Sector News

Are We Doing Employee Onboarding All Wrong?

December 8, 2014
Borderless Leadership
Employee onboarding is the design of what your employees feel, see and hear after they have been hired.
Often, companies confuse onboarding with training. While training does have a role within onboarding it doesn’t represent the entire scope of the process.
Say yes or nod your head if you felt lost during your first few days with your past or current company. Better yet, say yes or nod your head if you operate a business or manage people and feel that your employees are lost during their first week.
I’d imagine that many of you said yes or nodded your head. The reason is because employee onboarding doesn’t receive the attention it deserves. Similar to customer experience, we would prefer to invest in more glamourous initiatives like marketing.
Employee onboarding is like exercising. We have enough evidence to show that we must spend a considerable amount of time doing it to improve our health but for whatever reason we don’t. Or, we do it, just not very well or as consistent as we should.
I recently read a fantastic New York Times article which highlighted the employee onboarding best practices from admired brands such as: Warby Parker, Bonobos, ZocDoc, Birchbox and Thrillist.
Consider these facts from a study conducted by the Center for American Progress on how much it costs to recruit and train a single employee:
$3,328 for an employee earning $10.00/hour
$8,000 for a manager earning $40,000/year
$210,000 for a C-suite executive earning $100,000/year
After understanding these statistics you may approach employee onboarding differently. If you follow my blog or are subscribed to my email list (free ebook available on my homepage), you’ll know that I don’t just quote statistics and that I’m not theoretical. With that being said, let’s outline the things all businesses, regardless of size or industry, must do to have a world class employee onboarding experience.
Design your employee onboarding experience
It’s not enough to simply say, “we have a full time trainer, that’s the experience.” As I mentioned earlier, a successful employee onboarding experience is what your employee feels, sees and hears after they have been hired. Similar to how a company will map out and design their customer experience, you must do the same for your employees.
This process isn’t led by a single department or person, it takes an entire company to contribute to the success of it. Ask your current employees what they liked and didn’t like about their onboarding experience. Take the feedback you receive and use it to recreate the employee onboarding process.
Failure to prepare is preparing to fail
This step is crucial and I see many businesses fail to execute on this. You must ensure that your new employee is set up for success. Is their work station prepared? Has their email address and phone line been set up? How about access to shared folders and calendars? Have you set aside their welcome package and employee handbook?
Warby Parker does this very well. They send their employees a digital company handbook and welcome packet the day before their first day. If this employee shows up having read all the information that’s a sign of a great hire.
Be different, sincere…and weird
In order to build an admired company we must be admired by our employees first. What are some ways we can do this with onboarding?
During the interview process, ask your candidates, “What’s one thing under $10.00 you can’t live without?”
Let’s assume they say their indulgence is a Mars bar. On their first day, have a handwritten card from the CEO or you entire team welcoming them to the company. Accompany this card with a Mars bar. I’ve coached companies to do this and the ROI of this practice is unmeasurable.
Email to the masses
Have you ever been to a party or networking event and the person you arrived with did a poor job at introducing you to their friends and family? Well, that awkward experience is what your employees feel as well.
If you’re a small business, walk your new employee to the desks or work areas of every team member and personally introduce them. If you’re a medium or large business, send an email to the entire company or post on your internal online portal introducing your newest team member. You can make it engaging by including their picture and some obscure questions.
Bonobos includes something they call “Two Truths and a Lie.” The new employee shares two things which are true about themselves and one that is a lie. The first employee within the company that determines which are true and which is false receives a $25 gift card for their website.
1-800-GOT-JUNK? hosts a company-wide stand up meeting at 10:55am called Huddle. During this time, if there are new employees in attendance they are introduced in front of the company.
Cross departmental training
Of course, you can’t have a world class employee onboarding experience without training. I’ve seen training programs from companies of all sizes and industries which underwhelm me.
Most people think training can be boring but it doesn’t need to be this way. Training can genuinely be fun if you include employees from all departments. Have your CEO come in and say hi and all other department leaders to explain what their team does and how they contribute to the success of the company.
If you’re a small business, think of creative ways to allow employees to lend a hand in training. You’ll be surprised how many of your current employees would be willing to assist in the success of your employee onboarding program if you present the opportunity.
Job shadowing
Before becoming an executive coach and keynote speaker, the most fun I had as an employee was while job shadowing. It may be because of the way I learn but I was always very engaged when I would watch how others performed their jobs so that I could replicate success. For me, job shadowing gave me the opportunity to learn from those that have come before me which I believe provided me a springboard to success.
Take a look around your company, are there high performers that you can ask to become mentors for your new employees? This practice will save you time, money and energy.
Employee onboarding is in the DNA of admired companies
I advocate that customer experience is the foundation of every successful business. Employee experience must also become a top priority for your company if you want to become an admired brand.
Ensure that your employees are given the tools, education and motivation to succeed, take a step back and watch them contribute to the success of your business.

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