Understanding Onboarding: Helping Your New Employee Find Their Forever Home

During new employee one-to-ones I ask the employees how their Onboarding process went. I often clarify that I do not mean the handbook review, the paperwork, or even the facility tour – I mean the first 30 days in general. The fact that I have to explain what I mean is enough to show me that companies may not have fully grasped the concept of effective Onboarding.

‘Effective Onboarding’ are buzz words that are currently getting a lot of attention. When I ask my clients what they think it means, I typically hear inconsistent answers. They have vague ideas about how to hire people and the required HR and payroll paperwork that needs to be completed, but after that they are at a loss. Is there more? My answer – yes! Onboarding is much more than paperwork. It is an experience which sets the tone for the new employee’s employment as a whole. It is also the company’s opportunity to establish metrics, expectations, and boundaries. Additionally, it’s the perfect opportunity to remind the new employee why they chose your company to work with in the first place. You only get one shot at making a first impression.

Employee turnover is expensive. It costs money to recruit, interview, and ramp up employees. Having a high attrition of employees who don’t make it past the first three months can be a symptom of poor Onboarding processes. Here are some qualities to review when revamping your company’s Onboarding process.

People aren’t just looking for jobs. They are looking for a “forever home.” Remember my social media post about the hiring process being like the dating world? Well, there are people out there who are interviewing to find their one and only. Their “true love,” or in this case, their final job, ever. These candidates don’t enjoy being unemployed, it is far too stressful. The uncertainty of where your next rent check is coming from is never fun. Then they have to go about proving that they are worthy to the company bringing them on. I have seen several social media posts lately showing various interview and job offer nightmares (and not just clips from The Office, but real companies and the questions people have been asked). Let’s add to the new employee’s stress the process of landing an interview, nailing that interview, and then getting hired. Here is how you, as an employer, can help the anxious candidate know your company is a good fit:

  1. Instead of creating a “job” for incoming employees, help them create a “career.” Offer a living wage and benefits. Things like consistent hours, a growth plan, and built-in wage progression, can show applicants and entering employees that they are worth your time, your effort, and your financial investment. This shows the newbie they can be comfortable in their position and can plan to stay a while. Someone who can’t afford their rent is not going to stay with your company. Show them they are valued from the start and show them that they can build a career with your company.
  2. Work culture can be a big factor in employee turnover. Sometimes people just can’t work together, this is a fact of life. A manager may have a different managerial style than an employee can handle or is used to. There may be office politics that are distasteful to the new employee. One way to help flush out these issues before the employee ever starts is to have the employees socialize beforehand. Have them meet for lunch as a group, have them come to a company event, or have them shadow someone before they ever even accept the position. If your goal is to utilize their talents, the fact they don’t mesh in one team doesn’t mean you have to fire (or not hire) them. Shift them to a different manager or employee group. Don’t waste good talent by giving up too easily on an applicant.
  3. Have strong job descriptions that are accurate. So many times people are hired as a receptionist and then end up being given the “account manager” job for which they have not been trained. That can lead to new employees getting overwhelmed and overworked in ways that they aren’t ready for. It seems like an obvious statement, but you would be surprised how many of my interviews involve people saying they left a job because they ended up with a multitude of duties they didn’t want and weren’t hired or trained to do.
  4. Help them settle in by providing a single point of contact for them. Have you ever started a job with a company, walked in the first day, and had someone give you something to do that you have never done before? You sit there all day and struggle with the task and leave the first day feeling heart broken, frustrated, and disillusioned. Instead, have clear guidelines that instruct employees on exactly what their job requires. Have a plan to get them started their first day. If they are answering phones, then provide them with a script, an extension list for transfers, and an answer form for the most common questions asked over the phone. Stop relying on managers to know what to do with new employees and customize those job descriptions and their first day tasks for that employee. Assign them a mentor to help guide them. It’ll only take a few minutes of time and can go a long way at building trust with that new employee.
  5. Be accommodating to “life” while they get adjusted. New jobs mean new hours, new bosses, new coworkers, new commute, new lunch arrangements, new wardrobe requirements, new everything. Try to remember that your new employee has an “old” life that they need to attend to as well. Trying to navigate so many changes at once and juggling their existing life can get complicated. Schools will still call and ask for a sick kid to get picked up, kids still need to get to school, spouses still have cars that die and need help. Life still happens. Be understanding and flexible with your new employees as they settle into their new career with your company. Showing understanding at the beginning helps employees work out the kinks in their life and makes them feel valued in their new position.

Onboarding is a process that encapsulates the first 30 days of new employment, minimum. Ask yourself, what are you doing to aid your new employee in adjusting, understanding their position and expectations, and making them fall in love with your company?