It’s ironic that employee orientation is such a familiar concept but onboarding is far less accepted. Orientation is essentially an administrative function in which the new hire is processed for payroll and benefits, receives a badge or ID, and off they go. However, the concept of onboarding is much broader and ultimately, more important. It is the process in which new employees are introduced to the organization and set on the path to productivity, effectiveness, and retention.
Onboarding connects the employee with the corporate culture. It supports their productivity, inspires their sense of value to the company, and promotes their bonding to the organization. It ultimately improves the customer experiencebecause employees are more enthusiastic and dedicated.
Because onboarding is a vital, extended process, it’s important for companies to get it right.
1) Create a formal onboarding process with a fixed sequence of events. It should be written with an established timeframe. There is no single recipe that is best for every organization. Each must adopt a process that matches the corporate culture. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) observes that onboarding takes place at four levels, called the “Four C’s”: Compliance, Clarification, Culture, and Connection.
2) Choose a format that fits the content. Webinars and intranets are effective for some types of technical training, but person-to-person interaction is a valuable component. This may be done through a group classroom, whether in person or virtual, or personal coaching.
3) Plan before the employee reports for work. Avoid delays in getting the new hire up to speed so he can quickly gain a sense of contribution and mastery. Mail a welcome package to his home, ideally with a personal note and some information about the business. Send an all-company email announcing the hire and be sure to send it to the new employee herself. Stock the workspace with office supplies, order business cards, and set up computer support, including passwords. Schedule meetings with appropriate executives, assign a mentor, assign someone to take the new hire to lunch on day one, and most important, prepare a printed itinerary so the new employee knows his schedule.
4) Teach the employee about the entire organization, not merely his own role. It is vital to understand the mission and values of the organization, including corporate and departmental goals. He must come to understand the big picture, but don’t expect him to grasp every detail on the first day.
5) Differentiate between executives and hourly workers in structuring your onboarding. Hourly employees have fewer needs; they may be oriented within days and fully functional within a few months. Executives have more extensive onboarding needs. They must understand the interplay between functions and key players throughout the organization. Furthermore, the rewards of effective onboarding are intensified because of the executives’ magnified impact on the bottom line.
6) Establish a calendar for the onboarding process. You will want to establish checkpoints along the way. Develop milestones for what the employee should be able to do after one month, two months, three months, six months, and even one year on the job. Identify problems promptly so they can be resolved early before they become serious.
7) Onboarding Evaluation. Formally evaluate the onboarding process with the new employee at the process conclusion and apply this feedback to improve the experience for future employees.
When companies implement effective onboarding, they enjoy many benefits. Employees appreciate their jobs and their companies, commit to the organizational mission, perform more effectively, and even experience less stress. Employees welcome career advancement and are less likely to resign and go elsewhere.
Start by assessing where your company stands. Do you have an onboarding process? Do you already have a process in place that you can strengthen? An investment in effective onboarding is sure to pay dividends.