In recruiting, we work with a large variety of industries each with a unique product, business strategy, and work environments. Yet within all of this variety, many have the same onboarding process: show up, meet people, complete some paperwork, and be free and prosper!
Onboarding Sets the Tone of the Work Relationship
This form of onboarding made sense in the industrial era. You met some people, filled out paperwork, and then someone showed you how to do your job on the assembly line where your focus was narrow and isolated.
In the modern professional environment, jobs are complex, strategic, and require creative thinking. Start your new hires on the right path with structured resources, a welcoming environment, team meetings, and professional expectations.
A First Day to Never Forget
Several years go, I experienced the onboarding from hell…I was excited to start my first day at my new job, a great professional position. I had interviewed with the CEO and territory management and was looking forward to meeting the rest of the team. I arrived at 8:30 sharp, as instructed, and waited…and waited…I thought they opened at 8:00, but no one was at the front desk.
Eventually, someone came out and I excitedly introduced myself, informing her it was my first day in my new position. How happy I was to meet her! She looked at me confused and said she hadn’t heard they filled the position.
She walked me to the office that she felt was most likely to be mine. She told me to take a seat while she found someone who might know who I was. For the next hour, people whispered and glanced over at me like a spectacle at the county fair.
After the hour, a woman came over to me, introduced herself, and told me she will take responsibility for showing me around since she used to have my job…she was demoted from it!
I was introduced to the staff by the person I was replacing. The awkwardness was overwhelming to me and those who met me, but the person doing the introductions, she seemed to feel a sense of sweet revenge. It became apparent she enjoyed my suffering.
I was then showed back to the abandoned office that was to be my new space, still filled with unfiled papers, personal items, and frankly a giant mess.
NEVER EVER ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN TO YOUR PEOPLE!
It is incredibly important to set the right tone and expectations from day one. More so, having a thoughtful plan for someone eases stress and allows for the onboarding to be efficient and effective so your new hire has everything they need to be successful.
Step One: Make an Announcement
This can be as simple as an email announcing who is starting, some background, and their new role. If emailing, a photo is great so people recognize your new team member. Being greeted as, “Hi, are you Mandy our new sales rep.?” feels far better than, “Excuse me, can I help you find someone?”
Many companies will call an all-hands meeting, rather than send an email.
Step Two: Have a plan for the first day, at least.
The benefit of announcing a new hire in person is being able to then set a plan for the first day/week for the new hire. You can schedule team meetings, lunches, training, resource materials, workspace, etc all in one meeting. By collaborating, the group is working together to create the experience and taking a degree of ownership for the new person’s success.
Step Three: Pick Mentors Wisely
Assign appropriate mentors throughout the onboarding experience so your new hire has guidance on what they are focusing on each day and who to ask questions to. This also gives a great opportunity for your new hire to learn organizational structure.
Say you are onboarding a new sales person for a software company…assign mentors from different departments. Allow your sales person to spend time with your top sales rep, their new manager, the R&D department, customer support, etc. Let that person spend the first week understanding your business as a whole, as well as meeting teams beyond his or her own.
Step Four: Have the Workspace READY!
Please please please do NOT give someone a desk still filled with the previous person’s stuff, especially if that person was fired. Not only does this send the wrong message to your new hire, but you are now giving them the first task of cleaning up a mess rather than learning what they need for success.
Get the workspace cleaned and set-up with basic office supplies. Little things like buying some new stuff makes people feel valued. Give your new hire a new, fresh box of pens with a new clean mouse pad rather than some food stained thing that was there before. Even better, have a welcome basket of company swag!
Step Five: Have the Resources Ready
If your company has manuals, phone extension lists, password lists, acronym lists, or other resources, DO NOT make your new hire hunt this stuff down. Have it ready to go either printed and bound or on a flash drive. If you don’t know what this person will need, talk to someone in a similar role.
Your new hire could go months wasting time because they didn’t know a guide already existed.
Step Six: Give the Team(s) Time
So many companies cringe at the idea of a company-sponsored social event. Time away from productivity and the expense of food and drinks. But this small expense will pay off in the long run. Your new hire will learn the team faster. This allows them to build trust and feel more comfortable asking for help. The $300 you pay in food will easily be less than the payroll hours wasted by someone trying to figure it all out alone.
As well, you are creating comradery among your entire staff. This promotes a happier, healthy team who are more likely to stay long term because they simply like where they work.
Onboarding Strategy establishes the foundation for success.