As we’ve learned from countless studies of the millennial workforce, today’s talent seek a different, more intimate, career experience than their predecessors. This attitude promises a wealth of benefits for progressive businesses. These candidates bring intrinsic motivation, can-do attitudes, commitment to mission, a longing to innovate and participate, fresh perspectives, tight grasps on the skill sets vital to competitive outcomes in a more technologically empowered society, and an undeniable sense of community. In short, they want to produce. They want to be a part of their company’s successes. They share the passion and drive of a business’ visionaries. They see challenges as opportunities. Their positive approach bolsters morale. And they do all these things from a desire to improve their worlds, not merely collect a check.
Onboarding, industry experts attest, has resurfaced as a strategic priority for companies; and this trend will continue to grow alongside the future hiring needs of most businesses. This trend has been precipitated by advances in technology, a more geographically dispersed employee population, and strong competition to attract and retain the best people. It’s not just important for incoming talent, it’s a boon to HR, procurement and hiring managers who want to foster retention and performance.
Healthy onboarding practices lead to a healthy bottom line
Let’s face it, even in outsourced contingent labor programs, hiring costs money and retention is paramount to the success of the engagement. MSPs and their staffing partners excel at placing the right talent, which contains costs and significantly speeds up time to productivity. There remains, however, a learning curve for new talent as they ramp up. And despite the temporary nature of complementary workers, the program’s ultimate success depends on them completing their assignments.
According to LinkedIn, 31 percent of workers quit their jobs within the first six months. That impacts the initial investment on the talent along with the estimated cost of replacement, which can climb as high as three times the worker’s salary. Aberdeen researchers found that 90 percent of companies believe newly hired professionals make their decisions about continuing to work for an organization within this same time frame. However, the talent who received a structured, welcoming and personalized onboarding experience were nearly 60 percent more likely to remain.
The influence of the onboarding experience can no longer be understated. It represents a candidate’s first pure interaction with a business culture, and will likely shape his or her opinion of the assignment. When onboarding practices are dedicated to instilling a sense of value in candidates — enriched by solid training, orientation, committed resources and the tools needed to succeed — talented workers thrive. And the program profits from their output.
In a case study presented by Inc. Magazine, one employer discovered that 70 percent of its new talent left the job within the first six months due to a feeling of disconnection during the hiring process. After enhancing the onboarding program, that number fell to 16 percent.
Creating lasting impressions
Millennials are the social generation. And since they’ve begun entering the workforce in growing numbers, it makes sense that the more social the orientation, the more engaged new talent will become. Onboarding should not simply be one last formality in the hiring process, yet for busy organizations that’s sometimes how it seems to workers. MSPs and their staffing partners are in an excellent position to change that for clients because of the experiences they have, and lessons they’ve learned, conducting onboarding for multiple businesses across industries and markets. They can make onboarding a shared experience, where every stakeholder has a part to play.
As any experience, onboarding doesn’t end after the last form has been signed. It’s a transitional approach that eases new hires into their jobs with the tools and resources they need to prosper, flourish and develop in their assignments.
The first week on the job for most new hires is laden with paperwork, information dissemination and intensive training. And that can be overwhelming and impersonal. This is where staffing suppliers and MSPs have a golden opportunity to continue the onboarding experience in a manner that fosters retention, loyalty, ongoing performance improvements and employee engagement. They remain present in the everyday lives of their workers, which allows them to continue the dialog established on the first day, answer new questions, provide opportunities for reflection and thought, and repeat topics that may have been confusing or missed. Beyond that, they create a welcoming and nurturing environment that leads to lasting, positive memories.
Why wait until candidates arrive at the worksite to begin onboarding? When you think about the heightened level of engagement and interaction that now occurs in the sourcing process through social recruiting, onboarding starts at the first point of contact — before prospects have even considered accepting the position. MSPs spend a great deal of time and effort interviewing clients, uncovering every aspect of the program during discovery, and preparing suppliers to recruit based on that information. Suppliers take away a keen sense of the business culture, along with the desired skills, abilities and program objectives to brand that client effectively to the best-matched talent.
Armed with this knowledge, suppliers can approach candidates with confidence and warmth. They have the insight to engage talent with a positive and authentic discussion of the opportunity. They’re also perfectly poised to make the right inquiries about a candidate’s interests, career goals, strengths, unique abilities, and ideal employment culture. By opening a spirited discussion, suppliers can vet the talent most likely to shine in the MSP program, while imparting a sense of understanding, empathy and encouragement to those professionals. The interest generated during this initial contact sets the stage for subsequent steps on the path to onboarding.
The power of a voice
Even in a contingent labor program, where talent know they are performing on a fixed assignment and will move on to others, people want to belong. They want to feel needed and championed. Too often, workers say they receive impersonal emails or automatically generated notices informing them that they’ve been hired. It’s true, we rarely use our smartphones to place calls these days, yet hearing an enthusiastic voice congratulating you on a new job can make a profound impact. It’s a simple and meaningful overture. No emails, status updates, tweets or text messages can adequately convey the excitement and support a worker hears in the voice of the recruiter who sought them out, learned about them, helped them through the application process and championed them to the hiring manager.
Before sending the message that contains the start date details, staffing suppliers can continue to solidify the relationship by calling their talent. It demonstrates commitment and stresses the kind of interpersonal and organizational values of the program. It tells talent they are respected. And if it’s possible to have that call come from the MSP’s program manager, or the actual person who will be overseeing the work, it’s even more inspiring.
Introduce the team early
In the past, hire confirmation notices were less congratulatory and more transactional. Sure, the opening line may have included a sentence about “congrats on the new job” or “welcome to the program,” however the remainder of the message turned logistical quickly: start dates, locations, directions, dress code, schedules and so forth. While those details are crucial, it takes only a few moments to personalize the letter. Include a show of support and encouragement from the recruiter who developed this relationship with the candidate. Even better, include brief introductions of the onsite team who will be working directly with the talent, with personalized notes of excitement and congratulations. When the candidate arrives for his or her first day, there will be a sense of familiarity and integration.
Now meet the team
Curiosity about the program isn’t restricted to the new talent. Client personnel and MSP account members want to know more about the incoming workers. A friendly and informal gathering facilitates conversation, knowledge transfer, team building and a sense of camaraderie among all the stakeholders participating in the program. Bringing in peers with experience at the client organization and knowledge of the MSP creates a safe and supportive coaching outlet where new workers can ask all their questions upfront, without worrying about the reception. Allow MSP team members to participate, as well. This dovetails the introductions that were made in the welcome letter, putting friendly faces to names. Many new hires aren’t comfortable approaching hiring managers, MSP teams or client staff with what they feel could be perceived as “dumb questions.”
Throughout the orientation process, there will be plenty of lectures, tours, forms to sign, videos to watch and policies to cover. Breaking up the day with personal interactions and discussion sessions will ease the candidates into their new environment and make the transactional processes of onboarding seem less mundane. Better yet, target these meetings for the first day and leave the formal processes for the next. What better way to make the best first impression?
Another approach recommended by successful onboarding practitioners is to incorporate the group’s breaks into the common areas used by the organization’s primary staff. This expedites the integration process by allowing all talent to meet, communicate, learn about one another and realize how they can collaborate and contribute to the shared mission of the program.
Create a community of socialization, not an orientation
When a group of people come together with a unified sense of values and work toward achieving those ends together, we refer to them as a community of practice. The new talent joining the MSP program are no different. They too have a common interest in the success of the organization and improving performance. One creative solution is to break the talent up into peer groups by job category, skill set and company function (e.g., IT, Engineering, Sales, Administration, etc.). Then, have an expert in the program from one of those groups lead learning sessions. By providing new talent with the right resources and access to established experts, they not only ease into their roles, they hit the ground running with a clear sense of their duties and contributions.
Incorporating the increasingly popular concepts of gamification can also infuse motivation and fun into the socialization process. So for the more transactional aspects of the onboarding experience, we could design a points system into the educational process — create levels, quests and rewards for achieving certain milestones or proving practical knowledge of the institutional information presented.
The onboarding experience need not remain a tepid and uninspired affair. It also doesn’t have to be a large, elaborate event. Yet for many companies, onboarding persists as a challenge for their full-time staff. They don’t have the time or the people to spare. MSPs and their staffing partners do; it’s a fundamental part of their job. And as they cultivate and master their onboarding experiences across clients, they create repeatable, continuously improving and transferable practices that enhance acculturation and retention for every organization — and every worker — they support.
By Sunil Bagai