Starting a new job is exciting, but it can also be stressful and challenging. Without a formal onboarding process, the toughest parts of the first days, weeks, and months at work are amplified—which isn’t good for the employee, or for your business. Turnover is expensive for companies and often new employees make the choice to leave early on. According to a 2009 Aberdeen Group study, executives believe 90 percent of new hires decide within the first six months whether they’ll commit to a company for the long term.
The benefits of a strong, formal onboarding process go beyond retention. Effective onboarding gets the worker up to speed faster and minimizes the time managers and other workers are taken away from their projects to help the new hire. According to a 2017 survey by CareerBuilder, employers believe effective onboarding results in greater employee engagement, confidence, productivity, and morale, among other things.
Here are the do’s (and a few don’ts) for establishing an onboarding process that warmly welcomes new workers and sets them up for success:
Don’t leave it to chance that a manager will properly acclimate a newcomer to the office. A 2007 survey by the Wynhurst Group found that employees were 58 percent more likely to be with a company after three years when they went through formal onboarding. Without a thought-out plan in place, it’s too easy for new hires to be forgotten at a bustling start-up, or when their first day happens during a busy week, or in the midst of a production crisis. An established onboarding process that is repeated with each hire ensures new employees have the information they need and a proper introduction to the workplace, no matter what is happening on any given day. Many companies establish onboarding checklists to keep the process moving and make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
If possible, take care of the bulk of paperwork before a new employee comes in for the first day. Send along all forms and information about health coverage and other benefits for the employee to read and complete in advance. This helps to avoid the communication breakdown that often happens between job acceptance and the first day of work, and prevents the new employee from sitting in the HR office for an hour or two rather than getting to know the new manager and coworkers.
Being a new employee is a bit like approaching a circle of people who know each other well at a cocktail party and trying to join the conversation in progress. You can ease this difficult phase by setting aside an hour to welcome the new hire with a breakfast or lunch in the conference room. Time for introductions and chit-chat can help people get past their first-day jitters.
Additionally, assign new workers experienced mentors whom they can consult with questions about day-to-day operations and to discuss any challenges they are facing.
Mentors and managers should schedule frequent drop-bys with all new hires. Ask how they are adjusting and whether they have questions. Schedule department meetings early on. Speaking, brainstorming, and sharing ideas are often stressful the first few times for new hires, so it is best to jump in right away. Encourage co-workers to take a minute to say hello as well. Supporting them from the start helps newcomers establish confidence and sense that people genuinely care how they are adjusting to their new role.
While someone from Human Resources can help ease a new employee through their first week, the baton should be passed quickly to a manager and others within the department who will be working side by side with the new employee on a daily basis.
Too often, managers believe training covers onboarding. They think that getting the employee up to speed on the programs they need to do their job is all that matters. While training is critical, onboarding is broader. It encompasses sharing how your employer brand aligns with reality and highlighting how a new employee’s career can grow. Successful onboarding is like a road map that helps new hires envision their future with the company and look forward to the journey.
At the end of six months or a year, hopefully your new employee feels up to speed and an integral part of the team. But the need for training, and a sense of connection with coworkers and the company’s mission never goes away. This is where your employee engagement strategies and career development plans take over to ensure your workers feel supported throughout their tenure.
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