By Leah Yeatts, Principal Consultant, Lever Performance Consulting

All businesses onboard new hires, whether formally or informally. For some companies, the process for onboarding new employees is little more than a checklist. Did they complete their W-4? Check. Did they select their benefits? Check. Were they given a job description? Introduced to their manager? Trained?

Strategic onboarding includes these checklist items too, of course. But it goes much further. Strategic onboarding programs are carefully designed to support the business’s overall goals.

First, strategic onboarding affects individual and business performance.

A 2011 study by Aberdeen Group found that companies with standard onboarding processes experienced 54% greater new hire productivity.

In strategic onboarding programs, new employees are well-equipped to support business objectives through their own performance, and to do so in a shorter period of time after hire. This can be accomplished through high-quality training, performance support systems, and other means. In addition to practical support, new hires can be inspired to contribute their best to the business.

Second, strategic onboarding affects operating costs.

When onboarding is done well, new hires are more likely to stay with the company, and the costs associated with replacing these employees are reduced. A 2012 study by the Center for American Progress estimated that the cost to hire and train a new employee equals 21% of their annual salary, with executives and other specialized positions costing up to 213% of that position’s salary.

Strategic onboarding programs include components that are proven to increase new hire retention, such as culture training, structured networking within the company, and role-specific training. According to a 2007 study by the Wynhurst Group, newly hired employees are 58% more likely to still be at the company three years later if they complete a structured onboarding process.

Third, strategic onboarding affects employee engagement.

Aberdeen Group’s 2011 study also found that companies with a standard onboarding process saw two times the level of new hire engagement as compared to those that did not.

Strategic onboarding programs contain elements to specifically build employee engagement. For example, new hires may be assisted in exploring how their role and their personal strengths fit into the company’s overall strategy. This helps them to be confident in their ability to contribute to the business, increasing their engagement. Engagement strategies can promote enthusiasm and help new hires to feel connected to their role, to their colleagues, and to the company.

If your onboarding process is more of a checklist, it’s worth rethinking in a more strategic way. It can make a significant difference in many areas of your business, and ultimately can contribute to your company’s overall success.

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