A guide for building an excellent onboarding plan for new hires. We have compiled our top five tips and tricks to help you get off on a great start.
One of the most important pieces of starting a new hire is onboarding; its advocates describe it as a comprehensive approach to bringing on new hires that goes beyond simple orientation. Onboarding plans are intended to make new employees familiar with the overall goals of a company and support them as they embark on early projects all in an effort to achieve the perception of success (and productivity) quickly. The ultimate payoff is to reduce turnover and encourage workers to stay with an organization for a longer tenure.
‘It’s really about calculating the cost of hiring new workers to the business,’ says John Sullivan, former chief talent officer for Agilent Technologies and a professor of management at San Francisco State University. ‘Companies need new hires to be productive and, at a small company especially, every employee counts.’
Here’s a look at how your company can set up an onboarding process to shorten the learning curve for new hires.
Think onboarding begins on an employee’s first day? Wrong. A successful onboarding program actually begins during the recruitment and hiring process, says Erin Perry, director of client solutions at Pinstripe, a recruiting company based in Brookfield, Wisconsin. An onboarding process is linked to and in some ways starts with the employer brand that you create to attract people who are the right fit for your company’s overall goals. ‘If you’re a high tech organization that has a cool brand and that uses social media and talks about innovation when you’re advertising to attract new associates, that’s great,” Perry says. “But if on a new hire’s first day you hand them 15 different forms to fill out, your employment brand message has just died.”
Experts suggest you begin the orientation process before a candidate is formally hired by including ample information about your workplace and your culture in the Careers section on your website. ‘The orientation should begin at the first click of the mouse when someone first goes on the company’s website, so by the time the person comes in for the interview, they already know quite a lot about the organization,’ says Richard Jordan, a business coach who has been responsible for reshaping the recruiting and orientation process at a number of technology firms. That way, you are more likely to attract candidates who are more engaged with your company’s goals and culture and are more likely to become highly productive employees.
A new hire will surely be required to fill out a lot of new paperwork, so why not get a head start? Many companies choose to send necessary legal forms along with a formal offer letter. You can also send an employee handbook ahead of time, so that new staff members aren’t overwhelmed with information on the first day.
HR software and other related applications can also be deployed ahead of time. Automated systems are especially useful because onboarding requires the involvement of multiple departments within a company, all working together to welcome and engage a new employee, to make him or her feel as comfortable as possible from Day One. The right technology can help coordinate various individuals and tasks by taking care of paperwork electronically, or sending notifications alerting IT support staff to configure a new hire’s laptop and BlackBerry.
Technology can also be an effective way to socialize your new hire into your company’s organizational culture, Perry says. On a company Intranet, you can make available to a new hire multimedia such as video and podcasts that state your company’s overall strategic goals, talk about your company’s values, and provide employee testimonials. As a bonus, these videos can feature company leaders, which will help introduce key players, cutting down on the endless name game that typically happens on an employee’s first day.
On-boarding doesn’t end on the Friday of a new employee’s first week on the job. The process should continue over the span of several months and, during that time, it is essential to solicit feedback from all constituents. A good way to do that is to assign a recruiting manager to keep track of the new hire’s first few months on the job, Jordan says, because that individual will already have developed a relationship with the employee.
‘I’m a big believer of surveying at every step of the process,’ Perry says. She suggests surveying at the end of the first week and at the close of each of the employee’s first three months, asking different questions at each stage. Begin with questions about the recruiting process, how the first day met the employee’s expectations, and whether they are struggling with any issues related to technology. Then, start asking whether the employee has the necessary tools to complete his or her job and, finally, begin asking about an employee’s strategic goals. You want to learn how engaged or connected the new hire feels to the organization.
You also want to make sure someone is accountable, preferably a line manager who realizes the cost savings to the business if a new employee gets up to speed quicker. You want managers to be very aware that you are measuring productivity through metrics. Make sure employees actually are becoming productive and, if they are not, figure out what is going wrong. Continually fine-tune how you onboard employees to make sure you can maximize the benefits of the process.
Once you’ve done that, you can begin to establish a general checklist of what you want to cover when you’re onboarding. Even within that structured plan or process, make sure you leave room for those personal touches. ‘Your employees are going to get orientated whether you plan for it or not,” Perry observes. “But if you do plan it, it’s a lot more likely to be successful.”