Onboarding of new employees should be a process, not an event. It starts when the new employee walks in the front door and doesn’t end until they are fully integrated into the company. New employee orientation, no matter how well done, is only one small part of the process.
Successful onboarding starts with what the employee already knows. What do they need to know next to be successful? Initially, this will be very basic stuff like the location of bathrooms and when pay day is. Orientation sessions can cover this, in addition to the usual paperwork and tour of the work place. Introduce the company’s mission, but don’t expect a new employee to retain it yet; they are still trying to figure out the break room’s unwritten rules.
In the first few days, think about the critical relationships they need to develop and introduce them to these key people: teammates, resource providers, supervisor. How do they get the supplies they need? Who is their contact for IT questions? Also introduce them to your company’s culture. How is professional behavior defined in this company culture? How do they get help?
As they orient within the building and job, employees will need to know more complex things and be prepared for the bigger picture. This is the time to go over the company’s mission again and how it applies to their job. Who are their customers, internal or external? Where do they fit in the overall process? How do they get feedback to improve?
One of the best ways to help new employees with the questions that come up over time is to give them a peer mentor, someone they don’t report to and can feel comfortable asking the trivial-sounding questions that make things so much easier. A peer mentor can help new employees acclimate to the company culture more quickly and help them navigate the unwritten rules of behavior in the break room or with supervisors.
Give new employees a chance to contribute immediately. Find a way for them to accomplish something in the first 30 or 60 days; set some manageable goals for them, even if it is just training. Make an effort to find out their skills and interests and see if you can make use of any of them. Making a meaningful contribution is one of the most compelling reasons to stay with a company, so make it easy for new employees to fall in love with your company.
Thanks to Paul Bentley for a great presentation!