Done well, it can be one of the best things to happen to your business.
Done poorly, it can result in high turnover, major expenses, and having to start over from the beginning.
I’m talking, of course, about onboarding a new employee. With one-third of employees leaving a job within the first six months, turnover is an issue no matter what your industry may be.
You hire new employees because you want to grow your business and make your life easier. But the onboarding process is fraught with obstacles and unseen challenges, many of which are self-inflicted. You need to know how to onboard a new employee in a way that achieves the following:
Making your employee feel welcome
Getting your employee up and started with training and working as soon as possible
Building a positive team culture at your business
Fortunately, the process is simpler than you might imagine.
The Onboarding Process Starts Even Before a New Hire
This sounds like homework – and in a way, it is. But if you can understand that the onboarding process begins even before the new hire, you’ll have a head start.
Why start the onboarding process before the hire? In one article, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) argued fit often matters more than skill. This is usually logic that’s applied to managers – who need to fit more than they need specific skills – but it can be applied in other areas as well:
Make your company culture clear from the very beginning – i.e., during the interview process. You don’t want there to be any surprises about your expectations.
Follow up on evaluations you use during the interview process. Coca-Cola, for example, requires its in-house recruiters to report on how well their employees have been performing after placement.
From the interviewee’s perspective, these processes can be frustrating – they figure they’ll be adaptable just as soon as they get the job.
But from the perspective of the person cutting the checks, onboarding begins not with the hire, but with the expectations established from the very beginning.
Standardize the Process
I know – “process standardization” sounds like corporate-speak that will simply result in HR bureaucracy.
But according to HBR, Emily Burns (who worked in HR for Ruan Transportation Management Systems) the problem with her company’s onboarding practices is that they were too informal.
What did Burns do? She created a checklist for managers to go through with every single new hire. She laid out all of the new hire documents in a shared file with the company. She outlined what files needed to be used on what day, and in what order. Her tasks, complying with the tip above, began 14 days ahead of the new hire’s arrival.
The results? Decreased turnover – and the employees were able to start training and/or contributing on the first day. That’s corporate bureaucracy done right.
Create an Onboarding Checklist for HR
If you want to follow in Burns’ footsteps and standardize your onboarding process, it helps to know exactly what you’ll need to include.
Think about it from the employee’s perspective. What will they need to get started?
A functional workspace with a computer, the appropriate software, and a company log-in.
A phone system, ready for voicemail installation.
An email address and office stationery, such as business cards.
Employee information, including their specific job expectations, benefits, and the ability to set up direct deposit via payroll.
A contact within your company they can work with if they have any questions.
A basic schedule for the first week.
If it sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. The good news is that a standardized onboarding process like the one Burns created will make this automatic every single time you make a new hire. Stick to the same software and vendors and you can prepare an employee’s onboarding program before it’s time for lunch.
Don’t Overwhelm Your New Employee With Too Many Responsibilities at Once
Let’s say you hire a software engineer or a customer service representative. Their job is clear, and you wouldn’t ask them to take on the responsibilities of a completely different department, would you?
So why are you asking them to be their own HR representative?
“People are very excited and quite vulnerable when they take new jobs, so it’s a time in which you can have a big impact,” says Michael Watkins, author of The First 90 Days, as quoted to HBR. Why would you want your employee handling something as trivial as business cards for themselves? Their time can be better spent getting acquainted with your company, training, or even contributing.
Observe FAQ For Future Employee Handouts
A handy guide at Constant Contact makes an intriguing recommendation – one that you can begin implementing as soon as you make your first hire.
It’s simple: an FAQ. Keep track of the questions your employee is asking. You can then save these questions in a document and include their answers in a pamphlet you print out for every employee. This prevents wasted time and helps you prepare a standardized onboarding process.
Meet and Get Real Feedback
You can’t assess your onboarding process until you’ve established whether it works or not. In order to do that, try setting up a six-week feedback meeting. Ask your new employee how they’re adjusting, if they have all of the resources they need, and if they have any questions for you. This shouldn’t be a job performance assessment just yet – it should simply be a way to gather feedback for the onboarding process itself.
Include this meeting in the onboarding process by scheduling it in advance on a shared company calendar. This will ensure that both parties follow up with the necessary feedback. As your company grows, you can outsource this task to HR or even a position strictly in charge of new hires – but if your company is still in startup mode, there’s no reason you can’t take a few minutes out of your day and handle it yourself.
Employee Onboarding for a Better Business
Done right, an effect onboarding process welcomes a new employee and has them moving from zero to 60 as quickly as possible. Without an onboarding process, an employee won’t only feel out of the loop – they’ll begin to wonder if they made the right decision in the first place.
Make the decision, today, to be more like the former company and less like the latter.