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The close ties between onboarding and employee engagement

It’s a common routine that ends with a big mistake: the boss hires a great new person, walks them around the office on their first day, shows them to their desk, then leaves them alone to do their work.

They’re all set, right?


If you’ve ever been the new employee who had a first day like that, you know how it feels to be left to figure things out on your own: awkward, stressful, and lonely. Good onboarding practices can prevent your new hires from having to deal with all that. Read on to learn why onboarding is important, how to do it right, and how effective onboarding can improve employee engagement.

What is onboarding?

Onboarding is the process of bringing a new employee into your organization. The purpose of onboarding is to provide everything a new hire needs to feel welcome and do their job well. That takes time, so onboarding is not a one-day event; it may continue for weeks or even months. Key steps in the onboarding process include:

  • Communicating with the new employee before their first day and helping them prepare (self-onboarding software can be a great timesaver for this task.)

  • Helping them learn about your organization and get acquainted with their coworkers

  • Providing clear expectations about work responsibilities

  • Giving them thorough job training

  • Providing all the resources they’ll need, such as a computer, office supplies, people they can turn to with questions, etc.

Everyone who meets the new person can play an important part in helping them thrive. But to make sure nothing slips through the cracks, it’s important to have one person assigned to organize and monitor each new employee’s onboarding.

Why is onboarding important?

To learn more about the importance of onboarding, BambooHR surveyed 1,024 U.S. adults, comparing those who received effective onboarding to those who didn’t. The differences are striking. Employees who experienced effective onboarding were:

  • 18 times more likely to feel highly committed to their organization

  • 30% more likely to feel strongly integrated into their workplace culture

  • 30 times more likely to have high job satisfaction

Also, organizations with effective onboarding had:

  • 38% more employees who were confident in their ability to do their job

  • 69% more employees who rated their organization as a strong performer

  • 33% more employees who felt engaged

As you can see, following good onboarding practices pays dividends. And one of the most important benefits is greater employee engagement.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is not the same thing as employee satisfaction or happiness, although satisfaction and happiness are good indicators of engagement. According to Forbes, “Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.”

Highly engaged employees are motivated and passionate about their work, always do their best, enthusiastically rise to new challenges, and go the extra mile. They do all this because they feel connected to their organization and gain a rewarding sense of accomplishment and validation from working toward its goals.

Why is employee engagement important?

The benefits of having highly engaged employees can spread to every corner of your organization. They include:

  • Greater productivity

  • Improved product quality

  • Higher sales

  • Improved profitability

  • Greater customer loyalty

  • Greater employee loyalty

  • Reduced turnover

  • Less absenteeism

With impressive benefits like these, it’s not surprising that Deloitte research finds 85% of executives rate engagement as a high priority. Research shows that one of the best tools for cultivating greater engagement is effective onboarding.

The close ties between onboarding and employee engagement

The role of onboarding in employee engagement

To understand the relationship between onboarding and employee engagement, you need to remember the purpose of onboarding mentioned above: helping new employees to thrive. Getting them off to a good start helps new hires feel good about their decision to work for you, laying the foundation for long-lasting engagement. No wonder onboarding and higher retention are also linked.

Every contact a new employee has with your organization is an opportunity for you to foster engagement. That’s why effective onboarding is so important.

Need ideas to help them feel more engaged? How about sending a welcome-aboard package before their first day, with a company T-shirt and a card signed by everyone on their new team? Then, once they’re on the job, you could praise them for how quickly they completed their first training task or assignment. Good ideas aren’t hard to think of. Just put yourself in your new employee’s shoes and think of what would make a great impression on you—then do it.

A word about affordability

If you’re in a small or medium business, you may think improving onboarding and employee engagement requires the kind of time and money that only big businesses can afford. Not so. The right HR software can be a time-saving and budget-friendly way for you to streamline and simplify onboarding work and countless other HR tasks. But all HR software is not alike. Make sure you carefully compare the options to get features that are right for your needs.

Make first days fabulous

What kind of first-day experience do you want your new employees to have? Thoughtful onboarding can make it their best first day ever, with many more great days to follow. Now that you understand the links between effective onboarding and employee engagement, you’re well on your way to helping every new hire become an outstanding and highly engaged employee.

Kent Peterson is a writer at BambooHR, the leading human resources software solution for small and medium businesses. He has also created award-winning work in television and radio.

The close ties between onboarding and employee engagement

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