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Oct. 9 — Formal welcoming procedures for new employees are lacking at 48 percent of companies, an in-depth study conducted by academics suggests.
This startling result comes from “Specific Onboarding Practices for the Socialization of New Employees,” published last month in the International Journal of Selection and Assessment. The survey included 10 HR representatives from different organizations and 373 employees who had been hired within the previous two years.
The two most common welcoming practices employees reported were being given a welcome kit and being invited to a gathering, such as a meeting or welcome lunch, to enable them to meet their new associates. When such practices take place, they are usually done late in the new employee's first week on the job, the study authors wrote.
• Four out of five of companies offer informational resources—most commonly, showing new employees how to find things on the corporate intranet and getting their workspace ready for them with supplies, materials and equipment. On average, this occurs early in the employee's second week on the job.
• Training is provided by 77 percent, most commonly on-the-job training in how to do the job and tours of company facilities. This too occurs on average early in the employee's second week. This was the category most commonly required of employees (55 percent of the time).
• Three-quarters of employers engaged in communication, most commonly meaning that managers “set aside a block of uninterrupted time to spend” with each new employee or that an HR representative met with them. On average, this occurs on the employee's first day.
In addition to welcoming and informational onboarding, a third type of onboarding, guidance, was offered by six in 10 companies. This most often consisted of providing “a single point of contact (welcome coordinator)” to answer new employees' questions, or assigning a fellow associate as a buddy to answer questions. Guidance kicks in, on average, “a few days prior to the first day,” the authors wrote.
On average on a five-point scale, employees rated the various onboarding processes somewhere between a 3 (“moderately beneficial”) and a 4 (“very beneficial”). However, four specific practices were singled out for employees giving them a rating over 4.10—uninterrupted time with a manager, the workspace being made ready, on-the-job training and a co-worker being assigned as a buddy.
However, the authors noted, employees' beliefs about which onboarding practices were most helpful didn't necessarily correspond to which practices actually helped them the most in getting socialized. What really worked best in this respect, the authors said, was:
• the company “offering more onboarding practices” and the employees “experiencing more onboarding practices”;
• companies requiring, not just encouraging, new employee participating in onboarding; and
• employers making the onboarding practices formal rather than informal, except the guidance practices.
Perhaps surprisingly, “only for some onboarding practices” did it make a difference how early on the job new employees participated in them, the authors said.
“Our findings point to the importance of organizations not only considering the design (i.e. broad socialization tactics) of onboarding programs, but also the inclusion of specific onboarding activities that inform, welcome and guide the newcomer,” study co-author Beth Polin, an assistant professor of management at Eastern Kentucky University, said in an Oct. 8 e-mail to Bloomberg BNA.
“These specific onboarding practices should be offered formally, require participation, and occur consistently across the organization and in a manner that is memorable to the newcomer, as we found a number of discrepancies between what organizations say they are offering and what employees remember experiencing,” she added.
“While offering more activities to newcomers is suggested as being better for newcomers' socialization into the organization, companies must consider their resource constraints as they decide on the number of activities to include in the onboarding experience,” Polin noted.
“Finally, our findings point out that despite recommendations to space onboarding activities over a time frame of several months, most companies are still overwhelming their newcomers upon entry into the organization. A more nuanced approach should be taken to onboarding program implementation based on newcomer learning needs.”
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An abstract of the study is available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ijsa.12113/abstract.
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