Onboarding is what echoes in the halls to kick start great beginnings and light a spark for great achievements.
In human resources, we must remember that onboarding should not merely be orientations filled with best practices, a tour of the company, a quick peek to familiarize the location of the coffee, printers and mailrooms, but a time to water the seed of development that was planted when the new hire said yes to the job opportunity.
The interview process is comprised of wonderful face-to-face conversations, built around the what ifs and expectations set for the new employee to achieve and a wishful list of to-dos and projects to get the company back to where it needs to be or help it reach the next level. That one-on-one time and communication are critical, so the applicant can go from the outside of the organization to being able to say, “I want to be with this team.”
Unfortunately, that built-up excitement about the organization can taper off quickly if onboarding isn’t conducted efficiently. That once-dedicated and anticipated relationship can leave new hires in a pond of unknowns, a list of dos and don’ts with no connections.
As human resources professionals, our role is to orient new hires in their specific job duties and expectations while helping them get acquainted. All successful journeys require more than their skill set; they require a connection, too. Studies have shown that when effective onboarding occurs a new hire is more likely to be satisfied with their job, boost their performance and, despite any flaws the organization may have, be able to take the office gossip, the reactive moments of the department and ups and downs of the organization and turn them into fuel to do more.
Job offers are accepted based on perception — what candidates perceive the organization will be, can be and what they can add to it. But the trend is that many new hires fall off before they reach the one-year mark. The early stages of employment are filled with uncertainties, information overloads and a to-do list that usually requires the new hire to sink or swim. Effective onboarding can provide a strong foundation for new hires as they get acquainted. Without that foundation, questions and critical moments are met with deadlines, office gossip and the damaging opinions of disgruntled employees, which mimics a minnow in open water — alone and in too deep.
A plan of action for the next 30 days, and in some roles 90 days, ensures that the mission expectations are echoed, feedback and job satisfaction conversations are explained and the information is coming from (and ideas are bounced off of) the manager and team. Infrequent and sporadic memos, FYIs and ring-around-the-office interactions are less effective and provide little consistency that can be overwhelming and turn engagement into anxiety.
An effective onboarding program should include different types of activities that will help integrate a new hire into the company culture and overall organization. It is crucial to motivate new hires to ask questions, create a vision of their role, foster a positive attitude regarding engagement and approachability and then, finally, make a commitment. Here are some key components of a successful onboarding program:
1. Establish a department mentor. This is someone who is a responsible and engaged member of the team. This person can assist the manager with conveying the dos and don’ts of the organization and help get the new hire acclimated.
2. Arrange for career coaching and success planning. Setting an agenda for the next 30 days and marking off accomplishments gives a new hire a great deal of accomplishment when it is most crucial.
3. Don’t simply present a packet on company ethics and development. Trainings on company products, ethics, culture and services are more effective as the opportunity for misrepresentation and misunderstanding are slim and the environment helps promote a more engaging onboarding experience. If the buy-in is companywide, your new hire is likely to adapt to the culture — or learn quickly if the company is truly not for them, rather than finding this out months later.
4. Social ethics and cultural assimilation information about the strategic objectives should also be a part of the onboarding process. Does your organization have unspoken rules? Is your department looking to reach a certain deadline within the next 30 days? If so, how does it align with the company mission? Topics like these are more likely to appear in company emails, boardroom conversations and quarterly meetings. However, it is important to have such topics discussed in the on-boarding. Discuss the failures and what the department would like to do, and be honest and promoting about the perception of the department and encourage the new hire to present ideas.
5. Clarify employee development and performance management. Succession planning shouldn’t be a conversation that takes place after 30 days; development should begin on day one. Setting expectations for the new hire with their input gives your newest assets a goal and allows them to apply the new information they have learned to a specific target. Otherwise, too much information can fall by the wayside. What we retain is what is repeated and attached to a measurably obtainable goal that affects our livelihood and careers.
The effectiveness of your onboarding has a direct effect on how your new hires develop and how the company meets its objectives, budget and resources. Encourage your senior leaders and department heads to take a part of the onboarding experience to help foster an echo in the halls that is both motivational and pragmatic.
By Tasha Bell
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