Onboarding: The Forgotten Step

In this day and age when finding the right talent is so difficult, particularly in technical fields, the onboarding process is a component of hiring that many organizations completely overlook. We spend a significant amount of time, energy and resources in identifying, recruiting and hiring just the perfect individuals. As most experienced managers have heard over and over; the most important and potentially costly decisions that we make are directly related to hiring. If you hire the right resources it can pay significant dividends for years to come, but if you swing and miss…that mistake can have just as significant of a negative effect on your organization and possibly your career. Onboarding new employees may seem like a less important step compared to the hiring process, but ensuring that the employee onboarding process is prioritized ensures that your new hires are well acquainted with the company culture, increases employee satisfaction and employee retention, and sets off your new hires on the right path.

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The Onboarding Process and Why It’s More Important Than You Think

For the purposes of this discussion, let’s assume that you have found the exact right person to add to your team. He or she has the perfect skill set to complement your team and is a strong cultural fit. You’ve interviewed no less than 10 people over the course of 2 months, complete with phone screens, in-person interviews and personality testing. You make a competitive offer and the new employee accepts. They now transition into your background screening process which may include criminal, drug and credit screens among potentially others. After all of this is completed, you schedule a start date and finally your hiring process is complete!

Deep sigh, it’s been a very long arduous process, but your sense of accomplishment is quite high.  Unfortunately, this is the point where many organizations drop the ball as hiring begins to transition to the onboarding process. While it is tempting to give your new employee their hire paperwork, employee handbook, and their badge and call it a day, it’s critical that your new hire is introduced to your company structure through a employee onboarding process flow. Otherwise, your efforts in finding the right new hire could yield less employee retention, employee satisfaction, and result in having to find another new employee all over again.

An Onboarding Program Is a First Impression

Just like in any new relationship, you only get one attempt to make a great first impression with your new employees. I contend that while the candidate is certainly gathering an impression of your organization during the interview process, the true first impression happens when your new hire walk in the front door. What does that first day, or even first week, look like for the new hire? Are they armed with knowledge for jumping into their new role prepared? Or is no onboarding process established, and are they handed their new hire paperwork, employee handbook, and thrown to the wolves?

What NOT to Do When Onboarding your New Hires

We’ve all experienced first days of work in our careers, and how many of us can think of a company whose employee onboarding process truly met our expectations? Most have had employee onboarding experiences similar to these examples:

  • General orientation for new employee onboarding to the company was not prepared or offered.
  • Workstation, cube or office for new hires was either undefined, unprepared or uninhabitable.
  • Hardware for new employees such as computers, phones or printers were not ready.
  • No communication to new hires of ground rules, basic expectations or initial assignments from your supervisor.
  • No training plan for new employees or training resources identified to help with your transition.
  • No specific welcome to new hires had been prepared such as introductions or team lunch.

These are just a few examples of a bad employee onboarding process, and I am quite sure there are many other examples of employee onboarding horror stories. The emotional change that situations like this can have on a new hire is significant. Their thought process can very quickly change from being excited and eager to join a great new organization and company culture, to having an oh-sh*t moment of wondering about what a huge career mistake they’ve made.

In a period of less than 1 week, your company’s bad employee onboarding process destroyed the good will that you obtained during the hiring process and may have turned a potential long-time employee into a short timer. Obviously, you hope your culture, your work environment and the career opportunities that your organization offers will ultimately win back the sentiments of your new hire over time, but in the competitive environment of today, can we really afford to wait?

How to Make Your New Employee Feel Right at Home

Creating a set of standards for an effective onboarding process for new employees is easier than you think and is the final piece in ensuring your new hire is here for the long haul and will perform at their best capacity. While every new hire is different and has their own preferences, these steps ensure that they are well prepared for their new role throughout the entire process.

Pre-Board as Much As Possible

Provide as much general information as possible before their first day. This can include brief introductions to who they will be meeting with during their onboarding process their first week, a schedule, a list of subjects that will be covered, a new employee checklist, or any other light reading material they can scan before their first day at your company. This establishes a trusting relationship before they even walk through the door and gives them a sense of structure so they’re not worried about being unprepared. Remember, they want to make a good first impression too, so provide any general info they would want in order to give them the tools to do so.

Provide Paperwork Before Your New Hire’s First Day

The First Day for any new employee will be a flurry of important information that they will need focus and time to process. Allowing your new employee the time before this to fill out any paperwork will allow them to focus on the job duties, feel prepared, and know that they are a part of an effective onboarding process.

Introduce Your New Hire to the Team, and Give Your New Hire a Go-To For Questions

Giving your new employee an overall scope of the Team and who does what is a quick and easy way to integrate them into the organization. If they know how everything works, and how existing team members contribute, they will immediately envision themselves as a part of the bigger picture. The onboarding process can be confusing at first, so letting your new employee know who they will be working with and who they can ask if they have questions provides security and agency into their role.

Give Your New Employee Something to Look Forward To

Who says that a new employee’s first day has to be boring? Put yourself in their shoes: when your new company gives you a warm welcome, wouldn’t you be significantly more invested and excited about your new role? Whether it’s catered lunch, or icebreaking activities, it’s good to give your new employee an introduction not just to the role, but to the team and the company’s culture. Think about your new employee onboarding process not as adding another cog to a machine, but instead as welcoming another thinker to a collective.

Final Thoughts

The onboarding process is the critical final piece of the hiring process. Most companies do not have standard onboarding processes and rely on individual managers to design and perform the process. The problem with that approach is those same managers have their normal day to day duties to attend to, and it is very difficult to carve out time to focus on planning for employee onboarding. While some managers likely do this quite well, it is an afterthought with most.

Could it be time for organizations to take ownership of the onboarding process and standardize it in the manner that they would prefer to represent themselves? While investing time and effort into creating a good employee onboarding process may seem like extra work, it sets your company, and your new hire, up for success. Considering the costs and challenges associated with hiring good people, I believe taking the time to flesh out a good onboarding process for new employees would pay off ten times over. Remember, the first impression has lasting impact, and you only get one shot at it. Why not make it a good one?