5 Best Practices to Start Winning with Onboarding

Onboarding New Employees

Be honest, you didn’t get into business to not be successful. When it comes to success, your organization’s bottom line is its biggest, most transparent measuring stick.

But a monster of Jaws-like proportion lurks in the deep waters beneath your bottom line. The monster’s name is Employee Experience. Engagement(or lack thereof) and turnover give the monster its razor sharp teeth with which it devours sizable chunks from your bottom line.

Never fear. You don’t have to be Martin Brody, nor employ the services of Matt Hooper or Quint to slay this monster. Through the implementation of a well-structured onboarding program your organization can increase engagement company-wide, reduce turnover, and positively impact the bottom line.

A well-structured onboarding process is faster, more efficient, and deadly effective.

No one-size-fits-all approach exists when it comes to onboarding. Every onboarding program will be different because every company has its own unique features and requirements. However, these 5 best practices can be implemented into your new or already established onboarding initiative to start driving the results you never knew you needed, but will be happy to finally have.

1. Ditch the Old ‘Day One’

To start winning with onboarding you must first ditch the idea that an employee’s first day is about filling out paperwork and walking around the office. Employees decide whether or not they will continue working at your organization within the first six months, meaning starting off with the right impression is crucial to retaining your new talent.

Pre-boarding is the perfect way to knock out a lot of the tedious paperwork, orientation, and training usually associated with day one. And digital onboarding is a great solution to initiate pre-boarding.

With a digital onboarding platform you can task-out the onboarding process. This allows onboarding to take place over time so as not to overwhelm your employee. You can assign completion dates to employment documents and other onboarding materials that allow the employee to complete them on her own time, while still in a time frame that is not detrimental to your organization’s HR practices.

With paperwork out of the way the focus should be honed in on making the employees first day memorable. You want your employees to be excited to work at your company, and furthermore you want them to feel validated in their decision to start working there. A lot of companies have their own unique practices to get an employee excited about the first day, but here are a few suggestions for you to consider:

Make sure their workspace is ready. Nothing is worse on the first day than feeling like your new employer wasn’t ready for you to start. When the employee shows up on day one, his desk should be prepared for him to start working right away if he so chooses. Maybe dress up his workspace with a small gift or company memorabilia to start him off on the right foot and show how much you appreciate him joining your company.

Take the employee out to lunch on the company dime. Bring key decision makers, or managers, and co-workers to the lunch as a way to help her feel welcomed and start socializing with her new co-workers. Workplace relationships are a key element of employee engagement, so putting the impetus in this aspect on day one is of the utmost importance.

2. Make Onboarding a Process

Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say. And neither will your employees be fully productive on day one. In fact, it can often take 8-12 months for an employee to become fully productive, but that time can be dramatically reduced with successful onboarding. With this knowledge, plan to slowly ramp up your new hire’s workload.

Getting up to speed is a process and onboarding should reflect that. An onboarding program that is only a day or week long will probably not be too effective. Companies like FaceBook implement a six week onboarding program for their engineers before they set them loose on their own.

Generally, the longer an onboarding program, the more successful and engaged the employee will be. Don’t be afraid to extend onboarding to two or three months, and even up to a year if necessary. Longer onboarding programs help new hires reach full proficiency an average of 34% faster than one-day or one-week programs.

3. Socialize The New Hire

It is also important to socialize your new hires. A first day lunch is a great option to get employees acquainted with their coworkers, but onboarding should include the entire company as well. Try assigning first day tasks that require the new employee to stop in on the different departments within your organization. Set up meetings with the CEO or other higher up executives to let the employee know they are valued and that their success is meaningful at the highest levels.

An online portal will also help get employees up to speed. They can view the company hierarchy, other employee profiles by department which include photos so the new hire can start putting names to faces, as well as small personal details that help the new hire understand the personalities of the people she is now working with.

Another great option for socializing the new hire is to assign him a buddy or mentor who has been with the organization for a long time and is accomplished at his position. This employee will help show the new hire all the ropes, be available to answer any questions in the days, weeks, and months following starting with the organization, and also help facilitate connections with other employees while offering advice on performance.

Employees who have a mentor/buddy generally perform better than those who are left to their own devices after the initial onboarding.

4. Set Expectations from the First Day and Beyond

Any new employee will want to know what is expected of them both in the immediate window after she starts and long term. Gallup identifies “knowing what is expected of me at work” as the number one indicator of employee engagement.

It stands to reason that this is doubly important for new hires, as the likeliness of them becoming disengaged is highest in the first few months of employment. Again an online portal is a wonderful tool to help the employee understand what they need to be doing. They can see and review all the tasks they own and their own goals, as well as receive feedback as they work to complete those tasks and goals.

Goal setting can be fun, especially when based around the new hire’s first day. As mentioned previously, try giving her tasks that encourage her to socialize as much as possible. Whether this means going down to IT to set up her system login, or asking other co-workers how to do certain things.

Some companies do a first day scavenger hunt, which is a great way to encourage the new hire to interact with everyone in the office in order to track down each item on the list, as well as an opportunity to start inundating the new hire in the company culture.

Outside of the first day, it is important to maintain an open line of communication and feedback as the new hire completes her extended onboarding tasks and starts to work on the short term goals you’ve laid out. You don’t want your new hire feeling lost, because chances are she won’t stick around too long without solid instruction and direction. Make sure to touch base at the end of the first week to find out how the new hire is liking everything so far, ask if she has any questions or needs help.

At the very least you should check in at the end of the first month, the second month, and the sixth month (if your extended onboarding program runs that long–and even if it doesn’t!). These small performance and goal reviews will serve to keep the new hire engaged and let her know she is doing a good job and where she could work to improve.

With a buddy or mentor assigned to the new hire, daily feedback should be provided as well just to ensure the new hire is still comfortable and performing as expected.

5. Don’t Follow, Lead (or Be Unique)

Onboarding is essential to the success of your business. But the success of your onboarding relies on your willingness to integrate the process with the personality of your company.

Besides a well-structured onboarding program that ditches the old day one, extends past the first week to ensure maximum productivity, socializes new hires, and sets expectations for performance; the onboarding program should be wholly unique to your company.

Think about it, your organization has its own unique aspects and values that make it a great place to work. Explore these by creating fun tasks for day one and beyond that integrate and inform new hires about the workplace, while also making them excited to be there and validating their decision to come work for you.

You don’t have to make your onboarding program like any of these companies, but it’s important to understand what they’re doing right. In each instance the company is staying true to their culture and values, while also being creative and focusing on making new hires excited to be with the company.

If you can instill a sense of excitement and enthusiasm for new hires from their first day you will find them to be engaged for longer, more likely to stay for three or more years, and become more productive, faster.

A successful onboarding program is all you need to slay that deep-sea monster waiting to bite massive chunks from your bottom line. You’ll engage employees and they’ll stay for longer. Productivity increases and turnover decreases. Employees are happier, and your bottom line goes up. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Try implementing these 5 practices into your onboarding initiative to start winning with onboarding!

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