director of internal- and employer branding agency PROOF and author of the book Alignment 2.0.

It seems obvious to for organizations to ensure that every employee has a kickstart on their first day on the job. But we often hear about people not being able to log into systems on their first day, or about the complete lack of clear information about the organization. So a vase of fresh flowers on the new employee's desk is probably way too much to ask... In these cases, there is hardly any training period for new employees.

Bea Aarnoutse is managing director of PROOF, a communication agency helping clients to improve their employee journey. She wrote the book Alignment 2.0 about 'the sum of internal branding and employer branding in practice'. I talked to Bea about new employees' very important first few days and weeks on the job.

Bea, what is your opinion of the value of employees for the organization?

“We believe that business value is generated by putting employees first. And second, and third. Only then can you deliver value to your customers. You can't promise something to your customers without fulfilling that promise internally."

In other words: practice what you preach. We recognize this in our clients too. TMG's market strategy is to deliver news, 24/7 and on all channels and devices. But their own intranet wasn't living up to this. They implemented Plek to deliver on their brand's promise internally as well.

"We call this alignment; including your employees in the organizational goals. An involved employee is more inclined to contribute to the organization's strategic objectives. Onboarding is not a stand-alone process. It is part of the employee journey. You have to use the first one hundred days to let new employees become part of your organization's story - tell them what the organization stands for and what its goals are. Organizations often forget this. But employees really want to know how they can contribute to those higher goals - it makes work more fun."

Good onboarding pays off. How does this become evident?

“During the first few weeks on the job, many employees are still figuring out if they made the right decision: perhaps the grass is greener somewhere else? If they discover that the image they formed about the organization isn't right, there is a chance that they will leave. A third of new hires are already looking for a new job some time during their first six months on the job. And 23 percent leave the organization within a year. Employers spend a lot of time and attention on bringing in new people, but then a quarter will quickly leave."

“Making a good first impression and really engaging new employees is essential, also for the sake of cost savings." Bea Aarnoutse, managing director of internal- and employer branding agency PROOF.

“If a new colleague leaves, you have to find a replacement for them. That's costly and it also costs a lot of time: it takes at least eight months for a new employee to really establish themselves. Making a good first impression and really engaging new employees for the long term is essential, also for the sake of cost savings. Various studies show that organizations with an onboarding program are better at retaining employees."

What is often overlooked in onboarding?

“Seventy percent of employee happiness at work is dependent on the quality of the manager. But in many organizations the role of the direct manager is undervalued. It already helps when the manager personally welcomes the new employee."

“It also pays off to ensure that new hires quickly build a network. The faster they find their way in the organization, the better they can do their jobs. That is why it's important to give them the chance to get to know the right colleagues during the first one hundred days. A buddy can help. The buddy idea has really been gaining popularity: you assign someone a permanent buddy who is responsible for onboarding their new colleague."

There are a lot of separate apps for onboarding these days. Do you think this can work?

“An app is not the holy grail. If you think you can solve it with an app, you're underestimating the importance of onboarding. It has to be a combination of the right tooling and personal attention. If onboarding is part of the whole, for example a social intranet, the digital platform allows you to provide a lot of information and background information about the organization. This can even be part of the preboarding phase. You could use a quiz, or create a few videos about other locations or stores. My advice: don't let your resources determine how you're setting up your onboarding trajectory - start by determining your goals and figuring out how to achieve them."

That's our philosophy too. By making sure the social intranet is a central platform in the onboarding program, new employees get used to this form of communication in the organization. On the Plek platform we also encourage new colleagues to share their first impressions with their manager or their buddy. How do you feel about that?

“New employees are a great source of knowledge. Especially during the onboarding phase, it's of great value to ask them: what do you see? You can learn a lot from new people's impressions. This type of knowledge is only rarely gathered and registered correctly. But new people really see what's going on because they're not a part of it yet. They ask questions such as: does this really make sense, and are you always communicating this way? After two years in an organization, you can become little oblivious to your organization's peculiarities and issues."

“Especially during the onboarding phase, it's of great value to ask new employees: what do you see? You can learn a lot from new people's impressions." Bea Aarnoutse, managing director of internal- and employer branding agency PROOF. 

It is indeed. But the supervision of employees doesn't stop after the first one hundred days.

“True, it remains important that employees maintain and expand their informal network, and that the organization's story is kept alive. This story can change with major change trajectories such as a change in strategy or a merger. You have to take employees along when you're changing course. Manage their expectations and help them be of value in the new situation. The relationship between employer and employee is a reciprocal relationship, after all."

We started blogging about onboarding in November. Read all about why onboarding is important in part 1. In part 2 we explain how to make sure new employees get a kickstart by means of a roadmap that already starts before the first day on the job. Part 3 contains some practical tips that will help you make your onboarding process official and fully integrate it into your organization. In part 4 we will tell you how to encourage new hires to connect with their colleagues.

P.S. Did you see our free product tours?

Take a product tour