We all have felt that mixture of anticipation, excitement, and anxiety as we start a new job. We wonder, what’s the new place going to feel like? What will my responsibilities be? Who will my coworkers be and what will they be like? Will there be donuts?
There’s another set of feelings, though, that some of us have had the unfortunate experience of feeling. You show up to a new job knowing nothing more than the time and place to show up. You get there, and you’re parked in a cubicle and told to watch training videos for 3 days straight. You meet no one you’ll be working with, and when you finally do get to start your ‘real job,’ you’re seen as more of a burden than a coworker. The fact is, sometimes potential great employees are turned into bad (or sad) employees because we set them up for failure from before they walked in the door.
Let’s look at some things that will help you ensure that your new employees have a great onboarding experience—which will translate into a better company culture and more satisfied customers.
1. HAVE AN ONBOARDING PLAN
Let’s picture the scene. It’s 2nd grade. Recess. Bobby brought a football. He runs out to the grass and throws the ball to a group of kids standing by the swings. Addie catches the ball, but before she could throw it back, Chris grabs the ball and takes off running. Before you know it, he’s being chased by a pack of children (including a very angry Addie) down the field. Oh the humanity! The bedlam! Before it’s over, there’s 8 jammed fingers, 7 muddy jeans, 6 kids hurumphing, and 5 crying kids.
What turns this scene around is a coach stepping in with a plan. 2nd grade playground football doesn’t turn into high school state champion football because of puberty and extra hamburgers. It happens because someone in authority put together a plan and got a team (including new players at least once a year) on the same page going the same direction with the same goal in mind.
If you have any kind of oversight over new employees, you can’t wait for them to suddenly become part of the team. And you can’t wait for their first day walking through the door, either. You need to start implementing your plan before they ever enter the workplace.
Starting the onboarding process before their first day helps the new hire get a leg up. Instead of spending their first days filling out paperwork and watching orientation videos, they can be building relationships and getting a foothold.
Paperwork can be done before they come in that first day. W-4s, I-9s, and E-Verify are important—and you should be sure it’s part of your plan. But can these kinds of details be accomplished before they start? It’s worth considering!
Also, before the new hires start is the time to prepare their future co-workers for the new addition. Helping define roles and responsibilities, answering questions, and allaying fears is an important part of the onboarding process. Don’t leave this part of your plan out!
2. PROACTIVELY FACILITATE CONNECTIONS AND NEW RELATIONSHIPS
A big problem a lot of new employees experience in their onboarding process is that they feel like a second class citizen. They’ve been separated from the pack. So be sure during those crucial first hours and days that they are able to meet with coworkers, supervisors, managers, and even the owner/CEO. This will help them navigate their role in the workplace and feel like part of the tribe.
Another important way to help a new hire feel like part of the team is to assign them a mentor. Having a more tenured employee come along beside a new hire to provide guidance and direction can expedite the onboarding process and assimilation into work culture.
And most importantly—keep it fun! If your onboarding process has some slow spots (which of course it will), break it up with some fun interactions with the team. Create space for “get-to-know-you” conversations and social interactions. In doing so you’ll be building a strong corporate culture where everyone benefits when new people are added to the team.
3. BE UPFRONT WITH YOUR POLICIES
Nobody likes it when expectations are not clearly communicated from the beginning. This unnecessarily fuels tension and competition that tear down the positive team culture your working to build.
First, be sure that if there is a policy, it is written down and listed with all other policies. “Unwritten” policies aren’t policies—they’re preferences, and you can’t expect new hires to fall into line with a list of preferences—at least while also expecting them to continue to be an employee.
Second, set clear expectations in the onboarding process as to what employees at your company are expected to do. This is over against what they believe or think. You can set aspirational goals as to thoughts and beliefs—but you’ll find it difficult to determine when expectations have been met. Instead, focus your policies on actions and you’ll find that employees will be happier and new hires will feel like they’re playing ball on an even playing field.
Thirdly, roles and responsibilities should be clearly outlined for new hires (assuming it’s already been done for old hires) so they know the boundaries of their job—not overstepping and not underperforming. Set a clear goal and clear boundaries, and good workers will perform. Those who struggle, you now know how to help them.
4. ASK FOR THEIR FEEDBACK
Finally, be sure you give new employees time and space to give feedback. Yes, onboarding is mainly monological—you speaking into their lives what they need to know about working for your company. But you miss out on a great opportunity if you don’t make your onboarding dialogical—helping them get on board with your company, but also hearing from them what they can bring to the table (as well as what they feel has been missing from the onboarding process). Even the most process-driven, logical thinker and trainer can assume steps in the onboarding process that new employees need to have dictated to them.
So do your homework and nail down your processes. Communicate early and often, but don’t forget to ask for feedback along the way. . This will lead to happy employees as they know they are being heard and not taken for granted.
WE CAN HELP
You shouldn’t feel like you’re alone in the onboarding game! We’ve helped a lot of companies set up their processes and know what it takes to refine your onboarding system. Give us a call and we’ll listen to what your needs are, then help you make a plan. Pass us the ball!