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Onboarding is a crucial yet often overlooked part of the employee lifecycle. According to research published by Kallidus, great employee onboarding can improve retention by up to 82%, but 88% of organizations do not onboard well.

Yet how is the success of an onboarding program actually measured? What metrics can you use to ensure that your onboarding process is doing what you need it to do? Are your new hires sticking around, and are they as engaged as you want them to be? Are your retention numbers good, or have they been decreasing steadily without any follow-up?

The data from your onboarding software, HRIS or LMS will tell a story, and it’s important to pay attention to all forms of data—not just the numbers. Here are a few helpful ways that you can ensure your onboarding process is optimized for success.

7 Ways To Measure Onboarding Success

1. New hire turnover—voluntary and involuntary

Roughly ⅓ new hires won’t make it past the first 90 days. Yet your turnover rate is not one static metric, it’s actually a series of data points that can help tell a story about your employee retention. 

Think of your retention rate in two different categories. The first is voluntary new hire turnover—in other words, are your new hires leaving soon after joining?

Any business is going to have the misfortune of hiring some employees who may look great on paper, but for one reason or another very quickly do not work out. Yet, if your voluntary turnover numbers are high, the problem may run much deeper and could be helped by an improved onboarding process.

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2. Time to productivity for new hires

How long does it take for your new employees to get up to speed? Are new employees quickly engaged and ready to solve problems, or are they working too slowly, taking a long time to learn things, and making too many mistakes for your comfort level? 

You can measure your employees’ time to productivity by calculating the number of days it takes new hires to ramp up to expected productivity divided by the total number of new hires in that given period. 

While some roles are more complicated than others, a comprehensive onboarding program should put employees on a quick path to success. For most employees, it should be a matter of weeks, not months, before they’re approaching KPIs and performing satisfactorily in their roles, especially if they have the required skills.

If they’re not meeting these metrics then there may be a more significant issue with your onboarding program. Perhaps employees are not being taught the importance of meeting these KPIs, or perhaps there’s a deficit in training that’s leaving these employees at a standstill.

3. Testing

If you’ve ever taken an exam at the end of a year-long course and struggled to retain information that you learned in the first week of study, remember that new hires are having a very similar experience. 

From their first day onwards they’re bombarded with information, and it’s tough to remember everything at any given time.

That’s why implementing testing into your onboarding process, such as tests and quizzes, can be informative. Do your new hires fully understand their roles and how it relates to business goals? Do they know the history of the company and what benchmarks you’re expecting them to reach? 

Successful quizzes are nice, but unsuccessful ones are also telling. If most employees tested keep getting the same question wrong, it likely indicates that the information was either not delivered or delivered in a way that did not resonate with them. These metrics will help make subtle tweaks to make training that much more effective.

4. Onboarding survey

An effective way to measure onboarding success is to survey the new hire themselves about whether or not they think it’s an effective onboarding process and what they think could be improved. Integrating recruiting software into this process can be beneficial as it can track and manage these surveys, ensuring they are conducted at optimal times during the onboarding phase.

What was their first impression of the company? How has that changed in the time that they joined? Does the employee onboarding process accurately represent the company culture? Were they provided everything they needed to get off to the best possible start?

So the information is fresh in their mind, we recommend several mini-surveys spread out across the different onboarding phases.

Remember, surveys don’t always need to be named. People are hesitant to respond if they worry about being penalized for their honesty. Anonymous surveys may help get real answers that, while they may be harder to swallow, can be key for making changes. 

5. Training completion rate

You may have a comprehensive training program, but if your employees aren’t engaged in the process then it likely isn’t doing you any favours.

Even if you believe that you offer a comprehensive training program for new hires, your training completion rate can indicate that training may not be as effective as you think that it is.

Take a closer look at how much training is done in a given period, and how successful employees are with that training. Then remember that they’ve just started a new job, and have a lot to learn all at once. Are you giving them enough time to review the information thoroughly, and to really let it all sink in? 

If there’s an issue with incomplete training, review whether there’s enough time within the onboarding program for training at all. Do participants have a few hours undisturbed to complete online modules and review manuals, or are they expected to spend all evening studying after an already tiring day?

6. Engagement

Employee engagement can be a challenge for employers with a workforce at any stage, but it’s especially important when working with new hires. 

The number of employees who are actively engaged with the company culture, vs. the number of employees who are checked out and watching the clock, makes a big difference when it comes to organizational success.

One comprehensive metric to assess this is the employee net promoter score. When conducting surveys, ask employees to rate how likely they would be to recommend working with you to a friend or colleague. 

The percentage of employees who rank you highly minus the percentage that ranks you low on the scale is your employee net promoter score, and can help measure the quality of the new hire experience that you’ve worked to create.

7. Stay Interviews

We think of exit interviews as being a tool to gain knowledge before someone walks out the door, but stay interviews look at why your employees are coming in every day. 

Check-in with new hires once they’ve had a chance to get settled and ask about the onboarding process and how they’re feeling in general. What worked well? What went too quickly? What parts might have gone too slowly? Where do they feel they need more training?

Stay interviews can do wonders for retention, especially when done routinely. They show employees that you are invested and care about their future growth. More importantly, they show that you want to address problems quickly before anything grows out of control. 

Don’t hesitate to ask questions and dig deeper into an employee’s answers. Once they trust that it’s truly an open forum for communication, they will be willing to provide you with the answers that you need to hear.

Learn more about stay interviews and what sort of questions you can ask. 

Most Important? Stay Involved

There are many different ways to measure onboarding success, yet the most important thing is that you pay attention to the success of your onboarding program on at least some level.

Your onboarding process should never be a ‘set it and forget it’ situation. That approach is the same as letting your business stagnate and assuming that your sales will be as high 5 years from now with absolutely no growth or development.

Pay close attention to the efficacy of your onboarding efforts and see the impact it has on the success of your new hires and the organization in general. 

Some further resources to help you optimize your employee onboarding:

By Finn Bartram

Finn is an editor at People Managing People. He's passionate about growing organizations where people are empowered to continuously improve and genuinely enjoy coming to work. If not at his desk, you can find him playing sports or enjoying the great outdoors.