Welcome on board! – Processes for integrating new employees into the company
In their research on on-boarding processes Dr Nicole Richter, Professor of Business Administration at IUBH, and alumna Evgenia Katter, have examined how one helps new employees get “on board” in the truest sense of the word.
On-boarding is a term used in human resource management and refers to the introduction and integration of new employees into a company. Training is also a part of this process. If the on-boarding process is successful, a foundation is established for the new employee to adapt the company’s ideas, values, norms and roles. This ultimately strengthen the employee’s long-term commitment to the company. The process usually takes three to six months.
On-boarding: professional, social and cultural
The on-boarding process differentiate between professional, social and cultural integration. Professional integration focuses primarily on the concrete work responsibilities of the new employee and social integration focuses on being accepted as part of the community. Cultural integration is the hardest part, because the company’s leadership principles as well as its goals and values are often difficult to pin down and communicate. Mentor programmes can play an important role in cultural integration.
It should be noted that different employees also have different expectations of an on-boarding process:
- Job starters are interested in professional knowledge, methodological tools, networking, and soft skills such as teamwork.
- Young professionals often care about the compatibility of personal values and company values.
- Executives need enough freedom to shape their area of responsibility within the terms of company values and goals, and need to have clearly defined objectives set by the company.
Who and what are part of a successful on-boarding process?
Many parties are involved with the planning and implementation of the on-boarding process. In addition to the human resources department, executives, mentors, colleagues and sometimes even the IT department are involved. The on-boarding process can only be successful if all parties cooperate well. There are different instruments to make this work. They should be combined in accordance with the starting point.
- Introductory events: These serve to give the new employee an overview of the company’s activities.
- On the job training: Taking on the first tasks and providing relevant instructions and information make it easier to understand the context. The scope of the tasks and their complexity should be portioned out and followed up with verbal feedback.
- Participation in projects: This conveys how tasks get done and, from the beginning, work is done in a team.
- Visit customers and suppliers: By getting to know external business partners, the new employee understands the perspective of customers and suppliers.
- Informal events: Department parties and shared free-time activities strengthen the sense of being part of a team and improve communication in the team.
- Mentors: This is particularly suitable for cultural integration. Mentors are usually older and more experienced colleagues. They know the procedures, the interconnections and the power structures of the company and help the employee to assess and evaluate situations and behaviours of superiors and colleagues.
But be careful! During the on-boarding process, overloading a new employee with too much information is usually counterproductive. An information overload can be largely avoided with an orientation plan that outlines the fields of work, the duration of the training, the required information and relevant contact persons.
At the end of a structured on-boarding process, in addition to planning and implementation, achievements need to be measured. In this way, deviations from the ideal can be identified and compared to the target goals. If necessary, countermeasures must be taken accordingly.
If the new employee has been integrated well into his/her work environment and role, and performs his/her tasks to the satisfaction of the company, the on-boarding process is complete.
A systematically planned and implemented on-boarding process integrates new employees at the professional, social and cultural level quickly and effectively. The different measure taken must address the different needs of new employees. Ideally, there are no isolated individual measures, rather, a comprehensively planned on-boarding strategy.
Further information can be found in WISU, Volume 5, 2018, pp. 569-573: “Onboarding” by Nicole Richter, Evgenia Katter.
Prof Dr Nicole Richter worked from 2002 to 2007 as a research assistant at the Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf (HHU) after studying business administration at the HHU and the Ecole Superieure de Commerce Grenoble in France. She then worked for several years in human resource management at the METRO Group in Düsseldorf where she gained experience in personnel recruiting, selection and development, as well as talent and transformation management. Since 2011, she has been working as Professor of General Business Administration at IUBH Dual Studies in Düsseldorf.
Evgenia Katter completed her master’s degree in human resource management at IUBH Distance Learning at the beginning of 2018. For her master’s thesis “Chances and Challenges of Structured On-boarding Processes for New Employees – Illustrated with the Example of Prelios Group Germany”, she received a publication scholarship from the university. The above article is based on this work.