Addressing Onboarding Shortcomings


The turnover problem that many companies face starts with how they onboard new employees. Data-driven assessment can help encourage the development growth that is essential to effective onboarding.

What is Onboarding Really For?

In a 2014 survey with BambooHR, one-third of approximately 1,000 people surveyed said that they quit their last job before they hit the sixth-month mark. Approximately 17 percent of respondents said that they left between the first week and the third month of working their new job. This costly statistic is often the result of one or two factors: inadequacy in the assessment of potential hires, and/or systemic issues in the way that new employees are brought onboard. We’ve already talked about how authentic assessment helps smooth out the hiring process.  Now we’d like to turn a critical eye toward the onboarding process and how we could do better.

To begin, it’s worth considering what onboarding intends to accomplish in an ideal scenario. Effective onboarding should do two things: (1) prepare the hire to take on their new responsibilities and (2) integrate them into the culture of the company. An early exit may indicate that the onboarding process has failed to do at least one or both.

It’s important to remember that onboarding is about much more than just training. While training plays a critical role in onboarding, the culture component is just as important.  When people enter a new company, they want to know how they will fit in. As seen with many Millennials, when new hires aren’t able to develop a sense of purpose, or they feel isolated from the rest of the team, they are much less likely to be productive and happy with their work. At the end of the onboarding process, the new employee should be able to say confidently that they are an integral part of the team and have a definitive understanding of their role to guide their growth and development.

Why It Matters

Turnover can get in the way of a business’s growth and success.  The financial cost of losing and replacing a new hire can range from 25 percent to 200 percent of their annual salary while high turnover can further be profoundly damaging to employee morale. It’s hard to feel like you are part of a team when the composition of that team is in a constant state of flux.

Onboarding may be the antidote to a high turnover rate amongst new hires. A 2013 report by the Aberdeen Group found that 91% of employees stayed through their first year in companies with best-in-class onboarding programs, illustrating the link between an engaging, effective onboarding process and a reduction in turnover.

More than just turnover, quality onboarding has also shown to have a direct impact on profit growth. It’s not hard to see why. Employees who are genuinely enthusiastic about their job do better work, and that quality of work translates to greater success for the company as a whole.

How to Make Your Onboarding More Effective

Many companies over think onboarding. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on a gauntlet of team-building activities to get people excited about working for you. While those things might be a nice bonus to help build team experience, the most important thing is to clarify the new hire’s purpose from day one.

New hires should have clear goals and at least one obvious thing to accomplish each and every day. Employees get off track when they are either given too little or too much to do when they start out. Effective onboarding is all about steadily ramping up responsibility as employees get more comfortable. Not only will starting small help them learn their job, but a clear focus better equips them to solve complex problems on their own.

One way to position new hires for success, and to help them understand what is expected of them, is to have them work through a standard role-based task (a typical authentic workplace problem relevant to the corporation and the new hires’ job role). This is exactly the kind of exercise that the Authess platform is equipped to provide companies struggling with their onboarding.

Because Authess captures problem-solving, approaches and strategies in addition to the final answer, Authess’ Insight reports can show new hires how their performance compares with that of top performing employees. This reporting can capture culture, behavior, ethical decision-making, creativity and other hard-to-measure characteristics that are essential to a successful onboarding process.

Above all, the most important thing you can do is give valuable feedback. It’s an obvious thing to say in concept, but much harder to implement in practice, especially in terms of the employee to manager relationship. Managers are busy with their own jobs and responsibilities and being asked to foster a new employee often leads only to stress and frustration.  

Assigning critical path work with a deadline to an employee, having to evaluate that work, then explain to that employee how their work was excellent, satisfactory or deficient, all while providing feedback that is actionable and constructive, can be extremely time-consuming.  Often, the manager is too busy to be this involved, so the new hire gets frustrated, the manager gets frustrated, and no corrective action is suggested. In other cases, the manager may be ill-equipped to evaluate the work and give constructive feedback. Inevitably, the new hire quits and goes somewhere else.

The idea behind integrating authentic assessment into the onboarding process is to provide a  low-risk and low-stress opportunity to solve the kinds of problems that the company is actually dealing with on a day-to-day basis.  With Authess, new hires get actionable feedback and a development path without burdening the manager or having another person on the payroll completely devoted to learning and development. Authess’ version of authentic assessments would take no time for the manager to administer and limited time for the new hire to complete, and the reports are auto-generated so the new hire gets feedback without burdening the productive capacity of the management team.

These tenets of feedback, growth, and problem solving are essential to why we built Authess. We’ve created a framework to help make this process of onboarding easy with a clearly articulated path and data-driven feedback to help new hires grow into their role. If onboarding is a persistent issue for your company, consider giving Authess a try.