Making onboarding inclusive and successful for everyone

Inclusive and successful-for-everyone onboarding is integral to the overall inclusive culture in your business. But there’s just one crucial thing — you need to have an onboarding program to begin with.

According to statistics, onboarding is an afterthought for many businesses. An Allied Workforce Mobility Survey found almost a quarter (22%) of companies don’t do formal onboarding.  

The same survey showed only 28% of businesses have really successful ones. Just under half (49%) of companies said their onboarding regimens are “somewhat successful.”

Statistics show that people who have a disability are more loyal to the organizations they work for than other employees. But poor onboarding experiences lead to employees leaving within their first year. A third of new hires look for a new job within six months. Within a year, 25% of new employees leave.  

“Competition among the most innovative companies is growing ever more heated for one of the most highly-coveted resources on the market: talented employees. But sadly, too many new hires slip away because of a poor initial experience with their new companies,” wrote Keith Ferrazzi in a March 2015 Harvard Business Review article. Ferrazzi is CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a consulting and training firm in Los Angeles. 

Best-in-class onboarding has big benefits

Then there’s onboarding done right. With a best-in-class approach. It has noteworthy results. 

The onboarding phase is the most crucial time in an employee’s experience with your business. How do you make it inclusive and successful — benefiting both your business and all your employees?

Best practices to follow

Follow some best practices, for certain. It may require evaluating — and possibly rethinking and reinventing — your onboarding strategy and tactics. 

“Excellence in onboarding results from a combination of strategies, capabilities, and enabling technologies. The Best-in-Class display a number of common core characteristics,” notes the Aberdeen report. 

Here are some best practices to follow for first-class, inclusive onboarding:

Making the rounds to meet managers and colleagues is often a standard part of first-day and -week onboarding activities. The entire workplace should be physically accessible. Or, these meet-and-greets should be arranged in one location easily accessible for all. As well, any group or individual activities (such as problem-solving exercises) need to be accessible. 

There’s generally a lot involved in creating a successful onboarding program. Adding the essential accessibility layer may require enlisting the help of outside experts. That is, unless your business is well along what PwC calls “the D&I maturity curve.” If you’re well along the curve, you’re thinking strategically and not tactically about D&I. Perhaps you’re at the curve point where you’ve invested in having staff who are singularly focused on D&I. If so, they need to own your onboarding program.  

On their first day new employees want to feel comfortable, not stressed out. It’s important to find the balance. Planning too little — or not at all — can create a memorable poor first-day experience from which no one benefits. It can have lasting ramifications. First-day experiences set the tone for employee loyalty and retention. “A positive first day, with some interesting work, can leave a lasting impression,” says Connie Malamed, an eLearning coach. 

Encourage staff to be a mentor for the new hires. This can help with employee retention. A study by the Society of Human Resource Management found that new employees who were assigned a mentor built more knowledge about the organization and were more invested in it. 

Another option is creating a “buddy” system during onboarding. It’s a common practice when businesses hire several new people at once. This helps with the socialization part. There are two ways to approach this practice. One way is pairing two new employees. As they support each other through acclimatization to the culture, they’re forming interpersonal relationships. Another way of “buddying up” is matching a new hire with an employee who has been in the organization for some time and is familiar with the culture, processes and people. They, too, are relationship-building with the new hire as they support the person through the socialization period. Both approaches are beneficial and can help create a positive onboarding experience.

Traditionally, Human Resources is the department primarily responsible for onboarding. But often, “various departments and key stakeholders are typically involved in the creation, implementation, and measurement” of onboarding programs, notes the Aberdeen Group. 

The study found that in 26% of organizations, learning and development departments own the onboarding process. In 22%, HR owns onboarding. Taking ownership of the onboarding process means people have a stake in it. It helps drive the incentive to create a process that results in a memorable process for everyone. For all the right reasons. 

An inclusive, rewarding onboarding experience is the final stage in an inclusive recruiting process. In many ways, it’s the most crucial part. Doing it well positions employees, and your business, for future success and growth. Not doing it well means you may end up starting recruitment for a role all over again within a few months. And that can hurt morale, culture, productivity and the bottom line. 

As with all the other aspects covered in this five-part article series, inclusive onboarding requires three vital things. Following best practices; being intentional about D&I; and having the right mindset to begin with.