7 Activities to Effectively Engage New Hires

The job market has shifted toward candidates, meaning companies will find it increasingly challenging to hire top talent. This is all the more reason organizations need to employ strategies to effectively engage candidates and new hires.

However, this doesn’t mean that we have to use old school tactics. Today’s technology allows us to reinvent engagement and create a win for both the individual and the organization.

Research from Bersin by Deloitte shows that engagement, retention, and culture continue to be the number one issues in talent and human resources.1 To help new hires become as productive and successful as possible, and thereby increase retention and build culture, organizations must effectively engage with employees both during the recruiting process and at the first touchpoint after hiring: onboarding.

The purpose of onboarding is straightforward: create a process that will make the new employee as productive as possible, as quickly as possible. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that nearly half of all hourly workers leave new jobs within the first four months and half of outside senior hires fail within 18 months.2 Organizations do not spend valuable resources sourcing, selecting, and hiring the best talent only to have them leave within the first year.

Making an employee productive connects them with the organization. It shows them that their work has value. This connection creates engagement and engagement results in retention.

To make employees productive, organizational onboarding needs to help employees understand the organization and their job. It needs to address individual needs so employees can focus on the work they’ve been hired to do.

For a process that has one goal – productivity – onboarding has become very large and complex. It touches the employee before they ever visit a company career site or apply for a position. Onboarding has grown to encompass so much that there are defined subsets of onboarding, such as pre-boarding.

What is pre-boarding?

Pre-boarding is defined as the plan for an employee’s first day on the job. It’s the step in the onboarding process that creates success for the employee and the manager. Once the plan is completed, the manager and employee can dedicate their focus to the job and building a good working relationship.

In addition to engaging the candidate before they decide to apply, onboarding encompasses more traditional activities such as sourcing, selection, hiring, and orientation. We also realize the value of consciously designing training and performance management activities with new hires in mind.

The more organizations can create a connection with candidates and engage new hires, the more productive those individuals will be. Greater productivity equals employee retention, which translates into better bottom-line results for the business.

New Technology Creates New Opportunities to Engage

While onboarding might not be a new concept, our approach to onboarding shouldn’t be the same as in the past. Years ago, onboarding and orientation were synonymous terms. We know now that orientation is a subset of onboarding. Orientation is an event that provides information.3 Onboarding is a process that provides job-specific information and feedback. We could say orientation provides one-way communication and onboarding is a two-way conversation.

The single biggest asset we have in effectively engaging employees is technology. The technology solutions available allow us to provide customized information on a consistent basis in a cost-effective manner. It also allows us to use a tool that most employees are already familiar with.

On some level, we realize that technology plays a significant role in our daily lives. We can use our mobile devices to deposit a check, check our medical records, plan our next vacation and order a latte. According to Pew Research, 90 percent of American adults own a cell phone and 42 percent own a tablet computer.4 The numbers continue to grow and cannot be ignored.

The simple presence of technology isn’t engaging. It’s what we do with the technology that makes it engaging. In this whitepaper, we’ve outlined seven activities you can use as some creative inspiration to effectively engage new hires before they start and during their first days onboard.

ACTIVITY #1: Use social media to share jobs and engage with potential candidates.

Many organizations use social media as part of their consumer marketing. Using social for recruiting is similar in concept. Since onboarding includes the hiring process, organizations want to include social media platforms as part of an overall recruiting strategy. Being able to communicate using social platforms strengthens the connection between the candidate and the company.

The Power of Social Recruiting Considering

74 percent of all Internet users have at least one active social media account, it’s clear that social recruiting is the best way to reach the largest audience, for the lowest cost.5 What’s more, individuals on social media platforms are actually using them to search for jobs. For example, jobs are viewed on Google + an average of 13.8 times, on LinkedIn an average of 3.3 times, and on Facebook an average 2.9 times.6 Organizations can therefore capitalize on the sharing power of social media to expand their candidate reach.

Looking ahead, social recruiting will only continue to increase in importance in the war for talent. This is already evident in the expansion of social recruiting to new platforms. To make the most of your social recruiting efforts, consider branching out to new social platforms such as Instagram to share with candidates a “day in the life” at your organization.7

Maintaining a strong presence on social media is an important part of the onboarding process. As new hires connect with co-workers and participate in engaging onboarding activities, these events can be captured and shared on your organization’s social media profiles, which helps new hires feel they are part of your community right away. Social media is all about building relationships, and by allowing new hires to be participants of your organization’s social media presence, their relationship to your organization and other employees can be strengthened. Plus, by documenting onboarding experiences online, you’ll also be sharing your organization’s culture with the next set of fresh talent.

ACTIVITY #2: Make applying for jobs easier by using mobile.

We’ve already mentioned that mobile adoption rates are on the rise. It only makes sense that more candidates will expect mobile capabilities when it comes to their careers. In a CareerBuilder study on candidate behavior, 65 percent of job seekers said they will leave a website if it’s not mobile optimized.8 Giving candidates the ability to search for jobs, apply for jobs, and share openings with their friends will send a great message about your employment brand. And it will benefit the organization in terms of building a talent pipeline, an essential component in effectively engaging candidates and new hires.

ACTIVITY #3: Establish talent pools to connect with candidates, even when openings do not exist.

In a candidate-driven job market, organizations need to constantly develop their talent pipeline. The days of waiting for an open requisition to start sourcing are over. Candidates are doing the same thing – according to a Talent Board survey, 56 percent of job seekers surveyed spent 1-4 hours researching the company and the job opportunity before they applied.9

Penn National Gaming, a leader in the gaming and racing industries with over 25 facilities in the U.S., wants candidates to know that working at their company means “working happy”. In addition to giving candidates the ability to apply for jobs using their mobile devices and share openings with their friends on social media, their career site has a button that says, “Not ready to apply? Connect with us!” encouraging candidates to stay engaged with them.10

ACTIVITY #4: Create YouTube channels of information for employees.

YouTube has over a billion users.11 Every single day, almost a third of all the people on the Internet watch hundreds of millions of hours of YouTube videos. And they’re not all cat videos. Add to that eMarketer’s prediction that, by 2018, 70 percent of all digital videos will be viewed on a tablet.12 The bottom-line is video is popular and continues to grow in popularity. It only makes sense to include it in your onboarding and engagement strategy.

Employees want and need information about the company and their products and services, and YouTube is an ideal platform for your company to share this information. This is information that doesn’t just benefit sales and customer service representatives. Given that every employee has the ability to be an ambassador of the company brand, the videos your company features on its corporate YouTube channel can feature the key information employees need to be able to talk about the company to others.

Also, keep in mind that these YouTube channels could benefit current and potential clients as well.

ACTIVITY #5: Develop just-in-time (JIT) resource guides for employees.

Speaking of information that employees can use, a new trend in learning is microlearning. It’s defined as creating small bite-size pieces of information that employees can access at any time. According to Training Industry Magazine, microlearning is particularly popular with Millennials, who account for the largest generation in the workforce.13

Employees are exposed to volumes of information during the onboarding process. Microlearning can give new hires resources to refer to during and after

onboarding. Some common just-in-time resources include a company or industry glossary, product information sheets, employee benefits FAQs, etc. The information can be presented in video or written form. Microlearning offers flexibility as well as instant engagement. Employees can find the answer they need at the moment they need it.

ACTIVITY #6: Schedule interview sessions with subject matter experts and senior leaders.

Take a little creative inspiration from popular media. For example, the website Lifehacker runs a regular series titled “How I Work” that interviews people about their work styles and productivity.14 Similarly, organizations could interview employees and share best practices. This encourages employees to learn from each other. Engagement doesn’t have to always be driven by the manager.

Another popular series is Reddit’s Ask Me Anything (AMA). Guests on this series include politicians, celebrities and athletes.15 As the title implies, the Reddit community can ask anything and everything of the guest. Organizations can create their own AMAs with members of the senior management team.

Being able to converse with senior management or see the inner workings of the organization breaks down silos and creates engagement. The articles and discussions can be archived and shared with new employees. Ultimately, it sends a message about the organizational culture.

ACTIVITY #7: Design a scavenger hunt to get new hires acquainted with the organization.

A necessary element in company branding and corporate culture is history. Organizations share their history on company websites and in the work environment, and understanding an organization’s history is an important part of the onboarding process. Employees can learn the history of the company by finding those pieces of history – whether it’s an article or an object – as part of an interactive learning activity, like a scavenger hunt.

A scavenger hunt can be digital or in-person. It can be completed as individuals or in teams. It can be timed or scheduled over a span of time. Employees can answer questions using pen and paper or take photos using their smartphone. Or both. The hunt can be flexible to suit your company. It’s all about getting employees to connect with the organization and each other!

Make the Investment

Organizations have the capability to effectively engage their employees using most, if not all, of these activities (and more)! In fact, many of the activities mentioned can be coordinated through the organization’s dedicated talent acquisition or onboarding solution.

The return-on-investment (ROI) of automated onboarding can be found by looking at average turnover and growth. Let’s say a company has 200 employees with a turnover rate of 5 percent. And, for the purposes of simple math, the average salary is $40,000/annually. It will cost approximately $16,000 to replace each employee.16 That’s $160,000 per year. By comparison, an automated onboarding solution can cost less than $25,000, creating an ROI of more than $100,000.17

How to Calculate Return-On-Investment (ROI)

According to SHRM, here is the calculation for benefit-cost ratio (BCR), the basic definition of ROI.18

BCR = Program Benefit ÷ Program Cost

If the BCR is greater than one, the benefits outweigh the costs and the program is considered a success. If the BCR is less than one, then the costs exceed the benefits and adjustments to the program might be necessary.

Another way to view ROI is in a percentage format.

ROI = ((Benefit – Cost) x 100) ÷ Cost

A result greater than 100 percent means the program has a net benefit and a result of less than 100 percent means it has a net cost.

Employee engagement is too important to your organization to ignore. It drives productivity, growth and the bottom-line. The ROI exists – not only in terms of employee engagement and retention – but in terms of cost.

How iCIMS Can Help

iCIMS is the leading provider of talent acquisition solutions that help businesses win the war for top talent. iCIMS empowers companies to manage their entire hiring process within the industry’s most robust Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). Built on the foundation of a best-to-market talent acquisition software suite, iCIMS’ PaaS framework, UNIFi, allows employers to expand the capabilities of their core talent acquisition technology by integrating with the largest partner ecosystem in talent acquisition to help them attract, find, screen, and manage candidates. Offering scalable, easy-to-use solutions that are backed by award-winning customer service, iCIMS supports more than 3,500 contracted customers and is one of the largest and fastest-growing talent acquisition solution providers.

iCIMS clients benefit from an unparalleled customer experience and award winning customer support teams. To learn more about the iCIMS, call 1-800- 889-4422 or take a look at our demo.

About Sharlyn Lauby, SPHR, CPLP

Sharlyn Lauby is author of the HR Bartender blog and president of ITM Group Inc., a South Florida based training and human resources consulting firm. Her company focuses on providing solutions to engage and retain employee talent so their clients can innovate and create shareholder value. Prior to starting ITM Group, Sharlyn was vice president of human resources one of the world’s largest organizational consulting firms. She has designed and implemented highly successful programs for employee retention, internal and external customer satisfaction, and leadership development.

To learn more Sharlyn and ITM Group, please visit her website or her blog, HR Bartender. You can also contact her via phone at (954) 659-2237 or email her at