Onboarding is perhaps the most crucial phase of an employee's time with an organization: It literally sets the stage for what can be expected and what behaviors will be rewarded. Upon hire, all employees are trying to figure those two things out. Interestingly, 70% of employees re-evaluate their commitment to the job after their first week of working (Gallup, 2016). Most of these evaluations are guided by intuition and sense of belonging.
New research provides insight into how organizations may need to rethink onboarding to maximize their positive influence of new hires:
Old Way: Organization-Centric Onboarding
For the last 30 years, onboarding has typically been an organization-centric process: new employees are asked to integrate into the culture of the organization by learning and following the established norms, values, and behaviors of the company.
This old process is one-directional - the employee is expected to adjust to the ways of the culture, essentially creating an identity that aligns with the organization.
The problem with the organization-centric approach is that it downplays the individual traits, characteristics, and contributions of the individual - it's harder to validate people in an organization-centric paradigm.
Organization-centric onboarding leaves the employee to reconcile - most often on their own - how and if their identity fits into the organization. As the millennial population increases in the workforce, these individuals will be more likely to leave quickly if they do not feel they are making a contribution - resulting in a new norm of high early turnover rates if change is not made.
Better Way: Contribution-centric Onboarding
In contribution-centric onboarding, each new hire is recognized, valued, and encouraged to use his/her own talents to contribute to the larger success.
Employees introduce themselves to the company, and the company helps the employee see how their strengths can be leveraged and celebrated. The need to be validated and valued is an important driver of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Organizations can leverage this need to great reward: when people are acknowledged for their unique qualities and contributions, they are more engaged, caring, and motivated (Gino, Kouchaki, & Galinsky, 2015).
The results speak for themselves
Contribution-centric onboarding yields 33% greater retention than organization-centric focused onboarding as well as an increase in customer satisfaction (Cable, Gino, & Staats, 2013).
Being valued isn't just important because it makes us feel good: When new hires are truly valued by the organization, they are more likely to collaborate with colleagues and be more productive - and perhaps most importantly residents and clients notice that staff genuinely care about them (Cable, Gino, & Staats, 2015).
Tips for adding a Contribution-centric focus to your onboarding:
Person-Centered Management. Managers' need to focus on understanding each individual employee as best they can (i.e. communication style, motivation factors, learning style, etc.) so that managers can adjust their approach to empower each employee.
Shifting to an contribution-centric onboarding will have a positive impact on your organization's outcomes. It does not require changing your entire onboarding process.; rather, it involves taking a deeper dive into the purpose and impact of each aspect of your onboarding process, considering how each step may be perceived by the new employee.
Cable, D., Gino, F., & Staats, B. (2013). Breaking them in or eliciting their best? Reframing socialization around newcomers' authentic self-expression. Administrative Science Quarterly, 58, 1-36.
Cable, D., Gino, F., & Staats, B. (2015). The powerful way onboarding can encourage authenticity. Harvard Business Review.
Gino, F., Kouchaki, M., & Galinsky, A. (2015). The moral virtue of authenticity. Psychological Science, 26, 983-996.