Employee Onboarding: A Key Component of Successful Hiring

Newly Hired EmployeeDo you remember the first day of school when you were a kid, and how nerve-racking it was to walk into a new classroom, not knowing what to expect?  First days are always stressful things, whether they’re the first day of a new school year, or the first day of a new job.

When a new employee joins your company, are you taking measures to help them adapt to their new workplace? 

Most companies have some type of new hire orientation and a process to train new workers to perform their job duties — but sometimes the important assimilation process itself is overlooked.  This can turn a promising new hire into a failure!

Onboarding can save your business money:

Employee onboarding is the term used to describe the process of assimilating new employees into a company.  There are good reasons to invest the time in employee onboarding.

It is expensive to recruit and train a new employee.  The Saratoga Institute estimates the cost of turnover, depending on the level of the employee, to range from 30% to 150% of the employee’s annual salary.  The costs include recruiting, training, disruption to the workplace, and the time it takes for the new employee to become fully competent in their new position.

Some basic steps for successful onboarding:

When you hire a new employee, you want them to be successful.  This takes a more thorough new hire orientation than simply the signing of forms and the distribution of an Employee Handbook filled with rules.

  • Prior to the start date, provide the new hire with information about the company.
  • Refer them to the website and ask them to familiarize themselves with the company’s products or services.
  • Send them marketing materials to read.
  • Consider providing them with some of the forms they need to sign in advance, so the first day is not filled with page after paperwork to fill out.

If there’s time, invite the new hire and their family to drop by for a tour of the office or facility.  There’s a lot less mystery in the new job when the employee’s spouse and/or children have seen their workspace and met their coworkers. Starting a new job is very stressful, and a supportive family is critical to success for the employee.

During the first few weeks, new employees need to know several things in order to get off to a solid start:

  • Their duties
  • How their performance will be measured
  • Their deadlines
  • How they will receive feedback

Continuous feedback helps new employees succeed:

New employees need to have regular feedback on their performance.  Many companies provide a review at 90 days, sometimes resulting in an employee learning for the first time that they’ve been doing things wrong, and now their job is in jeopardy.

By providing constant feedback during the first few months, an employee will have the opportunity to continuously correct and align their performance to the company’s culture and expectations.

Give your new employee a mentor:

A mentor or buddy system is a great way to help a new employee get off on the right foot.

The mentor shouldn’t be their supervisor, or a person in authority over the employee.  The mentor does need to be someone who has a good work ethic, understands the company’s policies, procedures and culture, and has a positive and friendly attitude.  In addition, they need to be good at communicating, and have the time to be a mentor.

The purpose of the buddy is to help immerse the new employee into the company more quickly, by giving them a person they can go to with their questions and problems, such as, “How do I get this form approved?” or “Who’s responsible for this process?” or “I’ve jammed the copier and can’t remember how to get it unjammed.”

The buddy might want to call the new employee prior to their start date, in order to provide some information about the company culture and answer questions about what to wear on the first day, where people eat lunch, where to park, and other information that new employees are concerned with.

Introduce new employees to your company’s culture:

When we hire a new employee, we hire someone who has the skills, experience and aptitude to do the job.  More than likely, they’ve performed a similar job in the past.  This creates an assumption that the new employee will be successful in our company as well.  But each company’s culture is unique and every company has its own way of doing things.

It’s very important that new employees are fully informed of your company’s culture.  They need to understand the inside jokes and acronyms or slang used.  Inform them about the social activities that take place, such as company baseball teams, informal get-togethers after work, latte runs, birthday celebrations, charitable activities the company supports, etc.

Talk about the company’s unique environment. For example, if you have a laid back fun environment, make sure that you talk about what the limits of behavior are, and what expectations exist for performance.

Think of it like this:  What did you learn on your own after being at a new job for a period of time, that you wish you hadn’t had to learn the hard way?

Prepare employees for the onboarding of a new hire:

Making a new employee feel welcome and helping them get off to a good start involves more people than the HR department and their supervisor.  The employee’s co-workers are a critical component as well.

Sometimes, there is an internal candidate who applied for the position, and was passed over.  This is an opportunity for resentment to simmer.  Their sour grapes can be shared with their friends in the company, which can set the new employee up for failure and unhappiness in their new job.

If office politics and relationships possess the potential to undermine a new hire’s success, you must address it in advance.  Anticipate this possibility, and talk with internal employees in advance.  Explain why the hiring decision was made, and help them understand their own growth opportunities within the organization.

Make sure everything is set-up for a new employee before they arrive:

At one point or another, most of us have experienced a scenario like this on our first day at a new job:

Everyone’s super busy, and they barely have time to talk with you.  They’re not really sure where you’re supposed to sit, but they find you an empty desk.  They apologize and tell you that they think your computer is on order.  They tell you to look in the file cabinet for supplies, and to call so-and-so to get your phone set up.  Except you haven’t been given so-and-so’s number and you don’t even have a phone you can use to call them!

You leave at the end of the day feeling like they had no idea that you were coming, and that they couldn’t care less about you.  You can’t help but wonder if taking this job was a mistake.

That’s a terrible way for a new employee to feel!

The lesson to be learned is, be ready for your new employee.  Have their desk set up, with all necessary equipment and supplies on hand.  Provide them with a list of employees and departments, detailing who does what.  On day one, they should have all of the tools they need to perform their job.

The wrap-up:

Remember the old television show The Love Boat?  Think about the happy faces of the passengers on the Love Boat, as the crew lined up to welcome them onboard the ship.  What were the words in the theme song?  “Come aboard, we’re expecting you!”

While I’m not suggesting that the term “onboarding” came from The Love Boat TV show, the point is, you want your new employees to feel as welcomed and expected as those folks did.  And, hopefully, their tenure with you will last at least as long as that show did!

Originally published in the Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal.

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