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Training & Learning

Takeaways from Vascobelo’s Updated Onboarding: Successful Employee Engagement and Retention Comes Down to These 2 Factors

Just like many other hospitality companies you may know, the pandemic has hit us hard, and created an array of issues for the industry. One of the main concerns is that this pandemic will cause a serious and lasting employee and critical skill shortage. 

Recruitment teams have difficulty finding motivated and willing employees. And not only does the hospitality industry struggle, but every sector also suffers the effects of job-hopping and the increasing preference for part-time work.

This has made it more important than ever to engage and retain existing top-performing employees. L&D professionals need to put their emphasis on the training and development of employees, as research has proven multiple times how effective learning and growth opportunities can be at boosting engagement and retention within a company. 

In this post, we’ll share with you a case study by the food and beverages services company Vascobelo, (where I work). Thanks to an effort to update our onboarding programs and measure the impacts of these changes, we were able to identify the key factors that lead to improved employee engagement and retention. Read on to find out what they are, and how you can apply them in the context of your organization. 

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The launch of Vascobelo Academy’s renewed onboarding approach 

Vascobelo started its L&D improvement initiative by reviving its onboarding program. Over the last year, minor program changes were implemented and analyzed to determine the best practices in an onboarding program. We focused on analyzing onboarding in particular, as it is an employee’s first touchpoint with the company and their L&D department. This important step impacts their overall view of the company’s development opportunities for the rest of their career. 

At Vascobelo, onboarding takes place over two months, and in this timeframe the most crucial business information is taught to the employee. When done well, onboarding positively impacts productivity and morale from the start. It’s one of the most crucial employee touchpoints, setting the tone for the employer-employee relationship, determining their level of engagement with the company, whether they feel valued and if they will stay and grow or not. Sadly, however, in a lot of companies, especially in the hospitality industry, these orientation programs are cut or reduced to on-the-job learning due to time and resource constraints. 

The revival of Vascobelo’s onboarding program came when the team decided to implement a hybrid learning method. Previously, onboarding mostly took place in-person and on the job. The updated program consists of four parts: 

  • a theoretical e-learning program, to be completed in the first week of employment 
  • a physical training day to practice all operational procedures 
  • on-the-job training by the onboarder’s manager 
  • finally, an assessment to test knowledge retention. This is also the occasion to ask the employee how they experienced their first two months. 

It was important that we measure the impact of this updated onboarding program. Luckily, this was fairly easy to do, thanks to the program’s structure: all new hires who started after the launch of the updated concept could be compared with the existing employees, and their engagement and retention statistics could be compared over time.  

Here’s what we found: 

Differences in engagement and retention after hybrid onboarding

As research has proven time and time again, onboarding within L&D plays a very important role when it comes to employee engagement and retention. But which factors are the vital ones to focus on, and which do not make any difference? We investigated several factors that came out of previous research to figure out which ones work best. We looked at: 

  • motivation 
  • opportunity 
  • incentive 
  • community 
  • communication 
  • compensation 
  • supervisor-subordinate relationship 
  • goal-setting

All are supported by the social exchange theory, leader-member exchange, the psychological contract, and Kahn’s model of employee engagement in relation to L&D onboarding. 

Of these variables, we found that motivation and community had the biggest impact on employee engagement. By motivation, we are mostly referring to the energy from the trainers who provide the training and interactive content; their dynamism motivates the employees to learn and engage with the topics. 

Community was another recurring topic in the analysis of our surveys. In fact, a feeling of community, meeting their new colleagues, and learning from each other, was a common theme throughout our survey analysis. For this reason, we believe it’s crucial to not only provide e-learning to employees, but also to implement hybrid training and allow them to learn together in person. 

When we looked at the results regarding retention, the most impactful variable we identified is goal-setting. When done right, goal-setting decreases employee turnover significantly. But this only occurs after the integration of an employee within the company, and does not yet occur during the onboarding period itself. There does appear to be a significant difference in retention between the onboarded and non-onboarded groups. The onboarded group is significantly more likely to stay within the company, both during the onboarding period as well as later in their career. 

Overall, the refreshing and friendly manner in which topics are taught, the creation of a safe environment for learning, the interactivity of content, and the social aspect of training days, were all key ingredients in determining employee engagement and retention.

We found that motivation and community had the biggest impact on employee engagement.

What can your company do to up your engagement and retention?

Based on the implementation of this new onboarding strategy, a couple of simple initiatives can be done by any company to increase employee engagement and retention. As previously concluded, mainly motivation and community play a significant role when it comes to employee engagement. Therefore, it is important to focus on these variables in learning and development efforts, with the end goal of increasing engagement overall:

  • Create a hybrid learning environment so employees can learn at their own pace, but also get the option to learn from and with their co-workers in person.
  • Ensure the training content and their trainers match the energy you want to bring to your employees. 
  • Highlight the importance of continuous learning; this way employees will motivate each other to explore new courses and get a collective and communal feeling of learning.

In terms of retention, goal-setting has a significant impact and therefore needs to be considered a key player. Employers should encourage setting different key goals for every new project:

  • Make sure to not let the onboarding stop after induction training. Several more months may be included in the onboarding trajectory, so set goals for this period. 
  • Give onboarders homework after e-learning programs are completed, before they come to a physical training day. 
  • Set goals after the training day to practice on location. 
  • Let them return at the end of their onboarding and test their knowledge.

There you have it, the main factors of success we identified to improve employee engagement and retention. Have anything to add to our list? Let us know in the comments below!