Onboarding: Saying Hi to the New Guy!

October 19th, 2010 | Workplace Resources | No Comments »

The first day on a new job can make even the most experienced of professionals feel like the new kid on the first day of junior high. It can be nerve-wracking, knee-knocking, and boot-shaking. Where do I go; what do I do; what’s for lunch; will they like me??? Remember those days? Perhaps it wasn’t so long ago; perhaps it was years. Either way, hopefully those memories inspire you to ease the nerves of your newest hire – who from here on out I’ll name Charlie.

You may be surprised to learn just how much Charlie’s experience of the first day and the ensuing weeks and months at a new job can affect your company’s retention rates, productivity rates, new-hire error rates, and more. Brush up your new employee procedures, and we guarantee that you’ll be astounded at the results!

Orientation vs. Onboarding

Who really wants to spend an entire day filling out incessant paperwork, watching cheesy training videos, and being forced to participate in awkward team-building activities with strangers? And, if Charlie survives this onslaught of information overload, he will then be plunged into the job, surrounded by a boat-load of strange co-workers, not knowing quite what to do with himself.

Exaggerated though this example may be, days like these are unfortunately not unheard of. Perhaps nightmares like this are where all the nerves and fear come from when Charlie arrives on his first day. The trick to easing Charlie’s nerves is to go beyond the typical first-day orientation. “Onboarding” programs are becoming ever more popular, and go far beyond the first day to focus on a long-term assimilation into the company’s culture.

Where orientations are typically just a one-time information dump, onboarding programs aim to make people like Charlie feel welcome, valued, and well prepared. These programs are simpler and more interesting than orientations, allowing new employees to gain a better and deeper understanding of the company and their role within it.

The Process

The goal of new employee onboarding is to create a foundation for future success, essentially creating a sense of belonging for the new employee. With that in mind, here are a few things you should think about covering in the first day. The two most important things are a company overview and job expectations.

Getting Charlie familiar with the mission and goals of the company will give him a greater understanding of how his position fits into the big picture. For example, your company may be highly casual or highly structured, team based or individual focused. The more Charlie knows about your company and culture, the more he knows about his position (and the better he’ll be at it).

Additionally, explaining in detail the job description and expectations will provide a clearer picture of what it will take to be successful. This will lessen any confusion or misunderstandings that may otherwise pop up in the future. Ultimately, Charlie will know how his success fits into the company’s success.

Of course, explanations of policies and administrative info, as well as all the necessary paperwork, are inevitable. If possible, break all this up into manageable time blocks so that Charlie doesn’t expire into utter boredom.

Don’t forget in all this to introduce Charlie to everyone else, show him around the office and have his desk/office ready to go. Oh – and let him know where and when he can grab lunch!

Onboarding is a long-term process. While the first day is of utmost importance, don’t forget to check up on Charlie regularly. It can often take up to an entire year to get a complete grasp of the company’s full business cycle.

So why should you bother?

So why should you go to such great lengths to ensure Charlie is comfortable in his new job? Well, it’s been shown in studies time and again that your effort towards his professional well-being will be mirrored in his efforts towards productivity and performance. If you make a point to show how his success can have a direct impact on the company’s success, Charlie will be more likely strive toward greater success.

Additionally, think about this: if there is no effort made to make an employee feel welcome and valued, they’re more likely to leave if another opportunity comes along where they do feel wanted. Hike up your retention rates by showing your employees, especially the newest ones, that you really appreciate them.

There’s so much more that could be said about the importance and benefits of a well structured onboarding program, but hopefully this at least gets the point across. In Charlie, you’ve found the perfect person for the job; the next step is to get rid of his butterflies and let him be the best he can be!

Clare Webster – Marketing Director at Ashley Ellis

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