Have you ever started to read a much-hyped book with great enthusiasm and anticipation, only to stop after a few chapters because it just wasn’t compelling enough to keep on going?At many companies and organizations, inadequate and mind-numbing onboarding programs are the corporate equivalent of that dull book, leaving new hires dispirited and wondering why they should stick with their new employer.The cure? A data-driven onboarding program that sustains — not stifles — new hires’ enthusiasm. That, in turn, reduces new employee turnover and boosts their productivity. It also improves your organization’s brand, which makes it easier to recruit top talent, says Dr. John Sullivan, a professor of management at San Francisco State University in San Francisco as well as an author, speaker and business consultant.“Most onboarding programs are not well designed because they’re not data-driven,” says Sullivan, who wrote The Onboarding & Orientation Toolkit: Tools That Get New Employees and Transfers Productive Faster. As a consultant, he’s also helped dozens of companies — including some utilities — develop effective onboarding programs. “They just do things that people like or that they remember they did during their own orientations, but they aren’t necessarily effective. So people come in excited about their new job, and what they get is death-by-form — read this manual, fill out this form. By the end of that first day, all their excitement is gone.”Keeping new hires enthused and engaged is no small matter. Studies show that about one-third of new employees quit their jobs within the first six months of employment. And considering the expense of high employee turnover, coupled with a shrinking labor pool as overall employment rises and a coming wave of baby boomer retirements (especially at water and sewer utilities), it’s easy to determine that effective onboarding is more important than ever.