Onboarding, offboarding and cross-boarding: getting employee transitions right

March 25, 2023
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Onboarding, offboarding and cross-boarding: getting employee transitions right
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Fine-tune your processes to boost team engagement, drive productivity, and reduce employee churn.

When we think of traditional career paths, we often think linear: a ladder to climb toward fulfillment and success. But today, things are different—people’s values have shifted, priorities have changed and what employees need from employers has evolved. Now, instead of the traditional career ladder, we’ve shifted towards a non-linear, ‘squiggly’ career journey.

Too often talent teams are focused purely on acquisition: filling the role in front of them. But organizations that overlook the importance of the entire employee journey are struggling to secure and retain talent.

To support these ‘squiggly’ career paths, companies need to re-evaluate their approach to the entire talent lifecycle, end to end. It’s about acknowledging that people need to grow throughout your company: they’ll come in, they’ll learn, develop and progress —and one day they’ll probably leave. In a tight talent market, discerning jobseekers are looking for companies that genuinely invest in their people. How you support your employees throughout each of these transitions will be the difference between successful teams, and those who struggle to secure new hires.

How can you get these employee transitions right? Let’s dive further into three stages of the employee lifecycle: onboarding, offboarding and cross-boarding.

What is onboarding?

Often confused with orientation, onboarding is the process of getting your new hire set up for productivity —and success. It’s not the tour of the office, and it’s not the compliance checklist filled out on day one. It’s an all-encompassing experience of your new starters’ first few months with your company.

Many hiring teams overlook the impact that onboarding has on employee retention. 90% of employees decide whether they will stay with a company in the first six months. Furthermore, 20% of employee turnover occurs in the first 45 days of work. A poor onboarding process can wreak havoc on your recruitment strategy.

On the other hand, a well-executed onboarding process kick-starts your new hire’s employee journey. It introduces them to your employer brand, immerses them in your company culture, and shows them what a future with your company could look like. It lays the foundation for a long-term relationship. With the right onboarding structure, new hire productivity has been shown to increase by 62% and new hire retention by more than 50%.

How to get it right:

  • Start onboarding and build a relationship from the moment they say ‘yes’. In today’s market, ‘ghosting’ is a real problem. To stop losing candidates to competing offers, savvy companies are turning to employee gifting schemes, or implementing a “pre-boarding” process. Whatever this looks like in your business, make it common practice to keep in touch and build relationships with your new hire from offer through to day one.
  • Automate your onboarding processes. The key to a great onboarding experience is consistency —each team member should be given the same opportunity to succeed. Build templates to create a seamless experience and spend less time on compliance. Use an onboarding solution to create a hub of onboarding tasks, information and company knowledge to give your new starter a reliable place to refer back to in the initial days and weeks. That way, you can spend less time managing tasks,  and more time welcoming your new hire to the team.
  • Don’t confuse orientation with onboarding. Perhaps the biggest mistake many teams make is rushing the onboarding process. Best-practice onboarding gives your new hire support and set milestones to work towards. This could be for 90 days or up to a year: think time to productivity, not how long it takes to complete the paperwork.

What is cross-boarding?

Cross-boarding is onboarding’s lesser-known cousin: setting employees up for success as they transition to new roles within the same company. This ranges from promotions to cross-functional moves: a shift in responsibilities triggers a new workflow for hiring teams.

Internal mobility as a talent strategy is on the rise. People leave ‘dead-end’ jobs. We also know that companies are struggling to fill critical skills gaps and hire for crucial roles within the business in today’s tight talent market.

Internal hires are a great choice. On average, it takes them a third of the time to reach productivity, they know the culture, and they’re 2X more likely to stay than a new external hire. It’s also a higher-quality sourcing channel —it takes just 4 internal applications to hire, versus 36 applications via a job board. Organizationally, it’s been proven that high-performance organizations are twice as likely to emphasize internal talent mobility, and have cited increased innovation and cross-collaboration as a result.

But, with all the good, comes the bad: most companies struggle to execute their internal mobility strategies well —primarily due to a lack of cross-boarding. While internal hires know the culture, they may not know the role, or their new team. Many companies are guilty of setting their internal mover’s up for failure: putting them in a new role without additional support, guidance, structure or training. While you can often short-cut the institutional knowledge aspect of onboarding, there are many processes that overlap between the two.

How to get it right:

  • Create a culture of internal mobility. To get internal movement right, it’s important to have it embedded deeply in company culture. Some companies use internal career sites to help promote open roles and facilitate this employee transition more efficiently.
  • Offer strong leadership and support on-the-job training. Not everyone has all the skills to take on a new role: but many have the willingness to learn. Cross-boarding is most effective when supported by on-the-job training in a supportive learning environment.
  • Set clear outcomes and goals and actions to support it. The biggest trap internal teams fall into is assuming a high-performer in one role, will instantly be a high-performer in another. The best talent teams establish cross-boarding processes in alignment with onboarding. They set up clear 30, 60 and 90-day expectations, as well as key milestones and frequent check-ins to ensure the new team member is settled, supported and ready to succeed.

What is offboarding?

Offboarding is the process between when an employee gives their notice, and exits the business. You might be wondering how people leaving your company can impact your recruitment strategy: it seems like a bit of an oxymoron. But, if you consider the talent journey as a lifecycle, instead of a line, you’ll see the two challenges are inextricably linked: how you approach this period can make or break your long-term recruitment strategies.

Image source: PageUp

For many companies, once an employee puts in their notice, the relationship begins to break down. After all, why should you invest valuable resources into a team member who’s leaving?

But, in the wake of the Great Resignation, the Great Reshuffle and now, the Great Regret, there is a huge competitive advantage to continuing a relationship with ex-employees. Of those who quit their jobs or took new jobs during the pandemic, 43% feel they would have been better off in their old jobs.

Some companies have set up specific programs to target ex-employees. Travel company Flight Centre has seen great success in re-engaging employees furloughed during the pandemic. Now, it’s a vital part of both their offboarding and recruitment strategy, with incredible results.

How to get it right:

  • Give people a reason to stay. In an ideal world, we’d avoid offboarding altogether through retention. Create a culture of internal mobility and build an employer brand backed by strong values to address the biggest churn factors before they arise.
  • Listen and learn from exit interviews. What more can you fine-tune? If your people are talking with their feet, try to understand what they’re saying. Make sure you have mechanisms in place to share — and most importantly, action — employee feedback across the organization.
  • Build in an alumni process to keep the door open. You can’t keep everyone. In days gone by, it was common to cut ties with ex-employees But 43% of people say they would return to a prior workplace. That’s a healthy pipeline of alumni talent at your fingertips —a crucial resource in a tight talent market.

Final thoughts: prioritize experience

With more jobs advertised than jobseekers to fill them, the power in the talent market has shifted in favor of employees. Your company’s reputation in the market is no longer a nice touch —it’s make or break for your talent strategy. By providing a great experience through the entire talent management cycle, from onboarding, to cross-boarding to offboarding —you’ll be in a great position to attract, engage and retain the best talent.

This article was a partner contribution from PageUp. Learn more about how the Dropbox Sign API enables an intuitive, seamless eSignature experience within PageUp

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