In the September 2015 edition of the International Journal of Selection an Assessments, researchers Howard J. Klein, Beth Polin, and Kyra Leigh Sutton examined the effects of onboarding socialization – getting new hires acclimated to company culture through various “new hire” programs and practices – to see what were the most effective types of onboarding to get new hires “up to speed” with the company as quickly as possible. Through an evaluation of 373 new employees across 10 organizations, the study was able to demonstrate what onboarding practices were most effective and how they should be utilized.

Five Key Factors

  1. While there have been many documented studies and research performed on the benefits of onboarding and employee socialization, not much has been done in the way of what onboarding tactics are most effective in achieving said socialization. This study was designed to try and evaluate specific onboarding practices, as well as their effectiveness on socialization.
  2. onboarding, socialization, company cultureIt is important to note that in this study socialization and onboarding are distinguished as two specific definitions. Socialization is defined as “something that occurs within the individual,” and onboarding is defined as “efforts by the organization to facilitate socialization.” The key thing to distinguish is that socialization can occur throughout an employee’s tenure with the company, while onboarding defines a specific period of time that takes place.
  3. The study had presented several hypotheses: (i) there would be a discrepancy with how much onboarding practices are reported by organizations versus how many are remembered by employees, (ii) the more an effort the organization makes, or the better an employee is socialized, the higher the amount of onboarding will be reported, (iii) formal onboarding practices will be more helpful in socializing the employee, (iv) onboarding that occurs earlier will be seen as more helpful by new employees, and (v) the earlier an organization offers these services the better the employee will be socialized.
  4. The study found that some hypotheses were more supported than others. Specifically the study revealed that organizations believe that their employees are getting more onboarding socializing experiences than what actually is taking place. The study also found that offering more onboarding socialization opportunities was far more helpful than fewer, but that it also matters how these practices are being offered. Being required to participate in these onboarding opportunities is far more helpful to employees than if they’re encouraged or optional.
  5. However, “the earlier the better” does not ring true in onboarding socialization opportunities, as the effort is actually far more complex than simple timing. Although it can be viewed as more helpful, there wasn’t significant evidence supporting early onboarding socialization opportunities as being as effective for most of the different ways you can help new employees socialize.

Onboarding, Socialization, and Next Steps

Hiring the right employees is a multi-faceted effort that does have a serious “company culture” component to it. After all, you want your employees to fit in with the rest of your company as it’s proven to yield more success for both the company and the employee. Onboarding socialization is a great method to get your employees up to speed socially much quicker than if they were to show up day one with no support system in place. However, as this study has proven, just having an onboarding socialization effort isn’t enough.

Much like with anything else, onboarding socialization requires updating and adjusting to its efforts as time goes on. Additionally, simply having an onboarding socialization process early doesn’t necessarily result in an automatic “socialization” for the employee. Rather than just doing it early, measure what onboarding efforts are most effective, and see which ones could use some improvement.

Develop an onboarding socialization strategy that meets the effectively needs of the employees, rather than having one that is simply “there and early” since those two alone are ineffective. Doing things like managers set aside a block of time to meet with the new employee one-on-one, being shown how to find certain things, providing a tour, and providing a new hire orientation with other new hires are all highly effective and engaging strategies that are proven to be beneficial. Lastly, it’s important to remember that socialization continues long after onboarding is over, so providing additional socialization opportunities can help improve the culture of your company’s workforce and lead to happier, more enthusiastic employees.

What about a company culture that takes place away from the office? Working from home and company culture aren’t mutually exclusive, and in fact very important to one another’s success. You can learn more about Work@Home by joining Jeff Furst (FurstPerson), Michele Rowan (Customer Contact Strategies), and King White (Site Selection Group) on October 7 at 2 pm EST for the “5 Critical Steps to Hiring the Right Work@Home Representative” webinar. Register below.