Why Managers Should Have Their Own Onboarding Program

Start with the onboarding process to limit turnover in your organization’s managerial ranks.
By: | April 2, 2018 • 4 min read

I started the New Year reading an article from The Washington Post titled “2018’s Challenge: Too many jobs, not enough workers.” The title speaks for itself. Recruiting, engaging and retaining talent will be a priority for all organizations going forward, which means that their onboarding processes will be under the microscope.

Just as a quick refresher, onboarding is the process of assimilating and training employees so they become productive in the workplace. The reason I’m mentioning it is because onboarding is often confused with orientation. It’s true, orientation is a part of onboarding. But orientation is typically a few hours and usually centers around paperwork, benefits and the company.

Onboarding is a longer process and traditionally focuses on the job itself. It’s often the place where new employees discover whether the promises made during the hiring process are confirmed (or disproven). While managers start to build relationships with candidates during interviews, it’s really during the onboarding process where trust and engagement are initially formed.

Finally, it’s important to note that if onboarding isn’t done correctly, meaning that the process doesn’t live up to what new hires expect, then this can be the time when employees say to themselves, “OK, I made a mistake coming here. I’ll start casually looking for something new.” Organizations recognize the role that onboarding plays in employee turnover. In a Korn Ferry FutureStep survey, 98 percent of respondents said onboarding programs are a key factor in retention efforts.

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There are several essential components to a new-hire onboarding program. None of these are a surprise. Companies need a solid program in terms of content and they need skilled people to deliver it. This is where managers play a critical role. Gallup reports that managers account for 70 percent of variance in employee engagement. The last thing organizations want is to spend a lot of time and resources bringing talent into the organization only for them to leave because the company’s onboarding program wasn’t effective or because the manager responsible for onboarding a new hire wasn’t effective.

To ensure that new-hire onboarding happens the right way, it’s time to give managers their own onboarding program.

What is Manager Onboarding?

A manager onboarding program is different from the company’s management-development program. Those programs typically cover topics such as problem solving, decision making and so on. Manager onboarding programs, however, cover the topics that new managers will need to know the moment they step into their role. These could include candidate-interviewing skills, performance coaching and employment law. It might also include technical tasks such as approving expense reports and timecards.

Among the key beneficiaries of manager-specific onboarding will be new (non-managerial) hires. Let’s face it: Most companies don’t have training programs that teach people how to conduct onboarding. Many of us learned how to onboard employees from our own onboarding experience, which may have been subpar. Manager onboarding programs, by contrast, can help managers master the right way to onboard employees. This means new hires will become engaged and productive faster, which translates to higher retention rates.

Another benefit of manager onboarding? A bigger number of employee referrals. It’s logical that engaged employees are more likely to refer their friends. Employee referrals remain the lowest-cost and highest-quality source of hire. So, manager onboarding programs can help create a fine-tuned referral source that’s good for talent and the bottom-line.

Making the Case for Manager Onboarding

A high turnover rate isn’t good for organizations. It’s costly both in terms of lost productivity and financial expense. So, a good place to start the conversation is by connecting onboarding and turnover. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, up to 20 percent of turnover takes place during a new hire’s first 45 days. In addition, SHRM says, the average cost-per-hire is $4,129 and time-to-fill is 42 days.

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New hires who participate in a structured onboarding program, however, are 58 percent more likely to be with the organization after three years. It seems pretty safe to assume that most organizations do not want to spend 42 days and $4,129 to bring a person into the organization only to have them leave after six weeks.

Now you might be saying to yourself, “Hey, those statistics refer to general onboarding.” And it’s true. But the same principles apply. In fact, chances are that hiring a manager takes longer and has a higher cost per hire than hiring a non-manager. Managers are employees, too. Not giving them the tools to do their job will leave them frustrated. A newly hired manager who leaves after a couple of months will hurt the operation. And organizations need to be concerned that if managers start leaving, employees will start getting frustrated and may leave, too.

Manager-specific onboarding programs make perfect business sense for the very same reasons that onboarding programs for new hires do. We want newly hired and promoted managers to be successful in their roles, because when they are, the people they manage will do their best work. Whether it’s through better hires, more engagement or reduced turnover, manager onboarding programs help the organization achieve its financial goals.

Sharlyn Lauby is an author, writer, speaker and consultant. She has been named a Top HR Digital Influencer and is best-known for her work on HR Bartender, a friendly place to talk about workplace issues. HR Bartender has been recognized as one of the "Top 5 Blogs" read by HR professionals aby the Society for Human Resource Management and best business blog by the Stevie Awards.