Recently, Kelly and Renee – two colleagues of mine – were laid off. Both are terrific employees and it wasn’t long before Kelly found a job, which gave Renee hope since she figured once Kelly started, she could refer Renee. Kelly, however, was so disenchanted with her new employer’s dysfunction within the first month that she dissuaded Renee from even applying and began updating her own resume. Two well-qualified employees lost.
It’s nothing new to say that one of the best methods for finding qualified candidates is employee referrals. But did you know that a new employee is more likely to have a large pool of potential referrals? And while a tenured employee may know talent, they don’t refer them as proactively as a new employee. Or should I say a happy new employee. That’s the key, and that leads us to onboarding.
One way to protect your company from losing Kelly and Renee is by having a formal and well-developed onboarding program. Notice I said onboarding, not orientation. What’s the difference? Onboarding is a process over time while orientation is usually a one-time event (most often, a forgettable first day lecture). Onboarding empowers a new employee by giving them easy access to information when they need it, rather than waiting for someone to have a spare moment.
Employers spend thousands of dollars and resource hours sourcing, interviewing and selecting candidates. If an effective onboarding program is able to turn those selected candidates into motivated, engaged and satisfied new employees who are eager to recommend the company to others, employee referrals increase while recruiting costs decrease.
Onboarding also helps solidify your recruiting brand by forcing you to answer sometimes difficult questions, such as what is the company strategy? What is the performance review process and development track? In what ways does the company culture show itself? These are all on the minds of all potential candidates, and should be included in any effective onboarding program.
Finally, onboarding is the first impression your company makes on a new employee and it goes a long way – some research suggests it lingers with an employee for two years.
Far too often, those first impressions are negative: lack of commitment, poor communication, no clear direction, disorganized or too busy to care. Like Kelly did, new employees of companies such as these probably won’t be referring a candidate any time soon and – in fact – may do just the opposite. It’s like having a bad meal at a restaurant. People are more apt to spread bad news than good.
So what can you do to make sure your new employees are not disparaging your company’s reputation? First off, find out what they’re thinking (restaurants survey their customers all the time). From what you learn, build a program that meets your new employees’ needs and makes them feel welcome and valued.
An outside expert can help orchestrate the effort and bring an objective perspective, while taking all the content that exists in various forms and synthesizing it into a program that empowers the new employee through a process and an experience. It also helps to gain perspectives from different organizations, which can help find the best method of onboarding for your company.
Finally, it’s critical to measure the effectiveness of your program, and make adjustments where needed. One way to assess the program is by comparing your employee referral rate and recruiting costs before the new program and six, nine and twelve months after it’s in place. If all is well, people like Kelly will refer Renee, pushing referrals up and recruiting costs down.