January 21, 2021
This is a part of a series that briefly introduces 20 different HR metrics that are based on passive data extracted from digital communication and collaboration platforms.
Onboarding is usually a standardised process, through which new employees in an organization transition from “outsider” to “insider”. More specifically, it is a collection of practices that equip new employees with the knowledge, skills, and behaviors necessary for them to become effective members of the organization, helping to achieve its business and strategic goals. Companies usually intend to make this process as fast and as effective as possible. The sooner an employee is properly onboarded, the sooner she can become a productive, valuable contributor to an organizations’ bottom line. A crucial means to this end is the flourishing of new relationships between new employees and their colleagues, external partners and/or clients.
Given that many of these relationships are today enabled or supported by digital communication and collaboration platforms, we can use meta-data from these platforms for tracking the progress new hires make in this specific area.
As an example, Fig. 1 shows how quickly new hires build their networks through meetings during their first months in the company. New hires are divided into quarters to show how the network growth tempo differs depending on when they joined the company. The consistency of an organization’s onboarding process can thus be analyzed, using the data points of different new employees’ first quarters over a 12-month span.
Fig. 1: Screenshot from Time is Ltd.’s analytics platform, showing the tempo of building a network through meetings by new hires during the first few months after they joined the company, in each of four quarters of 2020. The network size of an individual employee consists only of those people who paid at least 30 minutes of their attention to a given employee during a given month. For accuracy, attention is calculated to take into account both the meeting length and the number of attendees at each meeting.
Another way to look at the data is by segmenting network size by tenure cohorts, defined by the number of months employees have worked in the company. In Fig. 2 we can see how meeting network size differs across four tenure cohorts (0-3 months, 4-6 months, 7-12 months, and 12+ months) over time. The aim is to have the network sizes for the first three cohorts to be as close as possible to that of the last cohort. This would indicate that new hires are quickly integrated into the company's communication and collaboration networks. The visualization below is thus also useful for assessing onboarding effectiveness.
Fig. 2: Screenshot from Time is Ltd.’s analytics platform showing comparison of meeting network size for employees belonging into one of four tenure cohorts (defined by the number of months employees have spent in the company). The network size of an individual employee consists only of those people who paid at least 30 minutes of their attention to a given employee during a given month. For accuracy, attention is calculated to take into account both the meeting length and the number of attendees at each meeting.
There is solid evidence that well-conducted onboarding is related to improvements in new hires’ performance, commitment, job satisfaction and inclination to stay in the company. Despite its relative simplicity, the onboarding process can thus have a pretty broad spectrum impact on organizational prosperity.
Research suggests that successful onboarding usually has three key ingredients:
To support these key aspects of onboarding, Talya N. Bauer, the recognized leader in the scientific understanding of the socialization and onboarding of new employees, published a series of white papers recommending the following organizational practices:
As with other HR metrics, expectations regarding the speed of onboarding may differ for individual departments, teams and/or job roles. This should always be taken into account when assessing the effectiveness of onboarding and considering possible interventions.