A Manager's Guide to Planning Your Employee Onboarding Process
While employee onboarding involves more than a simple one-time orientation session, its execution differs depending on the individual organization the employee is joining, the needs of the employee, and his or her role and responsibilities. This article looks at why managers should create their own customized onboarding program and how to do so.
Much like the complicated Fig Newton –all too often mistaken for a cookie when there's so much more to this fruited cake – employee onboarding is frequently confused with employee orientation, when it's actually a much more in-depth process.
Employee onboarding, according to the North Carolina Office of State Personnel, goes well beyond orientation. Onboarding, the process of assimilating a new employee with a company or department and its culture, requires frequent and ongoing communications between a new employee and management well after the first day, week or even month of starting a job.
Onboarding should involve frequent feedback, relationship building and mentoring to truly be effective. In turn, it should reduce employee turnover, increase morale and production, and help your employee become a valuable contributor to the future success of the organization.
Time-consuming and intense? Maybe. Worthwhile and in your best interests? Definitely. As critical a period as onboarding is for new employees who form expectations of their job, the company and you during this process, it is equally as crucial a time for a leader.
While the thought of taking away from what little time, resources and energy you may have to ensure someone else's success may not be appealing, think of it this way: that "someone else's" success – or lack thereof – is largely regarded as a reflection of your own aptitude as a manager.
Perhaps you simply don't know where to begin in creating an onboarding program that's right for you. After all, much like every budding designer on Project Runway, your company has its own unique style of working, so you need a customized onboarding process that's unique to your business and its culture. While it's unfortunate that Tim Gunn's advice is limited to subjects such as what accessories go best with paisley prints, you don't need a guru on hand to help you create a customized onboarding program; you have everything you need to create one yourself.
Questions to consider as you customize your onboarding program:
What are the objectives of our onboarding program?
What do new employees need to know about the company that would make them more comfortable?
What do new employees need to know about the work environment that would make them more comfortable?
What impression about the company do I want new employees to take away after the first day?
What key policies and procedures should the employee be aware of on the first day?
What positive first-day experience can I provide for the new employee that he or she will remember?
Does the new employee need a mentor? Who among my staff members would make the best mentor to this particular employee?
What role will human resources play in onboarding new employees?
What role will the new employees' supervisors play?
How will the new employees' co-workers be involved in onboarding?
What do new employees need in their work areas? Who can prepare work areas – including telephone and computer setup – for employees by their first day on the job?
What will be the duration of our onboarding program?
What do I want to accomplish by the end of the employee's first day, first week, first 30 days and first 90 days?
What goals do I want to set for the employee?
How will I measure my program's success?
How will I obtain feedback?
Rules to follow that apply across the (on)board:
Start at the beginning: The onboarding process should begin the moment the new employees accept your offer. Reach out to new employees before their first day of work to answer any questions and inform them of any materials they need to bring with them on the first day.
Begin with the basics: Don't overwhelm your employees with too much information at once. Give them the basic knowledge they need to understand their jobs, and add to it as you go along.
Pencil in some playtime: Break up the monotony of the meeting-, paper work-, and presentation-heavy first few days by coming up with games or group activities to help them learn and get acquainted.
Make it a family affair: A new job often means adjustment for the entire family, especially if they have relocated for their new position. Think of ways to involve the new employee's family.
Find out how they see you: Use surveys, one-on-one interviews and focus groups to gain feedback from your new hires about their perceptions of the orientation process. Use those recommendations to improve your onboarding program. Seek feedback up to several months after they've started, for it may take a while for them to realize what they should have learned earlier in the process, but did not.
Stay in it to win it: Seek continuous improvement with your onboarding program, and realize that what works today may not necessarily work as well next month or next year. Change your onboarding program as needed.
Know your velocity: Measure the impact of your program by evaluating such information as the results from surveys and interviews (mentioned earlier), the rate of new hire turnover, and the amount of time needed to train. This data will help you gain support for the program from upper management and will help you determine any necessary changes for improving the program.
As stated earlier, onboarding is an involved and ongoing process, but as Gunn would say, "Make it work." It will benefit your company and your employees (and you) in the long run.