The High Cost of Inadequate Acculturation Onboarding

Regular readers of my blog know that I talk a lot about the costs associated with getting transactional onboarding wrong. With the acculturation (training and socialization) side, it’s a little harder to pin down specific numbers. However, there is one eye-opening study from 2008 that puts the cost to U.S. and U.K. companies at $37 billion per year for failures in this area. The International Data Corporation (IDC) white paper presents compelling data about the price tag associated with mistakes new employees make. It focuses on errors caused by misunderstanding, misinterpretation, or misinformation. These fall into three categories:

  • Job functions (what the employee’s job entails)
  • Business processes (how things should be done and why)
  • Company policies (forbidden behaviors)

A Price Too Great

When employers don’t communicate effectively in any of these areas during acculturation, this can lead to enormously costly errors. Businesses with a workforce of 100,000 employees lose an average of $62.4 million dollars per year to these mistakes. Unexpected downtime was the most damaging result of misunderstandings in the study. Losses to a company’s reputation, employee injury, and exposure of sensitive data can also result from lack of proper training. According to the IDC research, there was no industry exempt from significant losses from worker errors.

One of the most fascinating findings of the study was regarding the use of assessment programs to measure employee comprehension and knowledge. Many employers realize that this is a critical tool, but only 6% of respondents actually had an automated assessment program in place.

Waiting for new employees to absorb knowledge from their coworkers and identifying areas of weakness after mistakes occur is definitely not a best practice. The risks are simply too extreme. This is an area where a strong acculturation onboarding system that provides detailed data for analysis and continuous feedback for improvements can play a critical role in cost containment.

One thought on “The High Cost of Inadequate Acculturation Onboarding

  1. Good point. Often the roots of the problem are inside the organization. Sometimes the misunderstanding, misinterpretation, or misinformation is between the new employee’s direct supervisor and other members of the organization.

    The main point of our book “Onboarding – How to Get Your New Employees Up to Speed in Half the Time” is that onboarding needs to be a comprehensive, integrated process that starts well before the first contact between organization and candidate and ends well into their employment. What you call transactional onboarding and acculturation are the middle steps of a program that includes aligning, acquiring, accommodate (transactional), assimilating (acculturating), and accelerating new employees. The labels don’t matter. Taking the whole process seriously does, starting with aligning critical internal stakeholders around some of the things you talked about.

    George Bradt – PrimeGenesis Executive Onboarding and Transition Acceleration

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