As Gleb Tsipursky wrote in his article in The Harvard Business Review,
“Starting a new job is like jumping into a swimming pool. A refreshing and invigorating dive can make for a memorable experience, but a belly flop can cause a lot of pain and embarrassment. Whether employees dive gracefully into a new job, or belly flop into their role, can depend on their onboarding.”
We may never have thought about it that way, but we agree with him! The onboarding process can be a fantastic experience, supportive and uplifting, or it can be a total flop. Making the journey through onboarding memorable in a positive way for your new hires can make their experience with your company more enjoyable, creating longevity within your team and strong, confident employees.
Onboarding is a crucial process for new hires, where they discover not only the technical workings of the company they’ve signed on with, but the informal rules, day to day activities, and social interactions happening all around them. Informal onboarding, such as adopting a sink or swim approach, isn’t the best way to develop confidence within a new employee, let alone an understanding of their role in the organization. When you’re developing the onboarding sequence, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
First things first, prepare your new team member for the role they’ll be fulfilling. This involves information about coworkers, manager expectations, organizational structure, payroll, safety and security training, as well as a detailed job description. (So many people never see a job description, apart from the job posting. 🤷♀️) Making sure this is clear to your new employee, and answering any questions about what is expected of them as they go, is essential to their success. How can someone be good at what they’re doing, if they aren’t sure of what they’re doing at all? Clarifying expectations is a great help to them. After all, they’ll be evaluated and assessed on how well they meet these expectations.
Never underestimate the power of the buddy system. Having someone who isn’t leadership but is comfortable with the moving parts of the organization, a more tenured employee confident in their role and ready to show someone the ropes, can be beneficial to new employees when starting out. Asking leadership every small question can feel intimidating, regardless of how accessible a boss makes themselves. Nominating a team member as a buddy-mentor for the first three to six months facilitates social interaction and provides a source of knowledge at a more accessible level than leadership can sometimes be. Plus, this process integrates the new hire into the company culture, providing a point of contact for any questions they may have, and someone to crack jokes with to gain some comfort in a new place.
Providing a ton of information can be really helpful, even though it may seem overwhelming. If there’s information that a new employee needs to remember, like access codes for an office building, or who has access to a lock box full of site keys, or when they’re expected to be on a Zoom call weekly, this should all be written down and easily accessible. It’s hard to remember the many things expected of our new hires, especially when we rush through the list of “important things to know” at 9:05am on their first day. Make it easier for them to succeed! Giving the information in an email or information packet is a great help.
Plan out a progressive training schedule. Learning and development is a huge part of the onboarding process, and getting new hires up to speed is a journey we can sometimes rush more than we mean to. During the interview and through the onboarding process, you’ll learn what your employee knows already, and what they need to learn, to become a powerhouse member of your team. Using this knowledge, you can tailor your training plan to each individual hire, making sure there are no gaps in their knowledge and reducing the redundancy of training. This graduated process of training will reduce the likelihood your new person will feel overwhelmed, and help them gain a solid foundation within your organization confidence grows. Periodically, refresh your employee on how your team typically approaches learning and development; get them on a schedule to maintain their skills, develop new ones as their progress allows, and add them to the routine of your other employees to ensure everyone is up to speed.
Having regular check-ins is key to making sure all is going well with your new hire. During the first portion of onboarding, conversations ahould happen at the end of each day, but will reduce throughout the process as the new employee gains confidence. Check in to ensure understanding of the roles and responsibilities they’re fulfilling, answer questions, identify areas that need more support, and assess the social interactions and comfort level of your new person to develop their confidence in the workplace. If your new employee has concerns, or questions about the onboarding process, this is the perfect time to address them through active listening and clarity in communication. Providing additional support through demonstrations, repetition of certain skills, or even just a restatement of the wifi password can all happen in these check-in moments.
Even with leadership prioritizing the onboarding process, it’s not an exact science. Don’t be afraid to re-onboard if you need to! Maybe your onboarding process was in its infancy when you hired one of your team members, and you’re recognizing they would benefit from going through the more in-depth process you’ve created for new hires. Or perhaps the employee you anticipated to soar through a two week onboarding process is going to need more time to develop their confidence. Adjustments are totally fine, and can be expected. We’re all learning! Different people require different things from their onboarding experience, and while it’s up to leaders to identify what they need, you won’t always get it right. This means you may have to retrain, find a new approach to an area of development, or integrate team building opportunities to stimulate social interactions.
Your people are the backbone of your organization, and new employees build that framework even stronger. Creating a well-designed, thoughtful onboarding process can ensure the success of your newest team members, encouraging their development into confident, competent members of your organization. A comprehensive and flexible approach to onboarding shows that you, as leader, value the social integration into the corporate culture of your employees as much as their learning and development. A strong onboarding approach leads to a positive workplace environment, full of people and teams ready to achieve great things!
Photo by Drazen Zinic on Freepik