5 methods to measure onboarding effectiveness

Measuring the effectiveness of your onboarding process is no easy task — 36 percent of HR managers cite it as one of their biggest onboarding challenges. That’s not surprising given all the variables that play into the process, including the industry the business is in, the functional roles of those being hired, the company’s strategic goals, and its available resources.

But whether your process is short and sweet or lengthy and complex, below are several ways to measure onboarding effectiveness.

5 ways to measure onboarding effectiveness

1. Look at new hire turnover

“If you really want to measure onboarding effectiveness, consider your new hire turnover,” says Malte Scholz, cofounder and product manager at airfocus. “Specifically, look at the number of new hires that quit within their first year.”

There may be other issues that cause people to leave a job quickly, such as a bad culture fit, but even that can often be traced back to the onboarding process. Does your current process showcase the company’s unique culture? Do you spend enough time communicating the company’s mission and values? If you only briefly touch on these aspects, the new hire may not come away with a good understanding of what their new employer is expecting, and that can create problems from the start.

“Even when other factors influence the new hire’s decision to leave, my experience tells me that onboarding is the most critical,” Scholz explains. Without a proper onboarding process, new hires won’t learn how best to navigate the workplace and succeed in their role. Instead, they’ll look for a new job as soon as possible, leaving once they find something better.

2. Compare the performance of new hires to that of current employees

Domantas Gudeliauskas, marketing manager at Zyro, says comparing the performance of current employees to new hires is a useful way to assess onboarding effectiveness. Observe how quickly new hires start performing at similar levels to their more tenured peers. “Effective onboarding is meant to get new hires up to certain performance standards, so that’s what we look for — within reason,” he explains.

The complexity of the business and the role the new hire is in will determine the best point to start the comparison. Gudeliauskas and his team believe the learning curve is relatively short for most roles at the company: “After about a month, new hires should be performing at a level that resembles a veteran employee. Barring unique circumstances or specialized roles, we consider onboarding successful if new hires meet this criterion.”

3. Use what new hires have learned to test your onboarding process

After new hires complete the onboarding process, have them take a short quiz to gauge what they’ve learned. Ken Eulo, founding partner of Smith & Eulo Law Firm, advises asking questions concerning how new hires would go about their daily activities once on the job. Encourage them to answer honestly so you can ensure they’re ready to start working; it also gives you a way to properly measure your onboarding process. 

Eulo says, “If new employees don’t have a fairly solid understanding of their day-to-day workflows, your onboarding process could likely use some work.”

If multiple new hires are having trouble answering the same question, focus on addressing it in your onboarding process. Look for areas in your process where you could provide additional information. Even if your new hires do well on the quiz, ask them whether some information could have been presented in a clearer manner. 

“No onboarding process is perfect, and it takes careful tweaking over time to get it just right,” says Eulo.

4. Gauge the impact of your process on new hires

Ask new hires directly for feedback, whether through an interview or a feedback form. Unlike a quiz, you’re not assessing what they’ve learned, but rather how they felt about the onboarding process and what concerns they may have. For example, you might ask the following questions:

  • Was the process welcoming?
  • Did it accurately convey the company culture?
  • Did it have too many or not enough visuals?
  • Did it help you feel like part of the organization?
  • Was it engaging enough?

“Your feedback questions should be simple and get directly to the point of what you’re trying to evaluate,” says Darryl Smith, founding partner of Florida Car Accident Lawyer Team.

5. Employ 360-degree feedback

Getting feedback from the people a new hire regularly interacts with on the job — referred to as “360-degree feedback” — can provide invaluable insights on the effectiveness of your onboarding process. With 360-degree feedback, you get input from the new team member’s peers and managers on how they’re performing; their unique perspectives may help you identify what elements might be missing from your onboarding program. 

“You can use 360-degree appraisals when you deem suitable, but 120 days after new hires’ start dates is a typical assessment point,” says Dr. Sayeedu Islam, associate professor at Farmingdale State College and vice president of consulting at Talent Metrics.

Whatever method you employ to measure onboarding effectiveness, just be sure it’s a good fit for your organization.

Want the full rundown on employee onboarding? Check out this complete guide we created on the topic.

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