Employee onboarding is one of the hottest topics in the HR community, and for good reason. Hiring staff is costly and time consuming. There’s nothing more satisfying to an HR pro than filling that spot and creating a brand spanking new employee file. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to do it all over again, just weeks or months later. Onboarding can help turn a new hire into an engaged, long-term employee who’s invested in your success as well as theirs.
A new hire needs more than just on-the-job training and new hire orientation. It requires supporting her training as well as her entrance into the corporate fold – for the short term and the long. The difference between orientation and onboarding is easy to understand: allowing someone sit at your table (and ignoring them) versus inviting her to join you. A cursory “How’s it going?” versus a sit-down conversation on how she’s adjusting to the new work.
The onboarding process can be lengthy, and new hires will acclimate and engage at different rates. But the result – an engaged, productive team member – makes it worthwhile.
Everyone complains when there’s an open spot in the department: the coverage, work that’s falling through the cracks. Turn that angst into action. Get buy-in from everyone to create an environment that’s welcoming and (dare I say?) excited about the prospect of a new hire. Let them know that the entire team has responsibility for the newest member’s success. They won’t be penalized for taking time to help out – in fact, they’re encouraged to do so. Remind them that once the new staffer is up and running, life will be easier on us all – so the more help, the better for everyone. Hooray for us!
There are lots of simple – but meaningful – steps you can take before your new hire starts to make her first few weeks that much easier.
The goal is to make your new hire not only feel welcome, but engage them with the entire group – not just the person who is training them. Basics like greeting her upon arrival, accompanying her to her workspace, providing a departmental tour and introductions, setting her up with ID cards, keys, etc. are a given. Create opportunities for meaningful interactions – each one has the potential to demonstrate the company’s culture, so make sure those first impressions are memorable!
Meetings and feel-good activities are important on the first day, but your new hire should also get a sense of the work she’ll be doing. Start training on day one so your new hire can get her feet wet immediately – people want to feel productive. Provide guided assignments that show how the work is done, as well as self-guided tasks to they can perform without oversight to instill a sense of responsibility. Communicate achievable, short-term goals that will make your new hire feel like she’s contributing meaningfully.
If your company hands out swag to customers, keep some in reserve for new hires to take home on the first day. Gifts like coffee mugs, tote bags, T-shirts, etc. will not only make your newest employees feel welcome, but instill them with a sense of company pride.
A great idea is to set up your new hire on lunches for the entire first week with different team members or groups. This gives the new hire a chance to find a group they’re comfortable with. Be selective about who these meal pairings – you don’t want the office complainers immediately coloring your new hire’s view of the company. At the end of their first week, your new hire’s manager should take her to lunch and ask about how she’s settling in.
Keep in mind that the first week is all about making sure your new hire is invested in the culture of the organization and reinforcing the value you see in her, for the long and short term. Tie in tasks to corporate culture: “We do this to assure the customer is being heard.” “We do that to keep an eye on quality.” And tie in tasks to her career growth: “When you’ve got this, we’ll move on to more challenging work.” “If you like doing this, it could lead to job growth.”
Wrap up every day of the first week by taking a few minutes to ask your new hire how things are going. There’s a ton of new information for her to absorb, but she’s also a valuable source of information. Tell her you want honest feedback and make it clear there are no right or wrong answers. The more specific questions you ask, the more directive she can be with her answers. Her responses should inform the plans you have for her in the subsequent few days.
Even if your new hire interacts with her manager every day, the two of them should plan to meet at the 30, 60, and 90 day mark to talk exclusively about how she’s settling in. It will show you’re invested in her success.
Make sure training opportunities are available beyond the first few weeks and months, too. Mentor programs are a great way for employees to get a sense of the career paths that might be available for them at your organization. Consider offering employees a budget to purchase training materials or attend events that will be useful to their work.
Ideally, onboarding never ends. With regular meetings and feedback, as well as taking longer views of what’s expected of the company and the employee, you can beat the odds and achieve outstanding retention. Onboarding is more than welcome to the job – it’s welcome to the fold. The payoff is you can slow down that recruitment revolving door.
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