Second in a three-part webinar series on integration as a quality assurance system

Regardless of industry or seniority, virtually every member of the workforce shares one thing in common: integration.

When done correctly, the process can create an immediate sense of belonging; integrating new employees into the workplace culture; and help ensure a high-performing, long-term worker. However, when done poorly, onboarding can create a negative cycle of turnover, cost significant resources, and ultimately undermine morale throughout the organization. Good onboarding can be one of the most effective strategies for recruiting and retaining workers in today’s environment.

Integration was the topic covered in the second installment of the webinar series “Build for Now, Build for Future: Workforce Strategies for Manufacturers”. The three-part series, hosted by MiBiz and The Good Place Inc. is dedicated to providing actionable, actionable information and strategies to help West Michigan manufacturers develop and grow their workforce.

Reframing the definition of integration was one of the main themes of the discussion. Instead of viewing it as an expensive human resources procedure, it’s important to view onboarding as a cost-avoidance strategy and part of a manufacturer’s quality system, said Terry Hossink, vice president of manufacturing services at The Right Place Inc. Hossink also linked onboarding to an organization’s Placemaking – the method of connecting a person to their work environment. Improving a person’s sense of belonging can make that person feel more useful in their job, Hossink said.

“The people you hire have a direct effect on the quality of your product,” Hossink said. “Like any other quality system, it should be scalable and maintain the same rigor and efficiency as you move forward.”

Cori Anderson, talent experience advisor at a consulting firm, Become Essential, believes it is important to view employees as customers when contextualizing the importance of onboarding. According to Anderson, only 12% of employees report having a great onboarding experience. Similarly, 50% of employee turnover occurs within the first 90 days.

“If we lost 50% of our customers in the first 90 days, we would be in quite a bit of trouble,” Anderson said. “A lot of people leave because of disillusionment. They thought your culture was one way and now it’s another, they thought their responsibilities were one thing, now it’s another.

Anderson recently consulted with a manufacturing company suffering from a 60% employee turnover rate in the first 90 days, resulting in additional annual expenses of $265,000.

“When you think about the cost and the time it takes to retain someone, it’s much more sustainable than the cost of constant rehiring,” Anderson said.

CREATING QUALITY INTEGRATION

While the specifics of onboarding are unique to every company, the experts have highlighted a few fundamentals that can help establish a solid foundation for the onboarding process.

For the Dutch JR Automation, one of the most important fundamentals is to forge those strong bonds with new hires before they even start on the shop floor, said Russell Hicks, senior manager of talent acquisition at the business. The automation system integrator and designer begins by sending an email to each new hire a week before their start date with each of their team members and key human resources personnel copied to the email. After their initial onboarding, JR Automation’s HR professionals continue to track new hires after 30, 60, and 90 days. This is in addition to the regular interaction new recruits have with their managers, Hicks said.

Additionally, webinar participants noted that it is critical to differentiate between “guidance” and “integration.” While orientation is typically led by the human resources team during the first week, onboarding is a process conducted in close collaboration with a manager during the first nine months to one year of employment. To encourage manager involvement, JR Automation created a system of procedures for managers to follow with new hires, Hicks said. JR Automation has also created a “Battle Buddy” system, which matches new hires with colleagues who are available to answer questions, take them to lunch and facilitate their transition into the team.

“The manager can’t sit with you all day, every day for weeks,” Hicks said. “So we’ll put you in touch with someone who can be there to help you… This is one of the most important things and it’s quite simple to implement. You have a lot of people on your team who want to recruit others and it’s just about using those people who want to help build your team.

While redesigning an organization’s onboarding strategy may seem like a herculean effort, it can be started simply and one step at a time, experts said.

“It starts with keeping it simple and doing one thing at a time,” Hicks said. “Whether it’s doing a welcome email or training your hiring manager to greet them the right way. Start with the small steps and just add to it. You will start to see that someone will naturally pick it up and then lean on those people and take the volunteers.

The manufacturing workforce – and the workforce in general – is undergoing a paradigm shift that has shifted much of the power dynamics to workers. For better or for worse, if a person finds that the circumstances of their employment do not meet their expectations, they will simply leave, whether or not they have just started working. Creating a work culture where new hires feel immediately connected and understand the skills and tasks expected of them will help ensure lower turnover. And it all starts with integration.

Michael A. Bynum