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How to keep your new IT hires from jumping ship

Beth Stackpole | June 24, 2013
IT-specific onboarding programs help savvy companies bring new hires into the fold and keep them there. Here are their best practices.

That's where a well-executed onboarding program comes in. If it hits the right notes, onboarding can help new hires be more productive in a shorter time frame, while also engaging them in the company's culture and business goals, practitioners say. "Onboarding is like a first impression -- it leads someone to trust a company as a new hire and have great thoughts about them -- or not," says Rachel Russell, who oversees research at TEKsystems, an IT staffing, talent management and services provider.

"Onboarding is essential so that the expectations between the employee and employer are very clear," Russell says. "The employee becomes empowered because they know what resources are available and what relationships they need to start forging. It tells them they are going to have the resources they need to get the job done."

In fact, according to a TEKsystems survey of more than 2,100 IT professionals and 1,500 IT leaders, both sides see significant benefits to IT onboarding done right. Sixty-two percent of IT leaders said onboarding programs were extremely important to establishing a new hire's ability to be productive and add value, while 46% said they were extremely important to determining whether a new hire would be successful in the company long term. The IT professionals were equally bullish on onboarding: Nearly half (49%) said onboarding was extremely important to their ability to be productive, while 44% said it was critical for success in the company long term, according to the survey.

Despite unilateral agreement on the upside of onboarding, most companies have yet to prioritize programs or address onboarding in a way that truly works for the IT role. The TEKsystems survey found that only 12% of IT leaders and 13% of IT professionals rated their onboarding programs as extremely effective.

Why the big disconnect? Russell says most onboarding initiatives focus on general HR policy and administrative paperwork at the expense of covering the resources that IT employees need to be successful. "It has to be more than 'here's where the bathrooms are' or 'here's our work-at-home or vacation policies,'" Russell says. "Onboarding programs have to serve up components that provide background on the company and background on specific roles and workflows, and they must help facilitate relationship building right from the get-go."

Of interns and onboarding
As good as IT-specific onboarding is, it can sometimes fall through the cracks, concedes Robert Krestakos, CIO of Steelcase, which offers workplace products, furnishings and services. "There's a tendency for the IT group to defer to HR and think about it as an HR problem," he says. "Certainly, HR has to be close to the IT function to really understand the kind of talent needed and the culture that IT is working in, but if [onboarding] is viewed as a clerical or administrative process, then it doesn't fire on all cylinders."


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