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Onboarding Employee Engagement Employee Experience

How to Improve Employee Engagement During Onboarding

November 1, 2022
7 min read

Step-by-Step Employee Onboarding Process Checklist


The labor market is been in a period of flux over the past few years, both in the U.S. and worldwide. Businesses, regardless of size, industry, or geography, are struggling to find the right skills to fill open positions, with 75% of companies saying they’re having trouble hiring. One study predicts that by 2030, there will be a shortage of more than 85 million workers globally. At the same time, enormous employers like Amazon are announcing layoffs.

As a recruitment scenario, the one we’re experiencing is far from ideal and presents unique challenges. 50% of companies expect recruiting difficulties to continue into 2023. 36% of human resources professionals say their sourcing strategies are insufficient for finding the talent they need. According to Mercer’s 2022 Global Talent Trends Report, executives cited “difficulty hiring the right talent at the right price quickly enough“ as something they’re concerned about in 2023.

Hiring difficulties have pushed many companies to increase their focus on employee engagement strategies to retain those valuable new hires. Onboarding and employee engagement go hand in hand, so in this post, we’ll take a look at how your company can increase engagement during onboarding.

Did you know that 50% of companies expect recruiting challenges to persist into 2023? Engage and retain #newhires during #onboarding to combat hiring difficulties:

Onboarding and Retention

HR professionals well know that new hires are at a high risk of quitting — as many as one in four employees quits within the first six months at a new job. There are many reasons why employees leave their jobs, but new hires’ reasons are slightly different from those of longtime employees. New employees are most likely to quit for reasons related to the job fit — either it’s not what they expected or they don’t connect to company culture.

Why Do New Hires Quit?

  • 43% say their role didn’t meet the expectations set by their employer
  • 34% say a particular incident caused them to leave
  • 32% say they left due to issues with company culture

Onboarding can play a big role in combatting this turnover problem — it can increase employee retention by up to 50 percent. Taking a planned approach to introducing new hires to work culture, their job responsibilities, and their colleagues help employees feel less overwhelmed and adjust to their new work environment. 

Despite its proven effectiveness and high turnover for new hires, onboarding is still often neglected. Only 12% of employees say their company has a good onboarding process. Around one-third of companies have no structured onboarding process at all. 31% of HR practitioners say their remote new hires are struggling to connect with other team members while 10% say they don’t know how their new hires are doing. 

It’s no wonder we’ve seen a decrease in employee engagement in the U.S. in 2022. Fortunately, great onboarding that focuses on your people first can help boost employee engagement and retain new hires during this critical stage of employment.

Focus on Your People

There are many onboarding programs that focus on aligning an employee’s knowledge, skills, and temperament with company policies, procedures, expectations, and culture. This is a company-first, top-down interaction where the individual is secondary to the organization. Companies may also conflate employee onboarding and orientation, reducing the exciting process of starting a new job to some paperwork and training videos. Either approach can make new hires feel less engaged at work right off the bat. 

However, onboarding programs that focus on the individual have been shown to lead to higher engagement and retention. Successful employee onboarding accounts for new hires’ identities, strengths, and expectations. Gallup recommends immediately making employees feel welcome and appreciated so they can find purpose and a sense of belonging at your organization.

Put your people first by ensuring their onboarding experience includes:

  • Opportunities to start forming work relationships
  • Opportunities to learn about the company, its goals, how internal processes work, and where their work fits in
  • Structure and a schedule for their onboarding program, whether it’s 90 days or nine months long

Meet — and Set — Expectations to Engage

Understanding employee expectations enables businesses to fulfill their needs while setting expectations ensures new hires understand what they need to do. When companies do both, employee engagement soars. Onboarding is the perfect time to demonstrate that your organization can meet new hires’ needs and to let them know what is expected of them as employees.

Meeting employees’ expectations during #onboarding is a surefire way to improve #EmployeeEngagement:

The employee engagement hierarchy of needs, modeled after Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, offers a perfect template for predicting their expectations. At the foundation of the pyramid are basic needs, which include compensation and job security. The peak of the pyramid represents the highest level of engagement, where employees feel inspired and motivated. 

The more needs your company can meet, the higher engagement will rise. So, for instance, an employee with a strong sense of belonging is more likely to reach peak engagement than one who does not. During onboarding, your company can begin fostering these important components of engagement so every employee can be fully engaged at work.  

It’s also essential to set expectations, which increases employee engagement because new hires don’t have to question what their manager wants them to do. Involving managers in setting expectations is also necessary if you want employees to get the most from your onboarding program — active managers mean new hires are 3.4x more likely to say their onboarding was successful.

Check out 6 common mistakes to avoid when creating your onboarding program.

Make a Plan, But Stay Flexible

A strategic and successful onboarding program must strike a balance between structure and flexibility. There are some bases to cover, like background checks and employment eligibility verification, that can’t be skipped. Every single employee will need to set up their work equipment, meet their coworkers, and get added to the payroll. An onboarding plan ensures that none of these critical steps are forgotten.

But onboarding plans also need a certain amount of flexibility, especially for salaried employees and those in more creative roles. For example, an account manager at a software company will likely need a much deeper understanding of the ins and outs of the product than a staff accountant working to manage departmental budgets. While the two new hires will need to learn the same fundamentals about company culture, the accountant would likely be at risk of disengagement if they were required to do several weeks of product training.  

Start with an onboarding plan so the important administrative and company culture pieces remain consistent. But, keep plans flexible so that new hires can get more familiar with their day-to-day responsibilities and focus on what’s most relevant for their position. 

Smarter Onboarding with Software

The potential impact of an effective onboarding program extends far beyond engagement and retention. Employees can achieve productivity faster, and after a great onboarding experience, they are 2.6x more likely to be “extremely satisfied” with their jobs. This period of time is also the best opportunity to lay a solid foundation for sustained employee engagement that doesn’t dissipate with time. That sets your new hires up for an enduring, outstanding employee experience. 

You can support and strengthen onboarding and engagement by using an onboarding system like ClearCompany. Technology enables an onboarding experience that is both planned and personalized. With ClearCompany Onboarding, you can:

  • Start the onboarding process ASAP after offer letters are signed
  • Streamline HR onboarding tasks, like compiling welcome packets
  • Ask employees for their feedback on their onboarding experience
  • Send out pulse surveys to gauge new employee engagement levels

Are you ready to kick start your own new and improved and highly engaging onboarding process? Just want to learn more about engaging new hires with digital onboarding? You’re in the right place — sign up for a demo of ClearCompany’s Onboarding Platform today.

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