For job seekers, onboarding may be nothing more than paperwork and processes. The formality required when starting a new job. It usually involves reviewing the employee handbook, policies and procedures, benefit plan options and other new hire items.
But today’s savvy employers, HR professionals and small business owners understand onboarding is much more than pushing paperwork. It’s a “process that helps you to develop a happy contributor,” says Val McDonough in an article titled What is Onboarding Exactly?
McDonough continues: “Onboarding conveys your organizational brand and values, explains your people and professional culture, aligns institutional expectations and performance and provides the tools for the employee to be successfully assimilated into his or her position with a quicker ramp-up to productivity.”
But, as staffing firm Robert Half points out, the employee onboarding process goes beyond mere practicality and acknowledges that what new employees learn in their first few weeks has long-term effects on their ability to tackle the challenges of today’s faster-paced business environment. A strong onboarding program covers matters related to training, scheduled milestones, mentoring programs and interactive meetings.
Completing paperwork, workstation/account password setup and new hire paperwork should be quick and efficient, says Elliot D. Lasson, Ph.D., SPHR, a Human Capital Consultant in the Baltimore/washington D.C. area and an adjunct professor of Psychology at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. But this is where the little things count. Doing the little things now can help the employee get off to a good start, feel welcome and in the long-term reduce turnover. Some simple steps to navigate the onboarding process and make the new hire feel welcome could include these elements, says Lasson:
- Make sure that the person is given a tour, including where to get supplies and assistance.
- In addition to mandated orientation sessions, make sure that the new employee is encouraged to register for one optional professional development forum, early on. This could be something offered in-house or outside of the company’s auspices.
- Get the person’s birthday (not the year, just the day of the year) onto the social office calendar as soon as possible. Make sure to invite the employee to the first birthday observance of a staff member.
- Recognize the “new employee” in the company newsletter. Also, have one or two staffers who are active on LinkedIn post a welcome note to that effect on their status update.
- Welcome the person in a press release on the company website and to external media outlets that post that type of thing.
Every employee needs and deserves a strong onboarding process where they learn the big “R” and little “r” rules of the organization, says Shirley Weis, the former Chief Administrative Officer for Mayo Clinic, where her work involved overseeing 60,000 employees and $9 billion in revenues. Weis recently published the book Playing to Win in Business, an Amazon bestseller.
That onboarding process should include policies and procedures as well as “the cultural expectations which will help them get off to a strong start in their new positions,” says Weis, who offers these five tips for navigating the onboarding process:
- Provide details about policies and procedures in handouts, on data sticks or other media that the new employee can reference as they need the information in the future. These are the Big “R” rules.
- Spend precious face-to-face time with new employees discussing the culture and values of the organization – the little”r” rules.
- Tell stories about the heroes of the organization – those that epitomize the customer service orientation, those that have demonstrated their commitment to go above and beyond in their jobs.
- Provide a trusted “buddy” or mentor.
- Check in with the new employee regularly to be sure they are receiving appropriate support, encouragement and mentoring.
Most companies focus on the first day and week – then forget about the needs of that employee even though they are still new to the company. Robert Half provides this insight on navigating the onboarding process for the first week and beyond:
Onboarding During the First Week
During the employee onboarding process, go over the basics about your small or midsize business, some of which may have been covered in the interview:
- Your company’s basic products or services
- Size and general organization of the company
- An overview of your industry and where your business fits into the overall picture (Who’s your chief competition?)
- Your company’s mission statement and values
- Company goals and strategic objectives
- Your organizational culture
- Make sure that the newcomer knows whom to call – and how – for questions and emergencies.
Onboarding: Through the Second Week and Beyond
A key part of the employee onboarding process is early follow-up. Leaders or supervising managers should meet with employees at predetermined points: Two weeks after the first day on the job, a month after, two months or at intervals that work best for each job’s complexity and changeability.
These times are when you check in with new team members to find out how things are going for them. How well do they understand the business and their roles? Do they have any questions that have not been answered?
Inquire especially as to the value of training programs. Are they helpful? Do they address the right areas? Are they worth the time being spent on them? What future developmental experiences would employees like to see?
These follow-up meetings are also a good time to hear their assessment of the employee onboarding process thus far.
Onboarding is much more than implementing processes and procedures and pushing paperwork. It’s a way to get your employees off to a good start. The more welcome and comfortable they feel, the more they can get down to doing the job they were hired for. That can lead to success, happiness and ultimately, retention.