In today’s tight labor market, employee onboarding has never been more important. It’s often challenging to find and hire the right people for your company. When you finally hire, it’s essential to have processes in place to help him or her succeed.
So, you’ve hired the perfect (or near-perfect) employee and they’re ready to start their new and exciting position with your company. Now what happens? Effective employee onboarding is critical to seamlessly integrating new hires into everyday operations and company culture.
If you’re wondering just how important employee onboarding is, put yourself in the mindset of a new employee:
On a typical first day, you show up and show up are greeted by a busy receptionist who says, “Oh, you’re here. I’ll take you down to HR.”
After a deluge of paperwork, HR escorts you to a supervisor who says, “I’ll see where your desk is,” only to end up plopping you into an empty cubicle, noting that your computer should arrive in a day or so. For now, well…. “Here, just sit tight, and I’ll check back with HR.”
As the new employee, you’re probably thinking “What did I get myself into? Did they forget I was starting today? And where is all the excitement they expressed about bringing me in as part of the team?!”
Always remember, for new employees the first day on a new job is exactly like any other first impression – and first impressions matter the most.
When I began a new job in 1982 at Aqua-Chem, I was greeted warmly and welcomed into a fully stocked office with my very own business cards, printed and ready to go. Introductions to my team members were a success and I had a pleasant conversation in the Controller’s office where my expectations were set. To this day I still remember how truly welcomed I felt. My amazing experience is how I knew I had made a great decision and was working for the right company.
Guidelines for Great Employee Onboarding
With varying opinions out there about what qualifies as a positive hiring experience, it seems tough to find clear employee onboarding guidelines.
In the book “You’re Not the Person I Hired! A CEO’s Survival Guide to Hiring Top Talent,” authors Barry Deutsch, Brad Remillard, and Janet Boydell provide useful guidelines for helping new team members feel welcome. This book is an excellent resource. I’ve personally used this book as a guide to establish my own company’s orientation manual and I’ve seen the amazing results throughout my career. The authors recommend a standard orientation process and a straightforward manual as the two key parts to success in the employee onboarding process.
Develop (and Adhere to) a Standard Orientation Process
Orientation is an important piece of successful new employee onboarding. The orientation process should be well documented and available to everyone in the organization. A smart place to store this information is in the company handbook. This establishes the importance of the process and makes the information accessible to anyone in the company. Although the handbook and process outline should be available for all employees, who is involved in the orientation process itself will depend on the size of your company. For a small company it may involve everyone but, for a larger business, it may only include one specific department.
Develop an Orientation Procedure and Manual
This is a one-time investment that will pay big dividends. Effective employee onboarding relies largely on a well put together orientation procedure and manual. After the candidate accepts the job offer, recognize the internal questions they will likely ask themselves: Will this really be right for me? Is leaving my current job a good thing? etc. This is the perfect time to confirm they’ve made a great choice to work for you.
I would encourage your company to create a standard orientation process as well as a personalized manual and procedures right away. Each part should include important steps as well as clear and easy-to-follow guidelines. This should be done before your new team member begins.
How to Prepare BEFORE Your New Team Member Starts
1. Send a Gift
Shortly after the acceptance of your job offer, send a gift to the new employee’s family and/or spouse re-confirming how excited you are to bring them on board. (Define this process for your company and assign responsibility within the procedure.)
2. Craft a Memo for Current Employees
Draft a memo to introduce the team member to existing staff. The employee onboarding process is sometimes tricky and navigating the best ways to ensure both the new and existing employees are happy is no easy task. Consider the expectations of current team members and proceed with caution not to oversell.
An employee onboarding memo might include:
- Special qualities of the new team member and why they were chosen to fulfill the role.
- Some interesting outstanding qualities and characteristics of the new team member.
- The “stats” and how they will contribute to the team.
- Reasons management likes him/her.
3. Prepare their Workspace with Necessities
Prepare their workstation with all the needed supplies, keys, security cards, and business supplies they may need. Don’t forget to add a touch of CELEBRATION to the space as well! Whether it’s a balloon, a banner, or a small gift, good employee onboarding should help the new hire feel special. A list of team members in the department, as well as those they might work with in other parts of the company, along with a brief description of their roles/responsibilities and types of questions they might answer, should also be included.
4. Schedule Time for Paperwork
Arrange a separate time and place for the overview of benefits and completion of new hire forms (the more general paperwork should be completed online prior to start). Typically, employees will need to provide copies of their identification and bank information (for direct deposit). It’s always helpful to request this ahead of time, so they can be processed with HR before their first day. You may want to offer them access to the copier, so they can copy and scan the materials they need for employment.
5. Define Clear Responsibilities
Remember to delegate tasks and define responsibility (generally the direct supervisor) for preparing for the very important discussion with the new team member by:
- Reviewing and updating the job requirements and work rules.
- Developing a draft of the training plan based on the job requirements, previous experience, and any strengths or weaknesses revealed in testing, if applicable.
- Preparing for a specific discussion for work standards, responsibilities, authority, reporting, and expectations.
- Other information that the new team member may need such as product, customer, role etc.
6. Define Expectations for Existing Hires
Define the expectations for the current members of your team like determining any expected interactions the new hire may experience with certain employees as well as preparing existing staff members to understand their role in the employee onboarding process/how they ‘re expected to help.
Remember: You should do all of this is BEFORE the new team member arrives!
How to Give Your New Team Member a Great First Day!
Once your team member arrives, it’s important to welcome them and set them up for success. This portion of the employee onboarding process sets out the general objectives of the orientation program and establishes the timeline for accomplishing them. Depending on the scope of influence of the new team member and the size of the company, this may take anywhere from 1 to 3 days.
Set specific objectives for each day as well as a detailed agenda to follow the flow of the day and topics each person will cover. (Check out this sample orientation guide attached here.) A few of my recommendations for the team member welcome phase are:
1. Implement Employee Onboarding Immediately.
Okay, this one may sound obvious but it’s important to remember the process you need to complete to successfully accomplish your goal of bringing on a new employee. The actual start of work is exciting for everyone but can also be disrupting for the team.
Keep in mind, you’re not only making a good impression on the person starting, but you’re also reinforcing your cultural mores, confirming expectations and revisiting what it means to be part of the team for existing employees. Keeping the excitement and interest up for everyone is key. Following the orientation guide will assist with keeping things on the correct employee onboarding track.
2. Start on a Wednesday
Maybe it’s been some time since you started a new job, but trust me when I tell you, it’s hard work! The first week is extremely overwhelming and starting on a Wednesday allows recovery time for the employee. They’re given the weekend to take in all the new information they’ve recently learned. Time to settle in is one of the key concepts of employee onboarding and new job training.
3. Begin the Day with a Tour
Whether it’s the Supervisor or CEO, the person responsible for giving the tour must convey the history and culture of the company. The tour should involve brief introductions as well as cover the physical locations of important areas like the lunchroom and other facilities.
4. Encourage Team Building
New job, new people, new everything. Helping the new team member to feel welcome while engaging the current team to help in doing so is important. Fun yet focused introductions will make the new team member feel included as well as encourage participation by everyone.
My choice was to bring in lunch for everyone and give each person a chance to introduce themselves (new person last) while also sharing something personal (i.e. they have four dogs, or they go to Mexico every February). I wasn’t the leader who organized a cool scavenger hunt, BUT I understood the importance of engaging the new team member to meet and get to know their peers across the company.
Team building exercises and sharing fun facts are entertaining ways to help new employees get familiar with the faces of the building and get a first-hand look at the culture of the company through finding the answers to questions like which employee’s spouse is a stand-up comic? (No one in Wisconsin would use Who is a Green Bay Packer fan?)
5. Set Clear Expectations from the Beginning
Provide a tailored 90-day performance plan with weekly (at the beginning) and then monthly milestones allowing the supervisor to track progress and recognize training needs. The new team member should have clear objectives and, depending on the uniqueness of your business or product, there may be a bit of initial training as well.
6. Every Little Part Matters
Remember it’s all about how you make them feel and if a quantitative person like me buys into it, you know it must be true. Strong employee onboarding processes will help new hires feel welcome, appreciated and engaged from the beginning which sets the stage for job satisfaction.
Remember: Employee Onboarding is Only the Beginning
Getting the new team member started on the right foot is just the beginning. Orientation is only one part of achieving the employee onboarding process. Do research and take a look at other, more out of the box and creative ways to conduct employee onboarding and don’t forget, keeping an entire team engaged and motivated is even more work, so plan ahead and get ready!