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12 March 2009 8:21am

The economy may well be on a slide and headcount freezes in force, but it’s vital to get the talent you are hiring productive as fast as possible.

A new report from Aberdeen Group outlines what “best-in-class” organisations are doing to assimilate their new talent.

“Layoffs, mergers, cut-throat competition, downsizing, rightsizing: these are buzzwords that make up the daily news,” say the authors in Fully On-Board, a report based on a survey of more than 600 HR and line managers from North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. “They are also a reflection of an increasingly competitive business landscape.

“As a result… organisations are forced to achieve greater operational efficiencies – in other words, to do more with the same or less. This, in turn, places greater emphasis on increased productivity, to which key-employee retention is essential.”

Some 84 per cent of leading employers, the authors say, are currently actively developing or utilising “culturalisation” strategies in order to retain their talent, and are, consequently, up to three times more likely than “industry average” or “laggard” organisations to “build a community of employer brand evangelists”.

“Assimilating employees into the organisation’s cultural fabric and reaffirming their employment decisions… is a growing best-in-class process differentiator,” they say.

Assimilation strategies include:
involving senior leadership, by having them meet with new employees early in the onboarding process to answer questions or address concerns about the company;

enabling communication between new employees and colleagues prior to starting dates, whether through communities of interest or social networks; and

assigning a mentor or coach to new employees for the duration of onboarding.
Employers can also engage new workers through their onboarding system, the authors say, by:
being prepared – have all IT (including computer systems and email addresses) that new employees will need up and running prior to starting dates. Provide them with the tools and information on networks needed to connect them with other employees.

Arrange frequent informal reviews with line managers and regular briefings with senior leaders. Have managers define and communicate expectations and goals within the recruit’s first week;

beginning early – commence the onboarding process for new full-time employees upon acceptance of the employment offer. Some 67 per cent of “best-in-class” organisations do so;

including forms and tasks management – ensure employees are “entered into systems” (such as the payroll and superannuation) and receive all appropriate equipment as soon as possible.

“The ability for new employees to accurately and quickly complete all required forms is key to help them concentrate on the job at hand, get up to speed quickly, and be productive”; and

measuring engagement – analyse and act on employee satisfaction surveys and performance reviews. Keep responses in mind when dealing with recruits.
Employers should also consider extending the application of onboarding beyond new hires, the authors say.

Work groups that come to a company as the result of a merger or acquisition, or individuals who accept internal transfers “can benefit from assimilation into or knowledge of the organisation’s culture, vision and goals”.

Going from “laggard” to success story
According to the authors of the study, an onboarding “laggard” is an employer that is currently experiencing a decrease in employee retention and engagement rates.

They outline a number of simple and inexpensive steps to turn languishing employers around.

“Laggards” should:
identify the business issues they want to improve, then assign specific metrics to determine “pain points” that can be addressed by onboarding;

start small, assimilate new hires through simple, cost-effective “buddy” or mentor systems;

frequently measure engagement and retention within the first year of each worker’s employment to “pinpoint” where onboarding processes need to be strengthened;

encourage organisational buy-in by inviting senior leaders to take part in meetings and orientation; and
automate, where possible, forms and tasks management to ensure data accuracy and time savings.

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