As I mentioned in my previous post titled “The Hiring Challenge(s)“, one of the biggest challenges facing employers (and employees) is the onboarding process for new hires. After writing the previous blog post, I ran across a great article by David Lee titled “How to Avoid the Four Deadliest Onboarding Mistakes” that really gives a good onboarding overview and some great statistics & stories about the onboarding nightmare that occurs at some companies.

In the article, David quotes some research performed by Hewitt & Associates that says that outlines that companies with a good onboarding process tend to do better and have happier employees. He writes:

A 2003 study by Hewitt Associates demonstrating the connection between effective onboarding and engagement revealed that companies who invested the most time and resources in onboarding enjoyed the highest levels of employee engagement.

Both research and common sense tell us that it makes sense to invest time and effort into preparing employees to be successful at their jobs. If you want them to become productive as quickly as possible, why would anyone not do what it took to make that happen? If you’re going to spend all that money on acquiring them and paying them to come to work, why would you not prepare them to succeed?

Despite the obviousness of this, many organizations approach new hire orientation with a level of professionalism and quality they would never tolerate in their daily operations.

David continues on to give Four Deadly Mistakes that a company should never make. They are:

Mistake #1: Trying to cram 20 hours worth of information into four mind-numbing hours of orientation.
Mistake #2: Running a slipshod, “fly by the seat of your pants” program, believing that doing so has no negative impact.
Mistake #3: Making your new hire orientations as dull as watching paint dry.
Mistake #4: Using the “sink or swim” approach to onboarding.

All four mistakes are quite common and quite damaging…but I think Mistake #4, the ‘sink or swim approach’ is the one that is most damaging. The “sink or swim” approach does absolutely nothing positive for anyone involved…in most cases it makes the employee question their choice of accepting the job offer. David provides some good insight into this ‘sink or swim’ approach when he writes:

Throwing a new employee into the fray without appropriate support and coaching is one of the most common, and damaging, mistakes an organization can make. Not only does it dramatically increase the odds the employee will leave, it communicates to all employees two morale and pride damaging messages: “Management doesn’t care about their people” and “Management doesn’t have common sense.”

I couldn’t agree more.

I have gone through a very similar situation of being thrust into a new position without any orientation from HR or my boss and I can say that instead of being a happy, productive employee I spent the majority of my time just trying to figure out what my job was, who I needed to speak to to get questions answered and exactly what it was that the group did and how they did it.

In addition, my boss thrust me into a very visible and important role that should have been given to someone with many years of experience within the company/group…instead, I was put into the role and, although I did the best I could under the circumstances, I didn’t feel comfortable in the role and wasn’t able to accomplish anything. It is very disheartening to join a company and learn that they really don’t seem to care about their people…especially after reading their mission/vision statements that tout their ‘people oriented approach’.

After a few months with that company, I still had no idea what my job was, how to do my job, what benefits I was able to apply for, how to apply for them, etc…it was a rough time. Needless to say, my heart was never in the role and I never completely felt a part of the company and eventually moved on.

My own experiences and reading what others have to say about onboarding really makes me wonder if companies truly understand how much damage they are doing to themselves when they take the ‘sink or swim’ approach with a new hire.

[tags] Human Resources, On-boarding, organization [/tags]