by Steve Hurn, Vice President and General Manager EMEA for SuccessFactors, an SAP company

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Hiring the right people from a shrinking talent pool is hard enough, not to mention the time and expense required for a successful outcome.  Most people think this is the toughest part of expanding their workforce. But there are a myriad of hidden hazards in the onboarding process that can put all of that time and money you’ve just spent recruiting your new employee at risk.

Onboarding programs typically get little respect or attention in the wider business context. For many organisations, it’s almost an afterthought. Onboarding is often overlooked by busy managers who believe it is either an HR responsibility, or don’t have any real understanding or guidance as to what they should be doing. Likewise, HR believes that once administrative and compliance tasks are completed, it is up to the line of business manager to orient a new hire into their role. And who can blame them when the current pace of change and economic pressures are so intense? It’s a high stakes, complex problem with no clear owner.

The problem with this approach is that it results in huge inconsistencies for new hires, depending on who their manager is. It also leads to first year turnover, which can cost your organisation up to 150 per cent of the person’s salary, as well as less than engaged employees and much longer times to productivity and contribution. Without a consistent, strategic onboarding process in place, this ‘ownerless’ and overlooked problem is actually stealth failure. At best, you’re gambling your luck on the individual endeavour of the respective line manager, and at worst, you’re setting up everyone involved for an unsuccessful outcome.

In contrast, when managed well, onboarding can have a dramatic – and more importantly, a measurable – impact on employee productivity, retention, employment brand, service and product quality, workplace safety, as well as future hiring success. So why would anyone leave this to chance? Getting it right, consistently right, is a no brainer.

But how do you ‘own’ the problem and do something about it?  Onboarding is actually a complex problem with an easy answer. What’s needed is an onboarding solution that is simple to use, automatic and personal that can lay the groundwork for a productive and engaged member of your team.

Suffice to say, you need to automate this process so you can consistently and efficiently convert new hires into engaged, empowered and productive employees. New employees will be at their most motivated when they start a new role, as they’re keen to prove their worth. You have a golden window to engage and support them at the outset. A good onboarding solution will actually guide the HR department, the hiring manager and the new hire in a meaningful way through the necessary steps. This includes connecting new employees with the right people and relevant content before they even start.

Make no mistake. This is a critical business issue, not a tactical HR task. By improving process efficiency and compliance, accelerating time to contribution, and fostering better engagement and retention, you are not only de-risking your growth strategy, you’re fuelling it.

Steve Hurn is Vice President and General Manager EMEA for SuccessFactors, an SAP company. More information about SuccessFactors’ Onboarding Solution can be found at http://www.successfactors.com/en_us/solutions/bizx-suite/talent-solutions/onboarding.html