Top Employers use on-boarding as a key driver of operational effectiveness - study

On-boarding is not just a way to make new employees feel welcome. It’s increasingly being viewed as a key strategic imperative to increase productivity and smooth processes as early as possible. It’s hardly surprising, then, that top employers are driving major new trends in how it’s done.

On-boarding is evolving and becoming increasingly strategic as businesses come to realise its profound influence on operational effectiveness, a new study has found.

Titled On-Boarding – HR Insights Report, it is compiled by the Top Employers Institute (TEI) and its findings are based on a sample of 600 organisations in over 100 countries, all of which are certified as Top Employers by the TEI. The certified organisations included in the study all employ at least 3 000 people locally or 5 000 internationally.

TEI chief executive David Plink says seamless integration of new staff members has a “crucial influence” on staff retention and development.

“The benefits of having a smooth integration will mean a more engaged and productive workforce that is better aligned culturally. With talent attraction and retention high on the agenda, on-boarding plays a key part in how the company is perceived as a place to work and develop.

“Employee preferences and expectations are changing. They have access to employer information that indicates if they are likely to be a good company to work for. In this climate, previous on-boarding approaches are no longer relevant. It has evolved from a first-day event to a continuous learning process, while social and cultural integration is now a major part, alongside senior management playing an active role,” says Plink.

In particular, the report noted five key trends emerging among preferred employers in Africa, which include a move towards a process rather than a single event, with on-boarding increasingly lasting weeks or months rather than days. Some Top Employers begin on-boarding processes during the recruitment phase and maintain it for three to six months following the start of employment. Some companies choose to maintain it for up to a year.

Added to the list was an increased focus on multidimensionality (business, situational and cultural focus); more active involvement of senior management; increased use of digital tools; and data-driven programme improvement (where key metrics were used and measurability was a prerequisite).

On the continent, we see a 14% year-on-year average improvement in the usage of tools or activities during the on-boarding phase of the employee journey. Specifically from 2015 to 2016, the use of internal social media experience sharing has increased from 61% to 69%, up by 8% and arranged social networking events for new employees increased by 12%, from 62% to 74%.

Digital trends also showed significant development: 22% of Top Employers already offer a platform that tracks progress on completion of all tasks and activities; 89% use a portal which contains all relevant information regarding the on-boarding programme; and 23% provide new employees access to an online/virtual on-boarding platform before their first working day.

The involvement of senior management is significant, with 90% of certified organisations’ executive management promoting the importance of well-organised programmes to the wider business. A total of 93% hold business leaders to account over the success of the programmes, up from 80% in 2015; and indications are that senior managers also play a key role in helping new employees understand the business purpose.

Perhaps most importantly for long-term success of on-boarding programmes, Top Employers are increasingly focused on measurability. The majority of Top Employers Africa combine qualitative and quantitative programme feedback, with 75% relying on employees’ evaluation of their on-boarding experience (remained constant from 2015); 69% using HR evaluations (up from 59% in 2015) and 57% reporting on KPIs (up from 53% in 2015).

The majority of Africa’s Top Employers make use of a number of these strategies. Staff has access to a hard copy or online on-boarding programme, use of internal and external social media to connect with current employees, and meet with HR to discuss procedures. They have regular communication with their managers regarding their roles, tasks and expectations, with check-in meetings at specific intervals, as well as a post-hire assessment. Each new hire receives a “buddy” and has a follow-up feedback session a year after joining.

One of Africa’s Top Employers, Old Mutual, has tens of thousands of employees in numerous countries, which means it’s essential to co-ordinate consistent people practices across regions. Using the motto “act now”, the company ensures that these processes start early. “Our philosophy is about being a great place to work for people who do great things,” says Siyabonga Nkosi, executive lead: organisational effectiveness (design and development).

“It really is important that we follow through with our people right from the beginning,” says Nkosi. This means that involvement, relationship building and mentoring begin at the recruitment stage.

The TEI globally certifies excellence in the conditions that employers create for their people. Headquartered in the Netherlands, the company has recognized Top Employers around the world since 1991. The company is active in more than 100 countries and in six regions: North America, Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America. Almost 1 100 Top Employers were successfully certified in 2016.

The insights in the On-Boarding – HR Insights Report are supported by the findings of the Top Employers HR Best Practices Survey. This assesses global organisations’ HR environment in the areas of strategy, policy implementation, monitoring and communication of employee conditions and development.

To access the HR Insights Report on On-boarding, please go to: // For more on the Top Employers Institute, visit