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Onboarding: The next trend in reducing turnover and increasing employee performance


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As a term newly adopted by a small number of federal agencies, onboarding may not be familiar. However, as a strategic initiative to reducing employee turnover and increasing performance, onboarding is being highly recommended in the face of government’s personnel crises.As Booz Allen Hamilton states in his article Getting On Board: A Model for Integrating and Engaging New Employees,” “Onboarding is the process of integrating new employees into an or­ganization and equipping them to become successful and productive.” Most agencies conduct an orientation of sorts, but few offer a comprehensive onboarding program as outlined in Hamilton’s article. Recent studies suggest this needs to change:

“Research conducted by the Aberdeen Group in 2006 found that 90 percent of employees decide whether or not they will stay at an organization or begin look­ing for a new job during their first six months on the job. Between 2003 and 2007, new federal employees voluntarily left their agencies at rates ranging from 10 percent to more than 18 percent. This turnover is much higher than the 3 to 3.5 percent voluntary attrition rate of all federal employees over the same time period, underscoring the fact that the first year is a particularly consequential time.”

By adapting a comprehensive onboarding model, agencies should see significant improvement in employee performance, retention, engagement and productivity. Here are a few ideas to consider as part of an onboarding program:

  • To help employees feel welcomed, ensure their desks are complete with needed tools and supplies. While many people will add their own personal touches, having basics like paper clips, a letter opener, stapler and calculator organized on a clean desk shows you were looking forward to their arrival.
  • Go the extra step and include a “Welcome” mug (insert any) filled with items that speak to your agency’s culture. It will provide your new hire better understand your organization.
  • Educate all departments to be consistent in their post-hire efforts. Establish training to communicate processes and expectations regarding the onboarding program. Use stress balls to help communicate that this initiative is designed to reduce the stress of starting a new job.
  • Encourage new employees to become engaged. Ask them to provide a list of their professional interests, career goals and aspirations. Immediately identify those you can help to make a reality and try to align tasks, committee assignments and career paths from the get-go that best suit that individual employee. Keep an open and regular dialogue flowing about their needs and your efforts on their behalf.
  • Establish a mentor program where new hires have someone they can connect with and can learn from. Selecting mentors can be a process in itself, so take care to find those who are not only willing but also excited about your agency and want to be an ambassador. Thank them for their extra efforts with a token of appreciation like the Medallion Coaster/Mug Gift Set.
  • Initiate teambuilding efforts with each new hire. Coordinate team lunches with training exercises that will break down social barriers and encourage collaboration. Hand out logo’d T-shirts to wear as part of a training day to make everyone feel part of the team.

Onboarding may take more resources and effort initially, but it will ease future workforce challenges. Plus, the potential rewards it reaps in terms of performance, retention and productivity can’t be beat.

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