In recent years, many organizations have begun to recognize the importance of developing an efficient and effective onboarding program for their new employees. Studies have found correlations that a strong onboarding process usually leads to higher employee retention, lower employee turnover, higher employee engagement, higher job satisfaction, stronger organizational commitment, and higher performance levels. All be told, these factors can arguably contribute to the overall success of the organization.
One of the more challenging aspects, however, is the actual implementation of such a process. Where do we begin? What do we have to do during the process? How will we know if it’s effective?
The following suggestions can serve as a useful and helpful guide as you strive to build a strong and solid onboarding program that can energize your new employees and your organization as a whole:
Pre-Boarding (First Impressions):
- Send a welcome letter:
There is nothing more exciting than for a new employee to personally receive a welcome letter from the company! A warm, inviting, and personal letter can make a new employee feel welcome. It also provides a great first impression from you that you care about your employee and desire him/her to be successful in his/her professional endeavors with you. It helps set the stage for the beginning of a new and positive relationship between employer and employee.
- Notify your team:
I’m sure that many of us have experienced that feeling of awkwardness when we walk into a new role and nobody on your team knows who you are. It can be quite discomforting. Take time to email your respective team(s) about the new employee. Introduce your team(s) to who the new employee is, what his/her role will be, and why he/she will be great in the position. Encourage your team to introduce themselves to the new employee and to interact with him/her. It’s important for your current employees to know the new employee and for the new employee to know them as it can go a long way in putting the new employee at ease, allowing him/her to feel included as part of a team, and further allowing the new employee to recognize how important he/she will be to the team.
- Spark enthusiasm:
New employees can and inevitably will see whether you are excited about your work. How you act will most likely “rub off”, if you will, on the employee. If you are disappointed or frustrated, there is a greater chance that the new employee will begin to doubt their decision to join your organization; however, if you are excited, passionate, enthusiastic about your responsibilities, and, most especially, enthusiastic about your new employee, you can spark those same kinds of feelings within him/her. Once that flame is lit, you want to keep the flame of enthusiasm burning within your new employees because it can inspire passion, excitement, engagement, innovation, and motivation which can bring out the very best from them.
- Utilize a welcoming ritual/tradition:
There are many organizations who use rituals/traditions to help new employees feel welcomed into the organization. One simple, but powerful example is giving your new employees gifts. Utilizing such an approach serves to welcome them to the organization while also expressing your appreciation to them for their willingness to be part of your dynamic team.
First Day Experience (Making it Special):
- Tours with Meet and Greet:
If applicable, provide a tour of the building(s) and environment(s) that your new employee will be working in. Familiarize them with their settings and introduce them to the team(s) and people they will be working with. Help them feel comfortable, adjusted, and welcome to their new setting.
- Automate, Automate, Automate:
I am sure that most of us have had the distinct honor in our lives to fill out what oftentimes seems to be endless amounts of paperwork by hand. I am sure that we have also experienced the frustration of how time-consuming a process it is as well (probably a good and solid 30-45 minutes, arguably). Instead, automate the process through technology. Using technology to automate the onboarding process provides an easy avenue for employees to digitally record their information and sign their documents. It saves time and can also keep frustrations down to a minimum.
- Review the job description:
This is a good time to review and to clearly communicate employee objectives, timelines, roles, and responsibilities. Provide them with examples of the kinds of projects they will be working on. Offer assistance if they need help in their new role or with their responsibilities until they are able to bear their respective projects on their own.
- Avoid information overload:
Though organizations would love to have new employees learn everything on the first day, it is most likely not going to happen. Condensing a month’s worth of information into one day can be very stressful for new employees and can adversely affect their performance. Therefore, consider the amount of information that a new employee needs and then develop a plan to spread that information out and when they will receive it over a period of time.
- Provide resources:
One of the best ways in which a new employee can fail is when they do not have the resources to succeed in the first place. Be sure to know the responsibilities of the position that they will fill and provide them with the resources and tools to help them succeed. Never leave them to fend for their own.
- Set goals:
Help your new employee(s) set SMART goals with your new employee (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely). Get to know the new employee as you help them set goals. What are their interests? Where do they want to professionally? How about personally? Consider helping them set goals that align with the strategic goals of the overall organization. This is a critical component because it allows employees to see where their respective organization wants to go while also seeing how their job fits into the grand scheme of things. Most importantly, be a positive role model by encouraging and supporting them as they work toward their respective goals.
- Assign a Mentor:
Mentors can have a profound impact on new employees. They primarily serve as guides and resources in case new employees need help with their responsibilities. There is a much deeper meaning, however, than what that one statement alone implies. More often than not, mentors know what it takes to succeed. They have experience/insights and can share/teach new employee’s sound advice and guidance to help them succeed in their respective role. They may also have good and strong connections with other employees and can point new employees in the right direction for their professional/career goals that they are pursuing and want to achieve. Thus, mentors provide avenues in which new employees can be successful. One of the most important aspects of a mentor, however, is the ability to establish friendships with new employees. Mentors help new employees connect not only with them, but with the company and its values as well. What better way to have a new employee connect with the company and make a friend in the process than to assign a great mentor?
- Being Available
Continually make yourself (or the mentor) available for your new hire. More often than not, there will likely be days where you may not be available to help them when they need you. Prepare for those days by communicating with them about what your day is going to look like and provide other resources/contacts that he/she can speak with if any questions arise. Do not leave them without some kind of support or resource while you are away.
- Take them out for lunch/dinner:
Treat your new employee(s) as if they are the very best people in the world. As a matter of fact, they are the best people in your world because they are the next generation of employees who will bring about great changes sparked from their passion. Take them out to dinner and get to know them on a personal level. Understand their passion(s) and excitement. Get to know them and who they are. It’s an opportunity to have sometime outside of the workplace, enjoy a meal, enjoy each other’s company, and, ultimately, a perfect opportunity to connect, solidify friendships, and strengthen the employer-employee-company bond with one another.
First Month and Onward (Keeping the Flame Burning):
- Follow Up:
One of the most important roles that you can fill for your new employee is to continually follow up with them. See how they are doing. Ask questions to gauge what they like/dislike about their position. Assess challenges that he/she is faced with and offer advice. Remember this lesson: continually follow up with him/her to fill in the gaps that he/she may feel is missing. Don’t let it go unfilled; otherwise, your new employee might be bound to slip away from you and your company.
- Continue to set goals:
Generally speaking, new employees (and most employees for that matter) want to continue their growth and development. They do not merely want to stop where they are at after accomplishing one or a few goals. They want to move forward and ahead. Continue to set goals and make plans to help them reach those goals. Where do they want to go? How will they get there? What objectives should be set to help them reach their goal(s)? Gather their input and then work with them in charting their course to personal and professional success.
- Continue to be Available:
At this point, the new employee may start to feel comfortable in his/her new role; however, more often than not, they may still need occasional guidance and direction. Continue to make yourself (or the mentor) available for your new hire. Again, if you are not available, direct your new employee(s) to someone who can assist in your absence. Even if it has been a month or longer since their first day of employment, never leave your new employee to fend for his or herself. Keep your door open to them and never shut it from them.
Afterwards, consider and evaluate the effectiveness of your program:
- Elicit feedback:
Feedback can be a powerful catalyst to inspire change. It is also, however, a cyclical loop that continues to work wonders. The main idea is to learn from your new employees. Administer surveys or ask questions. Discover what they liked/disliked about the program. Look at what they would have liked to have seen or experienced. Work with management and others involved in the process to make needed changes. Continually elicit feedback to understand how you can make the process better for all who are involved in the onboarding process.
- Gauge effectiveness with metrics and reporting:
In addition to feedback, also create metrics and reporting measures to gauge the effectiveness of your onboarding process. The feedback you receive can be converted into usable data that can help quantify how effective your onboarding process is. Look at the numbers and see where your onboarding process is strong while looking for areas of improvement.
You might be happily surprised with the results of an efficient, effective, and engaging program as you concentrate on treating your new employees as the most important people in this world. That’s because they are the most important people, along with your current employees as well. Be proactive. Test the process. Analyze the information. Makes changes where needed. Test again. See and experience results.
By: Mark A. McDonald
Human Resources, VertiSource HR