Employees who are well prepared for their first day at work tend to find their bearings more easily and also have a more positive first impression of their new employer. At one in three companies, however, new hires encounter difficulties during their first weeks – or even months - in the job. They are left with all sorts of questions and many things remain unclear. And while they usually look to their direct superior for answers, that person is often insufficiently involved or lacks the time to help.
These are the most important conclusions of a survey of the use of onboarding processes in Belgian companies. The survey was conducted by Professor Dirk Buyens and researcher Astrid Vandenbroucke of Vlerick Business School, in cooperation with Talmundo, a specialist in digital onboarding platforms. 143 employees and 115 HR professionals participated in the survey.
It seems obvious that employers should remain in touch with their new employee from the time of hiring to their first day on the job, and get everything organised behind the scenes to ensure the new employee can integrate quickly and get to work as soon as possible. A good onboarding process is crucial here. Research has shown, however, that 40% of all companies provide insufficient information and support to new hires before their first day at work.
So where do things go wrong?
“We noted that the lack of clarity about tasks and expectations persisted throughout the first weeks and months. Employees also indicated that they were not given enough time for training during this period and that getting to know their colleagues was sometimes difficult because no one in the company had the task of introducing them”, researcher Astrid Vandenbroucke explains. “They also feel that their direct superior does not offer enough guidance and is not sufficiently involved in the process, which is unfortunate. Investing in onboarding is a good thing all round, both for the employee and the employer.”
34% of the respondents stated that their new employer did not have an official onboarding process, although 83% felt it would be very useful. They feel that a process of this kind contributes to a positive mindset, a positive experience of applying for the job and greater motivation, as well as facilitating more rapid integration into the company’s culture. 55% of the respondents stated that it took them almost three months until they had a good idea of the organisation’s mission, values and standards.
Finally, 58% said they relied on their direct superior as their main source of information and coaching. However the study also revealed that many employees felt their superior was insufficiently invested in their needs. “We think HR can play an important role in the onboarding process as a link between the employee and the employer”, says Astrid. “Managers should be sufficiently aware of the fact that adjusting to a new employer takes time. The more accessible they are, the sooner the new employee will be fully up and running.”
HR professionals do understand the use of onboarding. The main reason they give for this is that a good onboarding process will help employees feel at home in the company more quickly.
The study clearly shows that HR professionals are convinced that a good onboarding process is useful:
However they also struggle with several practical challenges:
The study also delved deeper into the HR professionals’ perception of the challenges new employees face. They believe that newcomers mainly grapple with the tasks and expectations associated with their job (66%) and find it difficult to integrate into company culture (61%). The first statement is indeed correct. In terms of company culture, however, only 37% of the employee respondents perceived this as a problem. The gap is even greater when it comes to job descriptions. While only 29% of the HR professionals in the study thought that new hires had questions about their position and role, a whopping 64% of the employees in the study indicated some confusion about their new job.
As far as the duration of the onboarding process is concerned, only 5% of the companies continuously invest in onboarding. On the positive side, employees think the process takes about a month, while HR professionals think it takes much less time.
Finally, 77% of the HR professionals believe that onboarding will become more important in the future and so they need to invest in it more.
Only one in three companies in the study used technology to steer the onboarding process. They either use specific software (10%), a web application (10%), a system developed by the company itself (36%) or a mixture of software and web applications (44%).
Onboarding costs less in companies that use technology. Moreover, the technology also facilitates the evaluation and measurement of the process.
Why do companies use technology?
“On the one hand, many companies believe that technology can be a useful element in onboarding. Nonetheless they are reticent when it comes to switching to technological solutions, mainly because of the cost. While offline onboarding processes may seem cheaper, inefficient and time-consuming systems also come at a cost, albeit more of a hidden cost”, Astrid concludes.
Download the full report 'Expectations versus reality of onboarding' on the Talmundo website.