New Hire Engagement!

September 10, 2016


In my recent blog posts, I’ve opined about Federal recruiting challenges and highlighted new and innovative tools and technologies to support the overall recruiting effort.   As technology has developed and recruitment advertising / online media has advanced, so too have the holders of the budget who expect to have information on anticipated Return on Investment (ROI) tied to the budget request.  In looking at the end-to-end recruiting and onboarding process, I’m beginning to question the value of providing “ROI” data such as the number of clicks or views on particular online media posts.  More on that in a minute.


If your agency has invested resources and money on building a candidate pipeline through recruitment branding, social media, and digital advertising – it’s time to think about the next steps to ensure retention and engagement.  New hires, particularly Millennials want to know about career development opportunities and the learning opportunities they’ll get on the job and with the agency.  To spend the money to get candidates in the door, and then not have a formalized process to acculturate them to the agency is pointless. The window of time between signed offer letter and Day 1 on the job is the ‘golden window’ to build employee engagement and secure retention through your new hire.  It seems counter-intuitive to be worried about engagement and retention before the new hire has even started!  But the research reinforces how critical this time is – particularly with Millennials.


My husband is a federal employee and after 25 years with an agency, he transferred to another agency for an opportunity that provided more career growth.  Between the time he was offered the job and his Day 1 on the job, he impatiently waited to hear any news or updates on the status of his clearance and when he could start.  In that 6-month window, he found himself searching the web for more information about the agency and anything that could help him build a connection.  His initial enthusiasm about the opportunity started to fade, without any word from the new agency he found himself wondering if the job was real or if the hiring manager had changed his mind.  Once he did finally get started, he was longing for tools or resources to help him perform on the job without being dependent on others for the basics.


Put away the traditional thoughts about EOD and orientation.  Preboarding and Onboarding encompass more than compliance driven forms.  Preboarding is the period between new hire acceptance of the job offer and the official start date.  Onboarding is the process of integrating and acculturating new hires into the agency and providing them with the tools, resources and information to be successful and productive – and has been provide to reduce ‘time-to-productivity’, reduce turnover and ultimately create higher employee engagement.


Top 6 Reasons for Establishing an Onboarding Program:

  • Studies show that over 80% of new hires make a decision to remain with an organization within the first six months of employment. 

  • Preboarding can reduce early turnover – preboarding activities can increase first-year retention by as much as 80%

  • Google research shows that reminding the hiring manager to set up the first day gets new hires up to speed 25% faster

  • It takes an average of 8 months for a new employee to become fully productive – providing learning activities and goals for 30/60/90 days helps accelerate new hire to productivity

  • 69% of employees are more likely to stay with an organization for three years if they experienced great onboarding

  • Organizations with a standard onboarding process experience 50% greater new hire retention

If recruiting and hiring Millennials is part of your agency’s overall recruitment strategy – Preboarding and Onboarding should be key aspects of your overall Talent strategy.  The research tells the whole story.  Millennials will make up 50% of the workforce in just four years, and 75% of the workforce in less than ten years!   In the federal sector, Millennials only comprise 7% of the workforce.  Millennials expect more than just a job – they will be drawn to an agency touting a 6-9-month onboarding program that includes developmental experiences, mentoring and training.


When I’ve talked with Federal HR leaders, there is recognition that not all hiring managers onboard new hires the same, resulting in vastly different new hire experiences.  OPM established Onboarding Communities of Practice with resources shared by agencies including orientation agenda, new employee survey, EOD agency, checklists and more.


Beyond the traditional ‘orientation’, Onboarding Programs can be so much more comprehensive and include on-the-job experiences, ‘buddy’ program, peer feedback and coaching, and structured Day 1 activities.  With any structured Preboarding and Onboarding Program, having an automated workflow capability to provide reminders and trigger events will ensure activities don’t fall to the sidelines because people get busy or forget.


5 Best Practices for an Onboarding Program

  • Begin acculturation to the agency during preboarding period

  • Automate the forms process for new hires to complete forms prior to Day 1

  • Establish role clarity and learning opportunities within first 30 days

  • Create training plan and provide developmental experiences with opportunities for feedback within first 90 days

  • Provide tools to prompt hiring managers with actions to acclimate new hire and resources for the new hire to become self-sufficient more quickly

Acquiring talent is an investment in the future human capital of the agency.  Engage this talent through communications that resemble ‘recruiting’ and demonstrate the agency commitment to the New Hire with an Onboarding Program that reflects learning and development activities; opportunities for feedback and training.  Resources that help the new hire succeed are invaluable in building engagement as new hires don’t like being dependent on others and want to feel competent enough to complete basic tasks such as logon to the agency system; submit time; access a leave and earnings statement; and most of all want to know clearly what the expectations are for the job.


Back to my earlier question about the value of providing “ROI” data such as the number of clicks or views on particular online media posts.  Focusing on candidate engagement and retention through the end to end hiring process inspires the top candidates to stay in the game until the hiring decision is made.  Establishing a Preboarding and Onboarding program that starts once the offer letter is signed, and continues through the first 90-180 days will provide the ROI that counts!  You can measure new hire engagement and see the impact of this early investment in their acculturation to your agency.


In my next blog, I’m going to highlight technology that makes onboarding an engaging experience and ensures consistency in your onboarding process.  It even has a ‘virtual coach’ to provide the reminders and suggestions to hiring managers about onboarding their new hire!

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