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The majority of companies undertake onboarding in order to improve employee productivity (39%) and engagement (31%), yet a perceived lack of time can put a spanner in the works, according to research by SilkRoad, providers of talent management SaaS solutions.

Drivers and barriers

SilkRoad’s survey of 250 HR professionals from a range of industries and organisations revealed conflicting attitudes to onboarding. Just 3% of HR managers consider reducing administration and costs as a key driver for onboarding, yet 35% name time constraints as the biggest barrier to improving the process within their organisation.

Nicholas Roi, Managing Director SilkRoad UK comments on the findings: “What we see from the results is a lack of formalised onboarding strategy in many companies. This is due, in part, to time concerns, but ownership also plays a key role. One fifth of respondents cited lack of ownership as a barrier to onboarding while almost a third told us that centralising and providing consistency for the onboarding process would be beneficial, yet only 32% currently treat the onboarding process as a central HR function.”

When asked what elements of their current onboarding process would benefit most from improvement, no single factor stood out. In addition to the third (32%) that suggested centralising the process, just over a third (34%) said integrating new hires with current employees and a noteworthy 18% pointed to managing the administration of all internal onboarding relating tasks.

“Many of the barriers and areas for improvement suggested by respondents to this survey could easily be tackled by using an onboarding technology. Only 24% of companies currently have such technology in place, however lack of budget isn’t an issue for most (just 13% said it was). If businesses are going to approach onboarding in a more strategic manner, with the hope of realising significant results, investing in technology whereby all elements of onboarding can be viewed and managed from a central hub is an important step,” says Roi.

Strategy and results

Delving deeper into the onboarding strategy at respondent companies, SilkRoad discovered an astonishing 43% of businesses do not commence with the onboarding of a new hire until a person’s first day on the job, some even later than that.

More concerning perhaps is the number of companies neglecting to put checks in place to ensure that onboarding programmes are proceeding as expected and are achieving the desired results. A staggering 41% admit to a limited amount or only occasional spot monitoring while another 15% spend no time on follow ups or monitoring. Only 15% claimed to carry out extensive monitoring and tracking of newcomers to the company.

“Onboarding is vital for integrating a new employee into the workforce and for bringing them in line with company processes and culture, as well as reducing the time it takes for an employee to reach 100% productivity. For the process to be effective it must start before the new hire’s first day on the job. Existing staff need to be prepared for the arrival of their new colleague and the employee in question should already have some understanding of their role and of the company culture.  Without this it will take a lot longer for them to settle in, to feel engaged and be fully productive,” explains Roi.

He continues, “Even more important than commencing onboarding early, is following through with it. Onboarding does not begin and end on day one and if ongoing checks aren’t made as to an employee’s progress, important events and issues can be missed. At SilkRoad we believe in integrated talent management. As the onboarding process comes to an end, it should evolve into learning and development. This aids in maximising staff engagement.”

The survey results reveal that better employee retention was not considered a key driver for onboarding by many companies (14%), despite the fact that it can cost double an employee’s actual salary to find and train a new member of staff, and that approximately 70% of company expenses go towards paying salaries. When asked the turnover for new employees within their business, the majority (63%) said 5% or less, while 10% said between 5% and 10%. A smaller, yet not insignificant 4% admitted figures up to 20%, while a nominal, yet worrying 2% had a turnover of more than 31%.

“Onboarding can have a significant effect on an employee’s decision to stay in a role long-term, or move on,” says Roi. “Those companies experiencing a high turnover of new staff, and even those with figures floating around 5% might see a significant dip in turnover, and therefore an increase in staff profitability, if they put a strategic and centralised onboarding programme that is driven by technology, in place.”