Not that long ago I started a new job. It can be a scary prospect, leaving behind what you know to set off on a new adventure. It doesn’t matter what level you are at in an organization or your reasons for making a change but doing something new is always a little bit scary mixed in with the excitement.
How can we as employers help new team members with that? How much thought have you put into your onboarding program or do you leave it to each manager? Has it been a while since you reviewed the outcomes to see if your onboarding process was doing what it needed to, or maybe you’ve never looked at it that way? Download our checklist to share with your hiring managers to work from to make sure things get off to a great start.
Onboarding is a broad term. I think too often when people hear onboarding they think about all the new hire paperwork and training they have to get arranged. That’s part of it, to be sure. But I like to call those tactical pieces orientation and use the term onboarding to represent a much broader concept about how we bring a new employee into the fold. How we acclimate new employees to working and being successful in the organization is a critical task for any HR team, regardless of the size. We want to build on the positive feeling they have about us as an employer that led them to accept our offer.
Start early. It starts before an employee walks in the door on their first day. It really starts during the application process because new hires are starting to form opinions about your business and culture as soon as they cross your path., And, once you made them an offer of employment, you need to make sure you have a cohesive plan to pull them in as a part of the team. What of those tactical items could be taken care of before they start? Could they fill out a few forms electronically before their first day? Could they review documents on their own vs. having to block out time later? People expect some amount of busy work on their first day of a new job, but when they go out the door that first day and talk with their friends and family, think about what you want them to take away. I’m going to guess you would rather the dinner table conversation wasn’t filled with stories of I9s, W4s and handbook acknowledgements.
Make it personal. Everyone wants to feel like they’re a part of something. It’s important to create that sense of belonging into work too. When that new employee walks through the door, does the receptionist know they’re coming? Is there a peer available to help show them the ropes? Have you stocked their desk with office supplies, how about some company branded swag? How an employee feels in those first moments is critical. If they feel like they are important, welcomed and valued, it will impact their thinking about the company for a long time. If they feel like they are an imposition or unplanned for, that sticks with them too.
Set expectations. One of the hardest things starting somewhere new is that feeling that you don’t really know anything and don’t know how to contribute. Make sure you’re setting expectations with that new hire about how long you expect that feeling to last. If you have formal training, then make sure they have that schedule so they know what lies ahead. How long will it be before you assign them their first client or project? Think realistically about what this new employee can contribute in the short term. People like to be valued and useful, so make sure that you give them those opportunities, or if the position is such that there is a long ramp up, make sure they know that, too, so they don’t feel discouraged.
Measure and modify. The key thing to remember is that there is no one size fits all magic bullet to employee onboarding. It’s going to be different for every employer and even from group to group within the same employer. What is critical though is that you figure out if what you are doing is working. Survey recent hires and ask them specifically about their recent onboarding. Were they overwhelmed, underwhelmed, somewhere in the middle? Also, keep an eye on your turnover statistics. Watch specifically for people leaving under a year or under sixmonthsand see what that can tell you about their initial reactions to the company or their job and what you might be able to change to soften the transition process.
Across the spectrum of companies, HR leaders are trying to improve employee engagement. Remember that engagement will likely never be higher than that first day the employee walks in the door bright-eyed, looking forward to new challenges and ready to grow. Everyone starts excited about what’s ahead of them at a new employer. Capitalize on that enthusiasm and help people hold on it. Use each new employee as an opportunity to reinforce and build your company’s culture.