Hiring and retention struggles, and their link to onboarding

Employers are working through a time billed as the Great Resignation. According to a July Gallup analysis, 48 percent of America’s working population is actively job searching, and in May alone, 3.6 million Americans resigned from their positions.

“There’s not a client I can think of that hasn’t spoken to challenges related to hiring and retaining employees,” says Dan D’Agostino, operations leader at Clark Schaefer Hackett.

Smart Business spoke with D’Agostino about companies’ challenges with hiring and retention, and how onboarding may be a critical, yet overlooked, contributor.

What is the workforce situation companies are facing?

Right now, a younger, more transient generation is entering the workforce while employees at or near retirement age are increasingly exiting. Employers are expressing concerns about not being able to find suitable talent while, parallel to all this, the pandemic continues to complicate just about every aspect of hiring and retention. For many employers, the amount of churn they’re facing, combined with the struggle to acquire new talent, is overwhelming.

How can companies address their hiring challenges?

One way to improve the situation is to scrutinize the talent pools they are fishing in. Companies that are overly reliant on one or more temp services may see limited options. Those in that situation should expand their search by leveraging their existing employees to connect to candidates, while also leveraging job search sites and social media to reach job seekers.

Also, get key employees involved in the interview process. This will show trust in existing employees and their input, and increase the chances that the new hire will fit better in the department or role. This also helps smooth out bumps in onboarding because there’s a familiar face for the new hire on day one. And on the company side, employees tend to take ownership of the new hire’s success and development.

How is onboarding contributing to hiring and retention issues?

The remote work situation is complicating even basic onboarding steps. For instance, all the forms and paperwork new employees need to complete on their first day can be a steeper challenge if there’s not a plan for doing that remotely. These delays can extend the wait time for crucial benefits, but more importantly, they frustrate new employees and make a negative early impression for how the organization conducts internal business.

Often, companies assume new hires are going to get what the company wants them to get out of the onboarding process. A test at the end of each section of shared information can verify that the process worked and identify where it did not. In areas where a stronger understanding is needed, the new hire can be given more information and/or the process can be tweaked in the future if it’s discovered that many new hires are falling short in the same area.

Consider, also, that many all-star employees aren’t the best trainers, often because things tend to come naturally to them and that’s something that can’t be passed along. The highly skilled employee also might not have the patience needed to relate to somebody who doesn’t have everything come naturally to them, and that can be a point of frustration — not just for the trainer, but for the trainee. Running the training process through an all-star can leave the new hire feeling like they weren’t set up for success.

Improvement is possible, but it takes courage to try new things to drive a better outcome. Time spent replenishing the workforce or training new people can be frustrating for the employees who have to do it, and there is significant cost involved. Employees should be focused on higher value-added activities for their organizations. But if they’re constantly bringing new people in and training them up because a rickety onboarding process is adding to churn, that time is lost.

This only gets worse as unplanned turnover increases. The more employees a company loses, the more the current team feels like they’re on a treadmill and the scenery never improves. That’s why it’s critical to break that cycle and adjust the process to suit the new workplace realities.

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