A company finds a purple squirrel and hires her immediately. But the new employee never becomes integrated with the company, and her work is never on par with what the company expected from her. What went wrong? What practices can the company change to ensure that new employees are actually effective in their new positions?
The importance of onboarding
Onboarding is the first and most important opportunity for employers to win over a new employee - and it's often the most overlooked aspect of hiring.
Onboarding is the moment when new hires make that all-important decision to stay engaged in the company's success, or become disengaged. Onboarding is the window during which an employer can make a positive impression with the new hire - one which will stay with them for the rest of their career.
Poorly planned and executed first days can leave a lasting bad experience for a new hire. The impression that the company is poorly managed can develop early, and some new hires might decide on that very first day that it was a bad idea to take the job in the first place. As the new hire meets more people in the organization and makes their way through the initial launch of their jobs, those early preconceptions can taint the overall view of the company.
Millennials are especially vulnerable to poor onboarding practices - as they enter the workforce, or are relatively new, their impressions of a company can turn negative. As older generations age out, millennials will make up a significant amount of new hires at companies - but early leave or abandonment of jobs is a cross-generational program, and when almost one-third of new hires quit their jobs within the first six months, there leaves a huge gap in a trained workforce. Remember: Rock stars (of any age) will only stay at a company that values them and within which they believe they can shine. Average or so-so employees will stick around - but without the same quality of performance.
Critical components of onboarding
There are four cornerstones of good onboarding that every company should ensure they are completing. The Society for Human Resource Management says that only 20 percent of companies are onboarding their new hires at the most strategic level.
The four critical components of good onboarding are:
Are you showing your new employees all the rules and regulations in a clear way, so that they understand what is or is not allowed from the beginning?
Are the responsibilities of the new hire being laid out from the beginning, with measurable results and a clear understanding of their role in the overall organization?
Are you explaining to the new hire the organization's values, mission, personality and overall culture?
Are you helping the new employee to build relationships with current staff, their supervisors, mentors and other relevant associates?
Seventy percent of new and existing employees say having a friend at work is the most important element to being happy at work. Are you empowering your employees to be the most successful in their job as possible? Try empowering them through technology, right from the start - as soon as they sign their offer letter, send them an email with vital information about their new workplace, like the pictures and names of managers and teammates.
Mentoring can increase employee productivity by up to 88 percent. Establish a mentor for a new employee - no matter their age - right from the first day. Check back in with them multiple times per week to ensure they are comfortable and succeeding in their new position. Additionally, something as simple as taking a new hire out to lunch with their new coworkers can help the employee get to know their team on a more informal basis and develop positive impressions of the company as a whole.
Onboarding best practices
The onboarding process doesn't start when the new hire shows up in the HR office - it starts when the offer letter has been sent. Make sure that you reach out to the new hire before their first day, with relevant information such as where to park, where to go, anything relevant they'll need to bring, and dress codes.
From there, orientation, work email access, the schedule for their first week, and any relevant systems and learning tools should be in place and ready to go before they walk through the door.
Make sure the new hire's boss understands their capabilities and assigns them tasks that work within those strengths. If more training is needed, begin that promptly.
First impressions are everything - that's why the first day of work should be as seamless and easy for them as possible. First days can be overwhelming with meeting new people and learning new systems, so try to plan out everything beforehand. Set up introductions, conduct a tour of the facility and help them to connect with their teammates.
The onboarding process doesn't end after day one. It is ongoing, and the new employee should be continually engaged, trained and incentivized to stick around. More than 50 percent of workers are disengaged at work, and 17.5 percent are "actively disengaged." One way to help tackle this issue is to help new and existing employees develop their careers, set up accountability, assess capabilities and update responsibilities frequently.