It’s Monday morning and the first day for a new management trainee. The understandably apprehensive newbie walks into the building and immediately doesn’t know how to get to the work station. After asking a few employees, who happen to be strangers, the new employee sits down and wonders how to log on to the computer or what button to press on the telephone to get an outside line.
And these are the simple tasks. Even for the most confident person, the first day on a new job can seem pretty overwhelming. Now only does the new employee worry about making a good first impression socially, that person is faced with putting a skill set into a new environment and making it work. However, it’s really up to the company to help the new employee get acclimated and really feel “on board.”
That’s when onboarding comes into play. Good preparation for a new hire is essential. And it goes beyond introducing that new hire to cubicle mates and making sure there are enough paper clips on the newbie’s desk.
Properly acclimating a new employee requires innovative thinking that goes beyond showing where the bathrooms are located. The company has an obligation to make a good impression on the new employee. GuideStar suggests assigning a mentor to act an as immediate resource, and to give the employee an idea about the organizational goals and culture.
Getting a head start is crucial, and that means paying attention to the period between the new employee accepting the job and starting the job, Forbes says. Conversations with a boss, team members, assistants, and key clients is important. Talking with a human resources contact is a good way to identify who should be involved in these conversations.
The basics should be covered, of course, which includes stocking the work space with paper, pens, business cards, a computer, and phone, and that means making sure voicemail and email accounts are set up. It’s a waste of time for the employee to wait until someone from the IT Department goes through numerous steps to make sure the employee can even log on to the company’s home page.
Once the basics are handled, a staff member can greet the new hire and provide an office tour to meet the staff and learn where the copy machine, mailboxes, etc. are located.
Forbes has a list of mistakes leaders tend to make with new employees on the first day. A leader should avoid:
- Talking about a former company.
- Talking negatively about employees in the current company.
- Revealing too much personal information.
- Telling anything but the mildest joke.
Later in the week, the new hire can learn about how decisions are made and the specifics of expectations However, that meeting shouldn’t be too intimidating. For example, Bob Parsons, founder of GoDaddy, tells Entrepreneur that business is imperfect, with flawed people providing service to other flawed people. Since there are always things in business that can be improved, he likes to see people step up to make corrections.
It’s a good lesson that can be taught to the new employee: If something can be done better, let the proper person know. It’s a good and productive way for the employee to believe he or she really belongs and can make a difference.
GuideStar recommends the new employee create a marketing opportunity for the company by notifying professional and personal contacts of his or her new job. Within the first month, the employee also should meet with board members, partners and other important people connected with the organization.
Good employee onboarding goes beyond the first week. The company should continue to find ways to integrate the new employee into the organization. After 90 days, a supervisor can give formal feedback and, just as important, ask for feedback from the employee. The company can benefit from new ideas from fresh eyes, after all.
Forbes stresses strong teamwork during the first 100 days. This involves jump-starting organizational and strategic processes, as well as a workshop. An effective strategy is identifying and investing in an early “victory” during the first six months. When this victory is accomplished, it should be celebrated publicly to boost confidence. What new employee wouldn’t want to be honored in front of peers?
Forbes notes new employee failure almost always can be attributed to not accomplishing what needed to be accomplished, or they are a poor fit. Blame comes from both sides. However, if everyone paid attention to onboarding basics, Forbes says, the failure rate would go down. Simply getting a head start, managing the message, and building the team are effective onboarding strategies that executives shouldn’t ignore.
Not engaging in good onboarding practices leads to higher turnover and more energy wasted on training new employees over and over. By learning how to onboard, leaders can build a stronger company with more long-term and experienced employees.
What onboarding tips do you have to share?
Nathan Barton is a business adviser for a medium-sized tech company. He has traveled all around the world speaking at various business conferences, but he believes that freelancing is the best way to spread his knowledge.
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