Here is a story about a company that has the simplest possible philosophy for orienting new hires . . .
“Our goal is to get them into a chair as fast as possible and get them going,” the head of HR explains. At that company, onboarding new hires means enrolling them in the health plan, handing them an employee handbook, and showing them their desks.
And here is what the head of HR at another company has to say . . .
“Once all the forms are filed for tax and other purposes, it’s time to let new employees get started and get a feel for the job.”
Those opinions express simple views of what onboarding is supposed to accomplish. But is simpler always better?
Then we come to state-of-the art onboarding as it is practiced in many companies today, which is all about computers. The goal is to get employees set up in their learning management system (LMS) that tracks the training they have completed, and to enter them on the company employee management system (EMS) that schedules job reviews and automates a lot of the details of employing people.
That’s thorough. But is thorough always better?
Successful Onboarding Means Doing the Right Things
As is the case with many business processes, success doesn’t come from doing a lot of things – but from doing the right things, and doing them well. When you are onboarding new employees, that is especially important. An employee’s effectiveness, satisfaction, loyalty, productivity and length of employment are all established in the early days on a job.
Deliver Great Training
In today’s business environment, most employees are no longer happy with the idea that they must learn their jobs by trial and error over a period of months. They shouldn’t be. And as an employer, you shouldn’t be either. If an employee is operating at only 50% productivity for three months and you are paying them (of course), that is probably costing you a lot more money than you have calculated. In nearly all cases, you can invest only a small percentage of that money to train those employees and get them to be fully productive faster. They’ll work harder, be more productive, happier, and place less strain on their managers, all for a comparatively small monetary investment in training.
Talk about Your Company’s Core Values and Mission
Hopefully, you have discussed them during the hiring process and your new employees believe in your company and what it stands for. But be sure to bring up those issues again during the onboarding process. Talk about your company’s core beliefs, about why you are in business, about your company’s history and founders, about your customers, about the role you play in your community, and more. Most working people today are looking for more than a paycheck. They want to be part of something they believe in.
Integrate Your New Hires into their Teams
Are your new employees joining teams that have been in existence for a long time, newly formed teams, or something in between? Depending on the situation, you can decide how to best integrate your new employees. You can set up lateral mentoring relationships with other team members, cross-training programs in which current team members work alongside new hires for a period of days or weeks, and maybe social outings for the team or team-building activities. It is not difficult to choose the right kind of team integration steps to take . . . just make sure that you do them.
Set Up Mentoring and Coaching Relationships
Connecting a new hire with a mentor or coach can establish increased employee loyalty, satisfaction, and productivity. But consider setting up a relationship between your new hire and a more senior employee who works in a different department or division, not with a boss or supervisor from his or her own functional area. Employees feel freer to interact with employees who are outside their own departments and reporting relationships. And do more than just introduce new hires to their mentors. Schedule ongoing meetings into the future, and track to be sure they are taking place.
Create Individual Career Plans for New Hires
You don’t need to do this for certain classes of employees who you do not expect to remain with you for the long term. (Short-term seasonal workers, for example.) But consider creating an individual career development plan for all new employees whose jobs promise a future with your company. Here are some details that can be written into the plan:
- Specific expectations about what the employee is expected to do to be promoted – things like sales quotas to make or quality standards to adhere to.
- Training that the employee is expected to complete.
- Specific skills that the employee should master – possibly through outside classes or education – within a certain period.
- Details about how the employee can move from one job track to another, enter management-training programs, or take advantage of other company opportunities.
Getting Onboarding Right Delivers a Big Payback
Every company says it wants better employee retention, satisfaction, productivity and spirit. The onboarding period is the time to lay the foundation for all those desirable outcomes – and many more.