Industry Insight: Strategic Onboarding—Help New Hires Belong and Deliver Results

When new hires choose your company as “the one,” it’s a big deal for them and you. And it’s personal. There’s nothing they want more than to belong — to fit in, understand their role, learn the ropes, and add value to the organization right away.

Because it’s personal, one-size onboarding isn’t going to work. Organizations should look at the new hire onboarding process as a complete experience. In fact, onboarding should begin from the moment the candidate says, “Yes.” That means personalizing the offer letter and pre-boarding experience and creating more than a task checklist about workspaces, computers, and paperwork. Strategic onboarding rapidly engages enthusiastic new hires into the life of the organization and keeps them continuously engaged with every career move or transition.

Why is it so important to get onboarding right?

Part is practical—recruitment is expensive. Replacement costs are 30% of first-year earnings for each position holder, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And 20% of employee turnover happens in the first 90 days of employment.

But the biggest bang is the impact on business results. Gallup’s State of the American Workforce 2017 says: “Engaged employees are more present and productive; they are more attuned to the needs of customers; and they are more observant of processes, standards, and systems. When taken together, the behaviors of highly engaged business units result in 21% greater profitability.”

The transformation to a strategic onboarding process can change the game, but it requires a new approach:

  • Think beyond an administrative checklist
  • Connect new hires to the organization and to their colleagues
  • Enable new hires to understand their purpose and value
  • Leverage analytics for prescriptive optimization and transparency

5 Essentials for Strategic Onboarding

#1 Assess your program.

1. How well is your external brand leveled throughout the recruitment and onboarding process?
2. How far does your onboarding journey go? 30 days or beyond?
3. How well do you align employees with organizational goals?
4. How do you rate time-to-productivity?
5. Can you demonstrate the impact of your people initiatives to the C-suite?

For a full assessment, take SilkRoad’s Strategic Onboarding Maturity Assessment (

#2 Develop a strategic approach.

When every employee is aligned with the business strategy, it drives better business outcomes. Your strategic onboarding program supports this through a continuous journey of meaningful moments that set job scope and performance expectations and connect to business goals.

#3 Create a “Wow” onboarding portal.

A personalized, information-filled new hire portal speeds the feeling of belonging, learning about the culture, and more. Here’s an 8-step checklist:

1. Create goals
2. Review your employee audience
3. Effectively organize information
4. Emphasize what’s special about your culture
5. Personalize information
6. Ask managers for ideas
7. Set up feedback mechanisms
8. Find flexible technology

#4 Manage employee transitions.

  • Transfers: Offer information about the new office, the new team, etc.
  • Promotions: Provide the policies and procedures of the new role and automatically alert IT or office personnel to order services.
  • Mergers and acquisitions: Introduce culture and policies, provide a channel for questions, and get agreements electronically signed.
  • Offboarding: Create good will by providing information and kick off internal exit processes.

#5 Build ROI and a business case.

This includes looking at the:

  • Number of employees processed per year
  • Cost of “quick quits” and turnover
  • Cost savings on the production and processing of employee materials
  • Time savings on logistics tracking and collection of employee documents

Other business case tips:

1. Gather stories of times when onboarding went wrong to emphasize the need for change.

2. Identify an onboarding program of similar size and sophistication for comparison.

3. Collect data on time-to-full-proficiency, and ask the CFO to put a dollar value on it.

4. Suggest a small pilot with a manager “champion.”

5. Track retention in high-volume jobs of new hires who participated in onboarding vs. those who did not.

Start with these 5 essentials, and you’ll experience the big wins of strategic onboarding.

SilkRoad, the world’s leader in Talent Activation, transforms traditional talent management technology into a continuum of experiences that activate employees along their journeys—from first touch to last and every point in between. Visit: