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on October 18, 2016 Culture Onboarding

How to run an Onboarding Program Diagnostic

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When we work with Program Leads at Sapling, we support them to build a structured onboarding program, and encourage them to conduct an Onboarding Program Diagnostic.

Outlined by Mark Stein in Successful Onboarding, Program Diagnostics seek to do an analysis of your current onboarding program to determine key strengths and areas of opportunity relative to specific business conditions and company objectives.

While developing an onboarding program that provides a great employee experience and drives organizational ROI is iterative, we’ve seen that a proper diagnosis at program commencement helps drive the right outcomes.

Here are Sapling’s 3 Steps to complete an Onboarding Program Diagnostic.

1. Internal survey

Completing an internal survey with key stakeholders and hiring managers can provide big insights into the current state of your onboarding program - program enablers, detractors and opportunities for improvement.

A standard rubric of questions focused on understanding the identifiers of a ‘fully onboarded’ employee after a 90 day onboarding program will show you divergent and convergent opinions across teams and locations.

Why is this important?

Consistency of process is one of the biggest problems facing many organizations’ onboarding programs. By identifying which aspects of your onboarding program should be consistent and which should be tailored across teams, you’ll be better placed for big early wins in designing your program.

Onboarding a new hire in Sales and Engineering may look similar in the first few weeks, but by day 90 you’d expect them to have very different knowledge sets about their business functions.

Questions based on both admin and business processes as well as developmental questions will ensure responders think about the knowledge and education that they are providing new-hires during their first 90 days.

Sapling recommends a short 5 minute survey with 10 - 20 employees, requiring approx 50 - 100 minutes of employee time. These can be done through basic survey tools (i.e google forms) or employee engagement focused surveys from companies like CultureAmp.

Pro-tip: A shortcut to this step can be taken by finding an appropriate stakeholder group, developing a set of hypotheses and then validating the hypotheses by testing with hiring managers.


2. External research

In today’s talent market, your Employer Brand is more powerful than ever and is increasingly shaped by your employee’s voices on platforms like Linkedin, Glassdoor, Indeed or Monster. Collecting information based on your anonymous employee feedback and industry peers can provide key insights into your onboarding program.

These comparisons can also help provide a baseline to understand where past and previous employees see the biggest problems and opportunities.

We did a quick review of the the Top Small & Medium companies from Glassdoor's Employees' Choice Awards 2016. These awards honor the Best Places to Work across North America and parts of Europe.

While our analysis below looks at the areas for improvement, it should be noted that these are the Best Places to Work!


Comment from Employee Question for Onboarding Program
Madwire 4.9★ "Keep improving how you focus your priorities and goals and communicate them to employees. Are they long term goals or short term?"
  • How are Goals set for new employees?
  • Do we provide a clear road-map for new-hires to be successful?
  • Who is accountable for setting goals with the new-hire and how does HR know that these are actioned?
Grand Rounds 4.9★ "If you are somewhere between entry level and director level, there's likely very little opportunity for career progression."
  • What career path do we provide to new hires?
  • Do exit surveys with departing employees show similar insight?
CloudLock 4.9★ "Common startup challenges such as not having all processes in place but could be looked as an opportunity to step up and create/implement those processes."
  • What onboarding processes and programs do we have in place?
  • Does the People Operations team have visibility and data to ensure new hire success?
Instructure 4.9★ "Sometimes the informational paths haven't been established yet to make sure everyone knows what they need to."
  • What information do we provide to new hires?
  • Is it consistent or role specific?
  • How do we know that new hires have everything they need to succeed?
WillowTree 4.7★ "Please keep processes open and transparent. It makes it so much easier to trust the company's decisions when everyone is able to see the thinking behind them."
  •  Are our company values and decisions clearly communicated during the recruitment and onboarding process?


3. Opportunity Analysis

Using the internal and external data compiled above, you can now identify the biggest problems and opportunities in your onboarding program, and key themes will likely emerge on areas needing the biggest attention (eg, goal setting, career paths, onboarding processes, material provided to new hires, etc).

When we design onboarding programs with Program Leads, we seek to prioritize the highest to lowest impact categories for our partner companies.

These should be weighted on both improving the employee experience (which drives your employer brand), and enterprise performance (which drives ROI on hiring plans).

Then you can systematically build these into your onboarding program, and weave-in recurring actions that take advantage of the biggest opportunities from your Onboarding Program Diagnostic.

Once you’ve got a handle on these areas, you’ll be better placed to build an onboarding program that drives the right outcomes.

Interested in learning more? Download Sapling’s Essential Guide To Employee Onboarding Success or sign up for a product demo below.blog_banner.png

Bart Macdonald

Bart is a Co-Founder and CEO of Sapling. He’s passionate about building software and training programs that prepare today’s HR leaders for the Future of Work. Prior to Sapling, Bart was an early employee at General Assembly in the education-technology space, and before that was an HR Consultant designing Onboarding and L&D programs for companies from 10 to 10,000 employees. He holds a degree in Human Resource Management from Macquarie University in Sydney, and is now a proud Californian resident.