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OnBoarding

October 15, 2013 Leave a comment

In the competitive world of higher education admissions, one of the key indicators universities research each year is student yield.  This is a comparison of the number of students who were admitted to the school versus the number of students that actually enrolled.  To promote higher yields, universities often work extensively with admitted students to turn them into enrolled students.   This work includes scheduling an orientation visit, promoting opportunities for admitted students to meet with other admitted students, offering attractive financial aid packages, and making it easy for students to navigate the complexities of transitioning to college life such as selecting a roommate, selecting a residence hall, selecting a major, selecting courses to take, etc.

This process of turning admitted students into enrolled students is also called “onboarding”.  For the university where I’m employed, one of the first “onboarding” tasks once a student is admitted is to create a university email account, which will give them access to a portal that houses many resources, forms, and information that will guide them through the “onboarding” process.

Last week, I attended a conference where a presenter from the University of Kansas spoke about the university’s efforts to adopt lessons and structures from their student onboarding process and apply these to a faculty and staff onboarding process.  As a hiring manager, I thought this was an incredible idea.  In my experience, the first 30 to 60 days after a new hire starts are often lost to typical “becoming familiar” tasks.  In contrast, a new college student doesn’t spend the first month of school becoming familiar.  Maybe the first day of classes, but by the second class meeting, a student has reading assignments and knows project and paper deadlines.  Granted most colleges and universities have summer orientation events and a week of scheduled events prior to the first day of classes for students to become acclimated to university.  But for new hires, often the several weeks are filled with simply trying to collect the appropriate approvals, access, equipment, and contacts for them to do their jobs.

The idea of establishing an onboarding process to assist in streamlining the amount of time and energy necessary to accomplish the tasks necessary to begin working on tasks and goals referenced in their job description seems to be a “no brainer”.  Sure there are limitations, but there are many things provided to students during their onboarding process, that could be leveraged for faculty and staff.  Technology resource allocations, parking permits, benefit signups, direct deposit forms, getting business cards … all of these tasks could easily be gathered into an onboarding portal where new hires to access between accepting their job and starting their first day.

For students, the onboarding process begins with being admitted.  For new hires, the onboarding process would begin with the hiring manager executing the proper paperwork.  This may be the first battle to establishing an onboarding process.  Hiring managers would need to understand that before anything could happen, they’d need to process the paper work so the new hire can access the onboarding website.  This may need special attention and potentially a culture shift.   But if means a new hire can be productive earlier, I suspect hiring managers would be more willing to commit to getting the process started.