The key to making new employees productive quickly, known as “rapid on-boarding,” is to help them immediately build an informational network with co-workers.
How do managers and organizations quickly transform new hires into productive employees, a process called “rapid on-boarding”? This question is hardly trivial. Whether a company is growing to take advantage of a new market opportunity, restructuring to remain competitive or simply trying to cope with attrition resulting from retirements and turnover, one thing is certain — more and more employees are newcomers to work groups, departments or organizations. In today’s volatile economy, more than 25% of all workers in the United States have been with their company less than a year and more than 33% less than two years. Americans will, on average, change jobs 10 times between the ages of 18 and 37.1 And, of course, new employees are only part of the challenge — the constant state of internal restructuring in most organizations continually pushes managers to assimilate waves of employees suddenly transferred into new work roles and relationships.
The first and most obvious challenge with newcomers is jump-starting their productivity. Initially, newcomers are typically a net drain on productivity, drawing a salary, incurring training and orientation expenses, and consuming co-workers’ time without providing much in return. A recent study by Mellon Financial Corp. found that lost productivity resulting from the learning curve for new hires and transfers was between 1% and 2.5% of total revenues. On average, the time for new hires to achieve full productivity ranged from eight weeks for clerical jobs to 20 weeks for professionals to more than 26 weeks for executives.2 In the past, managers were often content to wait months (or even years) for their new arrivals to get up to speed. But in today’s fast-paced, competitive environment, many managers simply don’t have that luxury.
The second challenge is tapping into the creativity of new hires. Newcomers represent one of a company’s most important and underutilized assets — a source of fresh ideas, perspectives, expertise and industry contacts that an organization can leverage to become more innovative and competitive. However, most newcomers (whether college recruits or senior executives) express frustration in getting their ideas heard and accepted. Interestingly, this problem is particularly true at successful organizations with strong cultures. In most cases, newcomers at such companies are not really heard until they’ve gained visibility and legitimacy in the eyes of their peers.