Photo of HR manager offering tips for onboarding for engagement and retention

Recruiters regularly lament the lack of qualified, available candidates for quality jobs. Human resource pros talk about how hard it is to retain them once found. The driver of both is the same: there are a lot of great jobs and not enough great and/or interested people to fill them.

Not surprisingly, this dynamic is influencing the way organizations think about talent. While attraction and retention remain the standard bearers for HR managers, the link that connects them is getting more attention. And this link is employee engagement.

Why employee engagement matters

According to a November 2022 Lattice report, engagement is the top priority for HR leaders in 2023. In fact, out of 800 HR leaders surveyed, 41% rank engagement number one. Nearly nine out of 10 (86%) plan to invest more on engagement than they ever have before.

The reason is simple. There is a direct correspondence between engagement and business performance.

Here are some statistics to consider:

  • Companies with an engaged workforce are 21% more profitable. (Gallup)
  • 85% of employees do not feel engaged in their workplace. (Gallup)
  • 73% of employees would consider leaving their current jobs for a different opportunity, with nearly all willing to either maintain their current salary (23%) or take a slight pay cut (74%) for a more engaging opportunity. (Business Insider)

Every organization has a culture. Engagement is how organizations connect people to that culture—to strengthen it, to bring purpose to the work, and to bring authenticity to its values.

Employee engagement starts with onboarding

Starting a new job is exciting and nerve-racking. These emotions build as soon as an application is submitted and only grow through the process. Yes, an offer and acceptance bring satisfaction and relief, but then comes uncertainty: paperwork, healthcare, retirement accounts, workstation accommodations, email, phone, orientation, etc.

Too often, new employees are left to navigate these critical components with little to no guidance. Then they show up to the office on day one, grab a coffee, take a tour of the office, meet with colleagues, and are ultimately delivered to their desk. It’s disorienting and disconnecting.

This is why it’s so critical to do onboarding right. Here are some tactics you can employ.

  • Get paperwork out of the way—before day 1. Make it clear what needs to be completed and when it needs to be completed by. Have a HR partner available to help with any questions. Also share policies and culture documents.
  • Send a new-hire package with company-branded swag (t-shirt, mug, notebook, pen, etc.) and welcome card.
  • Celebrate the hire. Post on social media and share across your organization.
  • Review the job role and expectations, as well as how your organization will help them be successful. Goal setting establishes a strong relationship between the employee and manager, and it facilitates constructive conversation throughout the stages of onboarding.
  • Introduce the employee to teammates and leaders. This will accelerate integration into the workplace.
  • Provide early feedback on integration. Recognition and support are highly valued by employees.
  • Encourage upward feedback, early and often. The less an employee feels like they can communicate clearly and honestly with management, the less likely they are to remain in their job (Tinypulse).

The three main reasons employees cite for leaving their jobs are poor management, lack of career development, and culture. A purposeful onboarding program can address each of these issues.

Technology can power engagement

At Garnet River, we have a very structured approach to HR—both internally and in our consulting engagements—that focuses on people, program, and platform.

People is about attraction, development, and retention. Employees who feel valued and compensated don’t leave companies. They help grow them.

Program is about defining purpose and values, delivering on objectives, and measuring outcomes.

Platform is about using technology to improve how you connect with your people…so work and information management is easier and more impactful.

For example, technology can be used to automate tasks, drive communications, facilitate self-onboarding, manage goals, connect with teammates, access documents, share news, celebrate accomplishments, and much more. For HR and organizational leaders, a technology-based program can also offer valuable data and insights that can help improve decision-making and drive greater performance.

The goal is to identify, attract, and retain the best people. Engagement is the driver, and technology can be the engine. When paired strategically, both can structure onboarding, enhance culture, improve employee satisfaction, and power growth.

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