Remember the last time you started a new job? I do. I felt transported back to the middle-school dance where I got dropped off by my mom. I can’t dance. And nobody asked me to, either. There I was at my new job, left to fend for myself. Left to figure out who to contact for network access. Left to figure out what the heck my phone number was. Oh, never mind. The phone’s not connected anyways.
The onboarding experience at companies shouldn’t be anything like a school dance for an awkward 12 year-old boy. So why do so many companies treat their employee’s first day like it’s the first time they’ve even considered getting their new hire plugged in, informed and productive?
A quick glance at some clearly demonstrates that first impressions do indeed help determine whether a new hire is still going to be around in a year. Companies spend thousands of dollars recruiting and interviewing, then barely pay lip service to making sure it’s a smooth transition for new hires. So what’s the hold up?
Consider that companies usually hire for one of two reasons. The first is that they’re really busy and need more butts in seats. That means the onboarding process is rushed and inadequate. New hires are thrown onto overdue projects and that’s how they’re introduced to their new gig. The second reason is that companies have the revolving door syndrome: high turnover. That often gets them caught in the surf of non-stop recruiting, without taking the time to diagnose the real problems: poor onboarding, workplace conditions or bad management. Regardless, the experience for the new hire can be compared to that of the gangly 12 year-old at the school dance: walking home early and confused.
In most cases, though, an onboarding experience can be dramatically improved by following a few, well-proven guidelines for good onboarding.
Day 1? Get it in the bag.
Get all paper work completed, payroll set up and computers/phone/network configured before the employee sets foot in the door on day one. What better way to welcome a newcomer than by proclaiming “you’re getting paid on time, and here’s your new home, right here.” How the heck does one manage that?
There are plenty of hr technology tools out there to help you get documents signed online, do training and learn the faces and roles at the company. Best of all, it can all be done remotely and online.
Set expectations early, and document them.
In the book , Dr. Larch (the caretaker of the orphanage where the story takes place) proclaims routine and security as the best things for the orphans in his institution. The same goes for new hires. Helping them establish a sense of routine, and giving them a calendar and listing of all upcoming milestones, expectations and responsibilities is key to ensuring they get dialed into their new workplace. Keep in mind that most new hires are likely coming from a less than adequate job. Acknowledging that fact, and helping them heal and acclimate is a wonderful thing to do.
This one is simple: Check in regularly.
Leaving a new hire to fend for themselves is an isolating experience. Scheduling regular check-ins with both the hiring manager and operations person at increasingly larger intervals over the course of the first six months is a fantastic way to ensure that the company gets feedback on what they’re doing right, and obviously, it ensures the new hire gets regular, one on one opportunities to get answers.
A good onboarding process isn’t rocket science. It’s a bit of extra work to get the routine in place, sure, but once in motion it conveys organization, pride in the culture and accountability to new hires. Keep in mind, employees spend a majority of their waking day building your company’s widgets. It’s incredibly valuable for companies to consider that compensation is much more than just cash and equity. The most talented, skilled, creative workers can get paid well anywhere. So, what’s going to distinguish your place of employment from that of the competition? Hopefully not leaving them standing in the corner waiting to be asked to join the party.