Remember for just a moment the first few weeks in your job. Chances are it took you a while to get in the swing of things and to get fully comfortable and productive. Thinking even further back, once you accepted the job and before you showed up for your first day, how much communication was there between you and people in your new company? Was the company organized — did processes flow smoothly on your first day and then your first week? Did you already have a sense that you were going to make fast friends with people at work?
Why Onboarding Matters
Onboarding new employees is one of the most critical cross-functional processes in a company, involving a hiring manager, HR, IT, facilities, training, etc. The process is fraught with opportunities for failure. In some of the companies I’ve worked with, I’ve heard stories of people who didn’t get a computer or email address for two weeks, who had no place to sit on their first day at work, who didn’t talk to their manager for the first month, who had no clear assignments for weeks, and unfortunately, the list goes on.
It’s no wonder that, according to the Aberdeen Group, 86% of new hires decide to stay or leave a company within their first six months and new employees are 69% more likely to stay longer than three years if they experience well-structured onboarding. One study reported that the impact to productivity for new hires and transfers ranged between 1% and 2.5% of total revenues. In his book “The First 90 Days,” Michael Watkins states that the break-even point, where new hires add more value than they have consumed, is usually 6.2 months. Aberdeen also reported that 89% of new hires say they don’t have the optimum level of knowledge necessary to do their job. Clearly, there’s a compelling business results rationale for ensuring that onboarding works in your company because even a small improvement in onboarding effectiveness can yield significant productivity results.
Social media tools, used privately within organizations, can benefit new employees, whose experiences can be vastly enhanced to improve time to productivity. Social media tools can also help the cross-functional team that works together to bring in those new employees.
Social Tools Can Improve the Onboarding Experience for Employees
Ask any college student today what they did to prepare to show up at their dorm on day one of school, and you’ll find that they are likely to have built a vast Facebook network in advance. Not only do they get to know their roommate, but they’ve reached out to friends of friends to meet other people, discover the best places to hang out, and plan get-togethers their first week. Contrast this with the typical experience of a new hire who, more often than not, has just exchanged a few emails with their manager-to-be or HR contact at their new company from the time they accept the offer until their start date.
Instead, imagine being able to join an active online community of other new hires — those already in the company and those about to join as well. In this private community, new hires can connect, post pictures or videos, talk about hobbies, get tips and hints from recent hires already in the company, and form connections with dozens of people before even showing up for day one. Maybe they will even meet their new best friend, which Gallup says will make them 35% more likely to report commitment to quality along with many other benefits. Knowing what to expect when new employees arrives on day one will help reduce anxiety and prepare them to step in and learn right off the bat.
Once new hires have system access, the ability to join online communities of practice, enabled by social tools, will give them access to people working in the same kinds of jobs or tackling the same kinds of problems, no matter where they are physically located. The community of practice can house the collective intelligence of hundreds of people gathered over time, allowing a rich repository of knowledge for the new hire to access — acronym wikis, collaborative documents, project status updates, and so on.
If many of your new hires are Millennials — those people born after 1977 — it’s likely they are accustomed to using social tools to manage their work already. How much easier is it to join a social community committed to the same body of knowledge rather than tracking down 6-month-old email trails and documents sitting on someone’s hard drive? IDC estimates the average knowledge worker spends 15-30 % of their time just looking for information. Make it easy on your new employees to find information and you can make a big first step in improving their time to productivity.
Social Tools Can Improve the Onboarding Process Itself
The more cross-functional a workflow, the more it can benefit from social tools. If there is one place that everyone involved in the process can instantly view the status of each new hire, it’s less likely that a step will be dropped because of miscommunication. At most companies, email is still the main form of communication used to convey status. All it takes is one person missing an email for the new hire to suffer.
Today’s corporate social tools can allow simultaneous completion and status update of tasks such as:
• The recruiter indicating status of the paperwork
• HR issuing the description of benefit plans to the new hire
• IT providing system access, phone numbers, email addresses, and laptop distribution
• Facilities notifying the manager of space allocation
• Training automatically enrolling the new hire in an orientation program
• The manager and the new hire seeing each of those in a status and “to do” list.
It’s easy to see why tracking all of that in dozens of emails almost guarantees something will go wrong.
Every day in 2013, 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65, and about 80% of those will exit the workplace by that age. Even if revenue growth is modest, it’s likely that you will be hiring to replace for turnover or retirement. If you want to enable those new hires to make a difference as soon as possible and fit into the culture of the company, go social: give them the kinds of communication tools they are already using outside work.
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