Hiring manager thought: “Success! We recruited and hired several new employees. Employees that are promising . . . and expensive, enthusiastic . . . and time-consuming, skilled . . . and not yet ready to execute. And, some say as many as 17% may quit within their first 3 months, with as many as 30% deciding to leave within 6 months (BambooHR, 2014). Will this group of new talent bring the value, energy, and skills we need to make the investment in them worthwhile?”
New hire thought: “I got the job! Got the job! Now what? Am I actually qualified for this? They’re going to find out I’m not qualified for this. But I am quick to learn. Will my boss help mentor me? Are my coworkers as helpful and supportive as they seem? When does my first paycheck come? . . .”
Bringing new people onto your team is an exciting and stressful time, for all parties involved. To help ease the transition, most companies engage in some formal or informal onboarding process.
PURPOSE OF ONABORDING: Ensure employees feel valued and can be effective from day one.
PROBLEM WITH ONBOARDING: How do you execute it well and know it’s working?
SOLUTION: Conduct an onboarding survey (well, qualifier, this is one important piece of the process).
An onboarding survey allows you to identify what’s working well and potential gaps in your employees’ onboarding experience.
Is the job what employees signed up for and did the recruiting and hiring processes give proper expectations for what the job actually entails?
Do employees have what they need to be up and running quickly?
How successfully have you introduced employees to the work environment, their teams, leadership, and organizational values; do new hires feel a personal connection?
Conducting a short survey to assess and monitor your onboarding process has several benefits. First, a survey is quick and easy. Time constraints and insufficient HR staff are among the top reasons that companies do not offer as many onboarding practices as they think they should (SHRM, 2011); using an online survey can help combat these challenges and still get your organization helpful information about the process. Second, the anonymity and confidentiality offered by a survey creates opportunities for new employees to be honest and open about their experiences. Additionally, and probably most importantly, feedback about the onboarding process and whether it’s working can help you fix what is broken, preventing the loss of skilled and motivated talent in this influential time.
How long should the onboarding survey be?: No more than 30 items, keeping the survey at 5 minutes or less to complete.
What should we ask on the survey?: Research and best practices show that four key areas are essential to include on your onboarding survey:
Culture: company values, norms, and behaviors
People: connections with others
Expectations: roles and responsibilities
Onboarding Process: effectiveness of the process
And, if you are really savvy, you should ask about outcomes related to all of your hard onboarding work, such as employee engagement or intent to stay with your organization.
Who should take the survey?: All new hires! Make sure to capture perceptions of as many employees as possible to ensure a full and representative picture of the onboarding process. This requires some trust-building with your new employees to encourage not only their participation, but their honest feedback.
When should we give the survey?: It is important to plan the timing of your survey/s where it makes sense within the overall onboarding process. Many organizations conduct onboarding only during the employee’s first week on the job, but a number continue to onboard over several months (SHRM, 2011). For example, some trainings have longer durations, like at Zappos where they have an intensive 5-week training course (Bauer, 2010). According to BambooHR, an overwhelming number of employees (75%) report that initial training is most important part of onboarding, so you will want to survey after initial training is complete.
In terms of frequency, it is best practice to administer surveys after 30 and 60 days. Taking a quick pulse at 90- and 120-day milestones is also recommended. Leaving a survey open for two weeks should capture current perceptions that can change quickly, while also being a realistic window for busy, new employees to complete the questionnaire.
With effective onboarding, your company can nurture relationships with new employees, prevent costly turnover, and build employees’ active commitment, personal significance of their work, and confidence in the future of your organization. it is important to get onboarding right and have evidence that the process is making your employees feel valued and effective as soon as possible.
BambooHR. (2014). The definitive guide to onboarding: Everything you need to know to onboard like a pro.
SHRM. (2011). SHRM survey findings: Onboarding practices.