In “New Employee Acculturation: Measure, Engage, Immerse” (link to article on hr.com), Jay Torrence and I establish the 3 aspects of an acculturation onboarding system: measure, engage, and immerse.  Our competitors call the acculturation aspects of new employee onboarding “socialization”, but we think their approach–rooted in providing a standalone, outward-facing, workflow-driven onboarding portal–is an incomplete and wishful approach; our view of new employee socialization is unique enough to warrant a more comprehensive moniker, “acculturation”.  For the next few blogs I’m going to take each of the 3 aspects to a true acculturation system and provide some elaboration and personal experience.  The first of the 3 is “measure”.

Truth be told, measuring outcomes should be part of any system; this obvious statement is all the more striking in that off-the-shelf onboarding socialization systems seldom do it.  If you read the product literature and whitepapers you’re almost certain to hear how expensive it is recruit an employee, how expensive it is to onboard an employee, and how expensive it is to bring an employee to effectiveness.  You’ll also hear the statistics that most employees make the decision of how long they’ll stay with a company within the first 90 days.  Your onboarding vendor seems to be telling you, “you need to buy our product so you can make a good first impression or you’re going to blow all that investment.”  Ask them how their product demonstrates that the investment you’re about to make actually works.  You’re likely to hear crickets.

Onboarding systems, both transactional and acculturation (read our onboarding definition article to learn about the distinctions), should be able to track enough information about their processes to demonstrate their value.  Transactional onboarding systems have an advantage because their measures are generally very objective: how much time (and associated labor expense) have we saved in collecting forms, how many errors have we reduced, how much in shipping charges have we eliminated, etc.  But acculturation onboarding systems, while more subjective, don’t have to be implemented with only the hope that they actually save money.  They actually can be measured.

As we described in our article, the approach necessary is to design an “Acculturation Index”, or AI, a composite score of the many objectives you establish for new employees.  One company’s set of objectives and their relative importance (therefore scoring), is going to be considerably different than the next company’s.  Once the objectives are defined, weighted, and a formula established for the index, the organization can structure their onboarding system to collect the data associated with the objectives.  At a glance you could determine the acculturation index of a new employee with respect to others, and you can evaluate aggregates of departments, divisions, or business units over time.  With continual evaluation of the index associated with adjustments to real-world processes and procedures, you can not only measure the effectiveness of your onboarding process, you can also determine how effective your process improvement efforts are.  Imagine: being able to calculate a true return on investment AND facilitating continuous process improvement.  The book “Hope is Not a Strategy” comes to mind.

Much of the value of the Acculturation Index is properly establishing your new employee onboarding objectives.  To help provide some structure and guidance, in our article we suggested that objectives be categorized as one of competency objectives, social objectives, and satisfaction objectives. 

Competency objectives are those associated with learning or demonstrating skills.  New employees might have to be assessed by their supervisors within 60 days of employment, or the employees might have to take classes and pass tests.  A learning management system with great reporting, analytics, and an API might be the genesis of this data.

Social objectives are those associated with “plugging new employees into” the company culture.  Have they created a profile on the company’s social network?  Are they participating in departmental forums and wikis?  While some of this data might be gleaned from conventional network activity, the best source of this data is going to be a corporate social network, which might include your Microsoft SharePoint-based intranet.

Satisfaction objectives are those associated with gaging how pleased the employee is with their new position and employer.  The only real source of this data is to ask the employee: through surveys, post-hire interviews, and supervisory feedback.

The score weighting will depend on the nature of your organization.  Professional, white-collar firms are going to likely assign equal value to all areas, while blue-collar and tradeskill firms are going to assign significantly more value to competency objectives than either social or satisfaction objectives.

With a solid means of measuring effectiveness, you’re likely to find that new employee acculturation becomes not only a strategic activity, but also that you’ve set the foundations for a lifecycle employee acculturation system (more on this in a few weeks).

In the next blog in this series, I’ll discuss the “Engage” aspect of acculturation onboarding.  Thanksgiving will come and go in the meantime, and it’s my sincere hope that you have a wonderful and safe holiday with family and friends, and that we all bring to mind what it is that we are truly thankful for.

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