By now, companies everywhere have recognized the importance of a robust onboarding process, and for a good reason — how well you help new hires acclimatize to the job and the work culture play a significant role in determining their dedication to your organization.
There is, however, an often-overlooked cousin of onboarding that is just as important for retaining good talent and boosting employer reputation, and it is called onboarding. In this article, we will study in detail what the term means and how you can implement it successfully within your company. Let us begin:
What is inboarding?
Inboarding is the process by which existing employees of a company receive the training, information, and support they need to succeed in a new role, location, or designation.
The objectives of inboarding, just like for onboarding, include boosting productivity, retention, and engagement, except that the focus is on current employees rather than new hires.
There are several circumstances under which inboarding might be necessary — when someone switches divisions, for instance, transfers to a different country or receives a promotion.
A well-tailored inboarding program helps them perform better while settling in and feeling more comfortable. In addition, inboarding encompasses all the skill training, re-training, awareness programs, and performance reviews that employees undergo during the regular course of work.
Therefore, it is fair to say that pretty much every employee will experience some form of inboarding at some point in their professional life.
Onboarding vs. inboarding: The major difference
Although both the terms share a similar definition as an ongoing process that helps both new and established employees to acquire skills and training to succeed in an organization, serve different entities within the workforce.
Onboarding, for instance, is known as organizational socialization. It is a process that involves helping new hires understand their role and place in their new company. Please do not confuse it with an orientation program, which only discusses the outer layer of business operations.
On the other hand, inboarding focuses on supporting the current employees who change positions, get promoted or move to a different location. It is aimed at helping employees acquire the knowledge needed to succeed in their new position or job role.
Why inboarding matters
In today’s highly dynamic world, employees have more career options than ever. They can always leave their jobs and find new ones if they are not fully satisfied — which, however, can be problematic for the organization they are at.
Companies often forget that their current employees require training, guidance, support, and help with settling in just as much as new ones. If you are unsure about whether or not to invest in inboarding, here are some compelling reasons to do so:
1. Reducing turnover
Did you know the cost of replacing an employee can be about six to nine months’ worth of salary? That does not include the extra effort the rest of the team has to put in to cover for the employee who quit and the time the replacement will take to come to speed with the job fully.
Instead, when you invest in inboarding, you reduce employee turnover and the associated costs, and the time taken to adjust to the role, as internal hires already possess a lot of the necessary institutional knowledge.
It also reduces the HR burden of scouting for external hires. Plus, when job vacancies are filled sooner, teams are less stressed as organizations depend less on a handful of strong workers. Less productivity is lost.
2. Enabling smooth transitions
Internal movements require a systematic approach to ensure that the employee, the new team, and the previous team are all in sync and productive.
By having plans in place for transition timelines, task handovers, training, and replacement, the employee knows whom to ask for help when joining the new team, and the team has enough time to acclimatize to the new employee.
In addition, the transition period should provide scope to the employee to train the new person joining the old role in their stead. This ensures that business-as-usual can be resumed much sooner by all concerned.
3. Improving daily operations
A significant contribution of an inboarding program relates to cross-training to understand one’s teammates’ responsibilities.
It is often observed that when someone takes time off to tend to sick family members or go on vacation, the rest of the team struggles to fill in and has to keep calling them to ask for advice.
With proper cross-training, team members will have much less trouble filling in for someone not at work for short periods. This ensures that day-to-day business is not hampered and that everyone can take time off as they need to without pressure.
4. Preventing workplace inequality
When employees perceive that they are getting fewer opportunities or being rewarded less than their peers, it can lead to demotivation and conflict at the workplace.
With an inboarding strategy in place, everyone has a clear pathway to learning and evolving through appropriate workplace transitions.
This way, your top performers can feel more secure about being supported in their ambitions, while the others can feel like the playing field is leveled better for them to excel as well.
5. Improving employee engagement
Studies show that 94% of employees would stay on at their jobs if their employers invested in their scope for learning. This is especially true of Millennial and Gen Z workers, who are highly tech-savvy and always on the lookout for ways to improve themselves.
By providing ample opportunity to learn, grow and advance, employers can benefit from happy and motivated employees who will put in their best at their jobs. This directly translates into higher productivity and thus a stronger bottom line.
How to design a solid inboarding program
Creating an inboarding program requires thought, planning, experimentation, and a strong feedback loop, just like for onboarding. Done correctly, inboarding has a significant effect on employee wellbeing and happiness and retains top performers for longer.
If you are new to the game of inboarding or simply want to get better at it, here are some best practices to keep in mind:
1. Focus on recruiting internally
Many companies still do not prioritize internal recruitment as much as they do their external recruitment. Whereas, in fact, many of their talent needs may already be part of their teams and waiting for a chance to prove themselves.
Have a structured system by which open positions are made available first to your current team members, and employees are enabled to mark themselves as ‘open to opportunities.’
Since much of the time involved in scouting for talent and determining cultural fit is shaved off, internal recruitment would make the most of existing talent and save a lot of time.
2. Link efforts to impact
It is a well-documented fact that when employees can see the impact their work has on the company and people, they become significantly more passionate about what they do.
Show your team members what their efforts have done, be it in terms of a delighted client testimonial or a more efficient supply chain system, or a successful social awareness drive.
Take the effort to create a slideshow or some other form of concrete proof to illustrate the before-and-after results of their contribution — it will motivate them to keep doing more.
3. Offer a broad range of project opportunities
To create a culture of inboarding, it is essential not to have siloed departments and compartmentalized job descriptions.
There should be ample opportunity for employees to take on responsibilities based on interest so that they can pick up new things and demonstrate initiative. Be it a new marketing initiative or a social awareness campaign, there are many ways to offer visibility to employees.
Preferably, schedule these ‘open house’ opportunities periodically so that employees know when to be on the lookout. Help them stay engaged by giving them access to new projects.
4. Provide training to anyone who wants it
Often, employees may be keen to upskill or explore new departments but feel uncertain about whom to ask or whether any such opportunities exist.
A good inboarding program will include training pathways for anyone who wants some cross-department exposure or seeks to fast-track their way to promotion.
These could include certifications, shadowing opportunities with mentors, live projects, and immersion days with the other team. This way, employees can discover new skills and attributes within themselves, which the company can then benefit from.
5. Practice employee recognition
One of the biggest reasons you may be losing your top performers is that you do not appreciate them enough. A big part of an inboarding program is incorporating strong recognition pathways that provide visibility to accomplishments of all kinds.
This applies not just to numerical goals met but also to new challenges taken on, such as picking up a new skill or guiding a new hire through the ropes.
Such activities are often overlooked, but your employees can feel seen for more than just making sales targets with the right inboarding initiatives.
6. Offer and welcome employee feedback
Like recognition, proper feedback on where improvement needs to be made is essential. Do not assume that just because an employee is already part of your company, they do not need to settle into a new role or a new location.
Have periodic performance evaluation sessions where you discuss how you can better enable the employee to settle in through training, peer support, or extra time off.
This is also where you should take inputs from the employee on how their day has been to improve their experience going forward and take notes on how to manage future employees going through a job shift.
7. Emphasize workplace relations
Good workplace camaraderie is about much more than free pizzas or weekends at a resort. It is about enabling employees from multiple teams, designations, and expertise levels to come together, share views and potentially discover new ways of collaborating.
Bonding over a fun activity creates positive vibes, facilitating much longer and closer conversations than a formal meeting. This way, talented people can be exposed to teams requiring their talent, and gaps can be filled much faster and friendlier.
Over to you
In conclusion, employee inboarding is a vital function that HR should prepare for and incorporate even before they observe spikes in attrition or employee dissatisfaction.
Work with managers across teams and determine how you can best communicate information, training, and other forms of support to your employees, especially the ones going through a significant transition.
Keep experimenting and asking your employees how best you can serve them through their workplace journey, and use tools and new processes wherever necessary to enable your goals. You have got this!
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