The 4 Elements of Great Employee Onboarding - Whistle
Employee onboarding

The 4 Elements of Great Employee Onboarding

A guide to reducing turnover and boosting productivity

Onboarding provides new employees with their first introduction to the culture and values of your company. The experience they have during this series of activities lays the groundwork for how they will feel about your organization, as well as for how long they will stay with you. Did you know that employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they had a great onboarding process? Because the cost to replace a new employee is estimated from 25% to 250% of their salary (depending on the type of role), forward thinking companies invest in onboarding to boost retention – translating to millions of dollars of value to both the top and bottom lines.

And with turnover rates at all time highs, effective onboarding has never produced a stronger return on investment.

What is Employee Onboarding?

You may be wondering, “what is employee onboarding?” It is the process through which new employees learn the necessary skills, behaviors, and knowledge to become effective team members at a new company. 

Employee onboarding is also referred to as organizational socialization. It is a process that introduces new employees to their organization, their role, and their team. A well-structured onboarding program typically results in higher retention rates, higher productivity levels, and quicker acquisition of knowledge. 

A great employee onboarding process cannot simply be thrown together. It must be carefully designed using input from members across the organization. It is typically done through a combination of in-person and online events that start during the hiring process after a candidate receives an offer of employment, and it continues for weeks or months as the employee acclimates to the role and the organization. 

Having a comprehensive employee onboarding program in place is important because it ensures your new employees have a path for growth and success. 

Four elements of a great employee onboarding program

Any great employee onboarding experience (one that positively impacts employee productivity and retention) must address four key areas. Sometimes these are described as the “Four Cs”:; Connection, culture, clarification and compliance.

Connections are the internal relationships; formal and informal networks that new employees need to establish to be successful.  Relationships are the key driver of people feeling connected and sense of belonging to a new organization.  One Gallup poll found that women who strongly agree they have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged (63%) than those who do not (29%). Having a best friend at work has been linked to a host of other outcomes ranging from greater productivity and retention to fewer safety incidents. 

Culture represents the broad range of behaviors – both formal and informal – that are practiced within the workplace.  Culture includes how people demonstrate or live into the values and purpose of the organization, as well as the behaviors leaders model and recognize. New employees will be looking not only at what is explicitly said (e.g., “We value diversity”) but at what is implicilty communicated (how many of the leaders who are presenting are non-white?). If a key tenet of the organization is that people are its most precious resource, providing an experience that makes people feel valued from the first moment is critical.  

Clarification refers to an understanding of their new job or role.  This includes the skills, processes and behaviors that need to be mastered for someone to have the ability to succeed.  Clarification often begins with the onboarding process and continues for the first few weeks or months of a role, as the individual learns more about the organization and their team’s and leaders’ expectations of them. 

Compliance, the most basic element of employee onboarding, represents many administrative basics that are required by the company or by outside bodies such as the government. company policies, industry compliance, government regulations and legal items all fall in the compliance category.  These items are important for the function of organizations but not directly valuable to the success of most jobs. Unfortunately it is a common mistake for companies to lead their onboarding by focusing on legal and compliance issues, which can feel alienating and demotivating to the new employee who arrived eager to jump head first into the promise of his new career.  

Effective employee onboarding programs include all four of these elements. Over the course of many weeks, they introduce the new employee to the company, reinforce cultural values, build relationships, and even celebrate the progress a new employee makes on their journey to becoming a highly productive and valuable member of the team.  According to the Society of Human Resource Managers, an effective employee onboarding program typically lasts about 90 days and results in a new employee being 50% more productive in their first year. 

The 4 cs of employee onboarding

Bottom Line: Proper Onboarding is Key

Onboarding might be the most important HR program area because it shapes both the perception and reality of a company.  When done well, onboarding can boost productivity and lower turnover, adding millions to both the top and bottom line.  When done haphazardly, it is a hidden anchor slowing the growth and profitability of a business. After all, none of your other HR initiatives (wellness, incentives, benefits, bonuses) will matter at all if your employees leave after their first month!

 If your organization suffers from poor engagement and retention – particularly of new employees – consider whether your onboarding experience is incomplete, hum-drum, or even demotivating. The good news is that improving your onboarding is easy to do with help from the right partner, and doing so can bring about almost immediate improvements for your company.  

Whistle was created to help companies deliver exceptional onboarding experiences, giving each individual employee the ability, motivation and cues they need to empower their success.  Whistle make it easy to achieve better business outcomes by making smarter investments in your most valuable resource – your people.. Contact Whistle to learn more. 

Chris Dornfeld

Chris Dornfeld is the President and Co-founder of Whistle. With a background spanning several start-up companies, global corporations, higher education and government as the CIO for the City of St. Louis – Chris has a unique vantage point on engagement, culture, technology and our changing workexperience.

Laurel Newman is a Co-founder of Whistle and a behavioral scientist at Edward Jones. Newman specializes in creating interventions that help companies to improve the experiences and change the behaviors of their customers and employees. Her experience as a Psychology Professor turned Applied Behavioral Scientist provides her unique insight into the variety of forces that impact people’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior.

Whistle is the first learning platform to integrate the key elements that drive business outcomes – ability (microlearning), motivation (micropayments and recognition), cues (AI informed nudges and recommendations) while removing friction (simplified design and mobile centric approach).  Together these multiply the impacts of microlearning to maximize the impact on business outcomes.