Getting new employees up to speed quickly can save companies money

Thrust into a new position with little training and without a computer or desk to work at can be a real morale breaker.


Imagine walking into a new job and finding out that no one in the office has any idea of who you are or why you’re there. It’s a drastic example of an all-too common issue: Bad on-boarding practices by employers.

On-boarding is the process of bringing new hires onto the team in the most effective way possible, for both the employee and his or her new workmates.

Alice Snell, vice-president of Taleo Research, and Adrienne Whitten, Taleo’s director of product marketing, say the above example is no joke — the woman it happened to had to take a week of paid leave before she even started a single day, all because the company simply wasn’t ready for her. Even during her time off she received no further training.

For anyone who has ever been thrust neck-deep into a new position with little training and without a computer or desk to work at for weeks, the experience can be a real morale breaker.

“Sometimes when a new employee fails, it can be the fault of the employer. A lot of times employers miss the fact that it’s their job to make new employees successful,” Whitten said.

Whitten says a big reason for weak on-boarding practices is confusion about who is responsible for getting a new hire up to speed.

“It’s really easy to think someone else is taking care of a particular task — there’s a lot of confusion over ownership of on-boarding tasks. Lots of things have to be co-ordinated and there’s a lack of consistency, even at small companies,” Whitten said.

The results of bad on-boarding can be disastrous. Snell gives the example of Hunter Douglas, a worldwide window coverings maker, which had a 70 per cent workforce turnover rate at the six-month mark before it changed its on-boarding practices, resulting in a turnover reduction down to only 16 per cent. It also saw a drastic increase in overall productivity, proving that getting employees on-board efficiently and effectively is also about the bottom line.

“There’s always a ramp-up time, and it costs the company real dollars. The issue is to truncate that time as much as possible. New hires are excited — they want to be productive as soon as they can,” Snell said.

For new employees about to start, Snell suggests taking the initiative and asking the right questions even before you set foot in the office.

“Tell them, ‘I’m excited to come to work — who do I talk to about getting my computer?’ Find out how the training works, how you get oriented. These are questions you should be asking before you even come in the door,” Snell said.

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