The Importance of Onboarding [And Red Flag Warnings To Watch For]

The Importance of Having An Onboarding Strategy [And Red Flag Warnings]

Shockingly, one of every 25 employees leaves on their very first day! – Capabiliti by qustn

35% of companies spend “ZERO” dollars on onboarding. You read that correctly… $0.00 dollars, Yet, organizations with an engaging and structured onboarding process experience 54% greater new hire productivity and 50% greater new hire retention.

Companies with an engaging employee onboarding program retain 91% of their first year workers – Talentwise

An Ineffective Talent Management Strategy Is Costly

If you are not allocating budget to onboarding it is a pretty good guess that your talent management tools are not as effective as they could be overall. If you aren’t making the investment in tools, time, and measuring the effectiveness of a structured program for your talent, on the front end, you are likely seeing elevated and unnecessary turn and challenging productivity because your organization is not in a position to understand or react to how your organization needs to adapt to today’s employee expectations.

Talent is our biggest resource—the most volatile and greatest variable as we attempt to achieve excellence. Yet we are still managing our most valuable resource, our people with ineffective and antiquated tools & procedures. Many companies are using software designed for productivity such as, Word® and Excel®—and hoping it delivers powerful insights into our talent (but it wasn’t designed for this). Or we become overly reliant still on a paper-driven process to track, train, and review employees. We insist on clinging to the hope that managing recruiting, training, performance, succession, and career path planning via manual and paper-based processes is sufficient. It is not. Today’s talent requires focus and attention through surveys, town halls, transparent communication & feedback/dialog, structured processes to ensure that planning is consistent and pace is kept with the employees from the moment they accept a job offer and continuously throughout the working relationship. Our employees demand learning and information in a variety of formats: Experiential learning, Social learning, and Formal learning formats. They expect to access information during onboarding, training, and daily through various platforms and in their preferred method(s): Autonomous, Small & Short, Continuous, On-demand, Socially, and Anywhere, Anytime, on any device. This is the landscape today.

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Back in October I wrote a quick outline of my onboarding program that had a significant impact on our business for some work colleagues. [You can read it here.] I have been working on an update to my existing program and came across an amazing webinar recording from UrbanBound about four key elements they are focused on during recruitment.

According to UrbanBound, onboarding and 90 day training for a new hire can cost anywhere from 25% – 200% of the annual salary of the new hire so it becomes incredibly important to ensure that we are making an investment that is commensurate with our desire to show the new hire how important and crucial they are to the business and to show, through action and investment, how much we value them and their future inside the organization. After listening a great webinar from Erin Wasson and Brian Hall of UrbanBound they bring up some great points to consider as you build, refine, reinvent your onboarding program [and I am extremely excited to add some new elements to my program based on these ideas] :

  1.  Define a clear learning/assimilation path for the first 90 days: Don’t focus on paperwork [get that done early] – make it social and learning-relevant from day one.
  2. Compile helpful “hyper-local information” using vetted information from your current employees and deliver it in a fun visual way. Team members will be happy to share their best tips and shortcuts with their newly hired colleagues. Asking them for their thoughts and soliciting their tips and suggestions will give them a sense of ownership and proactive camaraderie with the new hire so that relationships can be organically derived.
  3. Create a memorable first day – The new hire will give your company a grade for your first day – you will want to earn an “A+”. Make it great and include their family with swag, flowers, thanks for allowing their significant other to join the team. [Research confirms that failures of executive new hires is close to 50%. Mostly due to  personal and family dissent than job related issues.]
  4. Lunch: This is an opportunity to socialize your new employee and for conversation to organically take place between the new hire and their new colleagues. Investment is small compared to the impression and team spirit derived from a fun, socially focused event(s).
While the monetary impact of a poor hire can be $200K, functioning without employees in key roles can cost more than $7,000 per day — $210,000 every month a position isn’t filled.
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Red Flags & Warning Signs That Your New Hire Isn’t Fully On Board

They key to protecting the business is to have quality hiring standards and to allow your greatest asset, your employees, be brand advocates that can support your organization and Employee Referral Program. Because we recognize the impact open roles have the business and the employees that have to absorb additional responsibilities to cover open roles we, sometimes we make hiring decisions that aren’t up to par with our standards. Sometimes it works out (the majority of the time it does not). Using a clever relationship analogy, Andy Porter, Chief People Officer at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, MA, identifies some clear warning signs if your candidate is committed to your company and their role or:

How To Tell If Your Job Candidates Is Only Looking For A Fling

  • They Don’t Let You In. This candidate has it all. Their background looks fantastic. From a high level it looks like they have all the right experiences that you’re looking for in a candidate. They even look good in their LinkedIn profile picture. You get them on the phone and they’re charming, engaging, and you feel like you’re really connecting. That is, until you start asking them for the details of their experiences. They give you vague answers, change the subject or say something like “I’ll elaborate if we decide to move forward.” But as a recruiter you’re saying “Man, they sure seem like the real deal. I’m going to give it another go.” And guess what? They’re charming, engaging and still don’t give you sh*t.  They just like talking to you; they don’t actually want to work for your company.
  • The Fade Away. This is the preferred move for those who don’t really like having the difficult conversation. You know what I’m talking about—-you go out on a few dates, maybe even more than a few, and it all seems to be going great. Then, they’re just gone. No phone call, no email—nothing. Just radio silence. As a recruiter, this is really frustrating. Because you really thought this person had potential; heck, you even stopped looking for other candidates because this seemed like a lock to be hired. All you can do is hope to avoid the random, awkward public run-in.
  • They Just Wanted to Score. This is just what it sounds like. This candidate just wanted to know that they could get into your get an offer from your company. Which by the way they never had any intention of actually joining. They were only interested in just proving they could get the offer (which makes them feel better about themselves) or they used you to get a better offer from someone else. This is the equivalent of you telling your family you’re bringing this great new person home to meet them and then they bail at the last minute. And if they’re really bad, they give you the fade away, too.

Other Warning Signs To Be On The Lookout For

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If you manage to woo your ideal candidate to your organization and you start to get a “gut feeling” about some changes you see. Here are some thoughts from The Muse:

  • They’re Ultra Efficient: Your top performers are doing great work every day, which makes this sign one of the hardest to spot. But, it’s one you should really pay attention to. Great employees care about their work, and even if they’re choosing to take their talent elsewhere, chances are they want to leave on good terms. That means they’ll do whatever it takes to make a great impression, right before they go. Outstanding projects suddenly get done, loose ends are tied up, and issues are resolved. It may sound like a manager’s dream, but if you find yourself surprised with your employees’ performance, they might be on their way out.
  • They’re More Active on LinkedIn: I’m sure they’re out there, but I have yet to meet anyone who loves networking. That means most of us rely heavily on LinkedIn as a substitute for networking the old-fashioned way. (Thank you, LinkedIn!) So, when you see an employee constantly on LinkedIn, it probably shouldn’t raise any red flags. However, a sudden uptick in new connections, groups joined, or articles shared could be an indication your employee is trying to boost his or her social profile—and find his or her next big thing.
  • They Have Great Teeth: While most managers know to watch out for a slew of suspicious “medical” appointments, most of us wouldn’t think twice about a legitimate appointment. When your employee starts addressing health concerns that were just on the back burner before—think: the employee who avoids the dentist starts getting her teeth cleaned and cavities filled—you might have an issue. Many employees try to make use of their benefits before leaving, even if they’ll have comparable benefits at their next job. New employees avoid taking time off for appointments when they start a new job, so a steady stream of legitimate appointments could mean a resignation is on the horizon.

From Christine Marino, Chief Revenue Officer of Click Boarding, LLC:

  • They’re not motivated: Employees don’t learn everything about their job in the first 90 days. It can take up to a year for new hires to gain proficiency comparable to their co-workers. At some point, you have to start wondering if a new hire’s lack of overall productivity is coming from the fact they’re still green on the job, or, if they’re simply not the productive employee you hoped they would be. If you find that your new hire has consistently failed to meet their goals even a year after, you have to start thinking about whether “they are new” is still a valid excuse.
  • They’re asking the wrong questions: Are they asking about your severance pay? Are they asking if they can schedule four doctor’s appointments in one week? Then you might want to see if your new hire’s productivity matches their enthusiasm for benefits. With 31% of people having quit a job within the first six months, it’s not uncommon for new hires to try to get their best benefits out of the way before they leave.

In today’s candidate driven market we have to be proactive and truly utilize the incredible tool of onboarding to set us apart from competition to capture talent that sees our opportunity as the one that will deliver the career capital, workplace relationships, and meaning and purpose they are seeking in their roles.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail. Published writer. Frequent Podcast Guest. Speaker. Twenty year [oy vey!] retailer. I am passionate about leadership development and workplace culture. 646 246 1380 | [No Sales Contact, please} But it you want to call just to say hello or have a question - that's awesome!

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2 thoughts on “The Importance of Onboarding [And Red Flag Warnings To Watch For]

  1. Onboarding importance definitely can’t be overstated. It’s the opportunity to win over the new hire (and based on the article’s great advice the family too) and evaluate the new hire to see if it will work out. It was also great advice about onboarding the family of the new hire in some capacity.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Seth! A well-structured onboarding program is “low hanging fruit” for retail retention and workplace happiness that I wish more retailers considered. It’s a huge win for so many things when done right and it’s just good business in an industry that is about building relationships, growth and loyalty. How can we expect our employees to do this is we cannot do this for them?!

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