The Cost of Failed Onboarding

Guest Post by: Jack Baxter onboarding

A colleague just sent me a note asking me to write about Onboarding. They read my recent posts about my checklist for Competency Based Hiring and my list of critical factors regarding competency based hiring I have learned from hindsight. My colleague pointed out that Onboarding was just as important as hiring, if not more so. It is true that a person who sails through an interview that was conducted based on competency could leave just months after being hired! I have seen it happen more than once.

I was consulting with a major financial intuition and became aware of a situation that had developed in the management ranks. It seems that an important operational position was soon to become vacant. When I asked for details I learned that the individual who was leaving had only been there 6 months! I had several meetings with this individual previously and I was impressed by his knowledge of the industry. I was interested in why he was leaving so soon; before I could catch up to him to ask why, he had left.

As it would happen, I ran into him several months later at the airport. Since we both faced flight delays he agreed to have lunch with me and talk about his experience. I had heard rumors that he had left immediately after his “mandated probation period” had concluded. Since other comments that I had heard did not match up with what my impression of the individual, I was curious to hear his side of the story.

He related his excitement at getting his “dream job” after what he described as a very tough but fair interview. He had done his research on the company and believed he would not only be a good fit, but would make a significant contribution to the bottom line.

Soon he was using words like “outsider”, “lack of communication”, limited access to key resources such as his boss! He mention more than once, “I couldn’t wait to get out of there!” It seems Onboarding, the process of helping new hires adjust to the performance and social aspects of the job, had failed this individual. Essentially the company had made a strategic hire and then left the individual to figure the rest out for himself. This was a strategic mistake on the part of the company.

I have read that half of all senior hires from outside the company fail within 18 months in a new position. The record for hourly workers is worse; half leave within the first 120 days according to SHRM.

Considering the cost of turnover it becomes important to support the new hire during those first months of navigating the company organization and culture. This applies to companies large and small regardless of industry. We in the O.D. (Organizational Development) world refer to this as organizational socialization. Once a new hire feels welcome within the organization and has a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of their job the faster they will be able to make a significant contribution.

Next time I will discuss the process of successful onboarding.


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