More and more companies are looking for ways to change with the times. Innovations in technology and networking are allowing things to happen faster than ever. Thereby increasing efficiency and streamlining the process no matter what industry the company is in. One thing that could improve from taking longer is the integration plan for new employees.

What’s the problem with traditional onboarding practices?

The typical onboarding plan is pretty short on actual integration with the company. It mostly focuses on making sure the employee is equipped with all the technical necessities they need to start the job. They get shown around the office. Then are introduced to the relevant supervisors and whichever co-workers they happen to bump into. They are told how to access shared files, company databases, etc. There’ll probably be some formal presentations on topics like the history of the company, and their goals for the future. Once the onboarding process is done — which usually takes a week or less — it’s up to the new hire to truly find their place in the company.

The catch is that most people take between 6 and 12 months to feel at home with the inner workings of the company culture. It could even take as much as 2 years before they felt like they belonged there. Out of all those months, they’ll only get direct support from the company for what — 5 days? After that, they’re on their own. This not only leads to a lot of frustration but also to wasted potential as the new hire has to build their network from the ground up.

What can companies do to support their new hires during the integration process?

In a general sense, they should think about employee integration as a long-term process. This is a big shift from the average onboarding plan, but onboarding software like viIntegrate can help, and the payoff is worth it. Thorough employee integration not only helps new hires feel more confident, but it also has concrete payoffs in terms of productivity and motivation. Each company will want to take a slightly different approach to its integration plan, but below is a list of the basics.

1. Make sure each new hire gets to chat with stakeholders early on

If you can talk with people who know what’s going on, you’ll feel like you have a basic grip on things as well. Being on speaking terms with stakeholders gives new hires valuable resources for difficult issues or questions. The stakeholders, they get to know a bit about the new talent in the company, and they’ll know to include that talent in projects down the line.

2. Give each new hire a mentor

It’s not enough to have people to call on for the big questions; a new work environment presents plenty of small questions that need answers too. And what about office politics? Without an inside perspective, a new employee could spend months feeling like the odd one out.

To start with, weekly meetings would probably be best. As the new employee adjusts, the meetings could take place once a month instead.

3. Foster social connections

Speaking of feeling like the odd one out, not everyone has the time or inclination to make sure the new hire feels welcome. It depends on the company, of course, but the level of socializing during the daily office grind is usually pretty low — not enough for the sort of connections a recently hired employee would need.

This being the case, it falls to the company to make sure that social connections are being made. It could happen in just about any venue, with big or small groups — the more variety the better.

4. Create a two-way street between new hires and stakeholders

Those introductory conversations are a great start, but there’s no reason not to keep them going. Giving employees and stakeholders the chance to align their ideas will sharpen everyone’s focus — they’ll have a better idea about where the company is going, and how they can get there. This could happen during meetings, or even in a social setting. As long as it’s happening regularly, everyone will be able to benefit.

5. Invite new hires to the company’s diversity and inclusion program

On the theme of ensuring that the new employees are on the same page as everyone else, D&I activities are often already a part of regular office interactions. Rather than leaving the new employees to find out by themselves how they can participate, give them the run-down on what’s going on.

6. Give new hires fulfilling work gigs

This is especially important for employees who are looking for a satisfying career path — if they feel like their talents aren’t valued by the company they work for, they might be tempted to start looking around for better options. Besides, it only makes sense to put their skills to good use as soon as possible.

7. Offer new hires real-time feedback

At the very least, make some improvements to the annual performance review model. At the start of a new job, an employee wants to know if they’re doing something right (or wrong); real-time feedback is the perfect way to do this. If they wait an entire year before getting official feedback, there won’t be any opportunity to fine-tune their focus or strategies throughout the year.

The costs of sticking with onboarding rather than integration

For anyone who needs to know more before they embrace the idea of long-term integration, here’s a statistic.  22% of employees leave their jobs within 45 days of being hired. The question is, would some of these people have stayed if they had gone through integration? Instead of just basic onboarding? The answer is definitely “yes”.

An integration plan has the potential to not only improve employee retention but to maximize an employee’s productivity for years down the line. Once a pattern of integration is established, there’s no telling how much things could improve. Not just for new hires, but for the whole company.