5 Ways to Build Employee Engagement Into the Onboarding Process

(Editor’s Note: Today’s post is sponsored by our friends at SilkRoad, a leading provider of end-to-end HR solutions that enable customers to find, attract, develop and retain the best talent. SilkRoad was recently ranked by Aragon Research Globe as an Innovator for their real-time collaboration capabilities and intuitive use interface. Congrats to them! Now, enjoy the post.)

We hear a lot about employee engagement – the need for it and the cost of disengaged employees. Employee engagement happens before a candidate ever applies with a company. Companies that wait until someone gets hired to think about engagement start out behind the curve. It’s too late.

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That’s why organizations need to step up their game when it comes to developing onboarding programs that not only satisfy the nature of onboarding but also build employee engagement. Here are five things to consider:

1. Interact with job seekers before they apply

Job seekers want to know something about a company before they apply for a job. They will research companies on the internet. Candidates have access to your company career site. They can follow your business on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

Companies have the opportunity to interact with candidates in all of these places. They can show candidates they’re a great place to work. Organizations can share the awards they’ve won and good work they’ve done in their community. They can also show job seekers what the work environment looks like and why people like working for their company.

There are people today who may or may not be looking for a new job that are checking out your company. What does your employment messaging say to them?

2. Improve the candidate experience

There are lots of definitions swirling around about the candidate experience. It simply means what candidates think of your hiring process. Organizations should be cognizant of the fact that candidates are interviewing the company. And talented candidates have options.

Recruiters and hiring managers can do a little experiment to evaluate their candidate experience. Pretend you’re looking for a job and decide to apply at your company. Go online and try to find a job opening. Then try to apply for the job online. Wait to see if you get a reply. Then ask yourself “Would I want to go through that process again?”

You can do the same thing with your interviewing process. Step back and ask the question, “Would I want to be treated the same way in an interview?” and “If I didn’t work for the company, would I completely understand the interview process?”

3. Take paperwork out of orientation

Today’s technology allows us to streamline the new hire paperwork process. Employees don’t need to sit in orientation and fill out dozens of forms. They can be sent paperwork prior to orientation that can be filled out at the employee’s convenience in the comfort of their own home.

Orientation now becomes something different. It’s about connecting the new hire employee with the company. Employees can learn company history as well as products and services. Orientation programs become the place where employees pick up the strategies for being successful with the company.

4. Give new hires a 90-day plan

New hire employees are not fully productive right out of orientation. They still have things to learn. Every new hire employee should have a plan for learning the rest of their job. It should be documented.

One of the companies I used to work for had developed a 90-day plan for every single job title. I really loved this. It had a list of things an employee would learn in orientation along with the other responsibilities an employee needed exposure to. For example, in human resources, a new hire employee needed to learn how to read the monthly profit and loss statement (P&L). Depending upon when you were hired, you might learn how to do this on your first week but no later than your first month.

Once the P&L was reviewed with the employee, then the new hire would sign off on their plan that the task had been completed. And the person who had the conversation with the new hire would sign off as well. This approach allowed each employee to see what they would be learning during their first 90-days of employment. It held managers accountable for sharing with new hires every component of the job. And the organization benefitted from consistency in the onboarding process.

5. Survey new hires for feedback

I simply cannot emphasize this enough. Companies need to confirm that they are delivering on their promises. Ask new hires to share their experience. Find out how they felt about the new hire process, orientation and onboarding.

New hires might be reticent about sharing their thoughts directly. There are a couple of things you can do to get good feedback. First, let new hires know during orientation that they will be receiving a survey. If the survey is considered to be a normal part of the process, then new hire employees will be comfortable with it. Also, consider making the survey anonymous. After all, the purpose of the survey isn’t to know who said what. It’s to improve the onboarding process.

The survey can ask new hires questions like:

Did the interview process happen the way it was explained?

Was there anything you were hoping to have covered in orientation that wasn’t?

Have you learned something about the job that would have been helpful to know before you got hired?

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Employee engagement is a complex matter. There’s no one thing that creates engagement. Companies that are successful at engaging their employees think about engagement all the time in every employee interaction. That includes before the person ever becomes an employee.


  1. says

    Retaining employees has become the major issue for the companies now days and they always try hard to retain their skilled employees. Most of the companies succeeded at some level by implementing specific employee engagement activities but still it needs more and more innovations in HR systems to deal with the situation.

  2. says

    Love the idea of taking the red tape out of orientation and using that time, instead, to connect the new hire with the company. Some companies assign a temporary mentor (or “work buddy”) to new employees – oftentimes a colleague with like duties and responsibilities – to make them feel welcome and to answer those questions they might hesitate to ask their actual supervisors (for fear of coming across as incapable or inexperienced).
    Terry Portillo recently posted..What’s Bugging You? Is Parental Spying Increasing Millennials’ Tolerance for Surveillance?

  3. says

    Happy New Year and thanks for the comments! I believe engagement and retention will be key themes for 2014. And to Terry’s point, from my experience, mentoring doesn’t get utilized nearly as much as it should. Let’s hope more organizations take advantage of its benefits.

  4. says

    Sharlyn, Curious about your views on how the environment and corporate social responsibility elements may affect the onboarding process. A recent case study on TD Bank says: “We’ve now built environment into our recruiting and summer intern programs. It’s part of our onboarding and training programs. We made technology changes to build it into our employee rewards and recognition system. In fact, it was Human Resources starting with recruiting who came to us as soon as we created the TD Environment department in summer 2011. University grads and millennials want to work for a company that is diverse and environmentally friendly.” http://bit.ly/1mhyQjc What’s your take on this? Fantastic blog and advice, Sharlyn!

  5. says

    Derek, thanks for the comment. I definitely agree that employees want to work for companies with a conscience. Not just being diverse, inclusive, and eco-friendly. But add to that list: supporting their local communities and encouraging employee volunteerism. Smart companies are finding ways to promote their efforts during the recruitment process, instead of waiting until after hire. It’s good for the company, good for employees, and good for investors.