“Our onboarding process needs work”. This is one of the things I hear most often when starting work with new customers. They know onboarding is important, and that their current process isn’t quite doing what they need it to do, but it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why. Here are some common patterns when it comes to welcoming new staff, as well as how they might come to be and where to start working.
Typical example: A new employee arrives on their first day (which might or might not be a surprise to their direct manager). Apart from filling out the mandatory paperwork to ensure they get paid, there isn’t much for them to do, so they end up following a co-worker around and watching what they do.
Maybe a key piece of equipment they need isn’t ready for them yet, or their access codes haven’t been created. If new employees are finding things out by accident or by making mistakes, that’s time and effort that isn’t going into business performance. It doesn’t feel great for the new person either.
Nonboarding can be prevalent in organisations that consider themselves too small, too busy or that the role is simple/temporary enough that a formal process is not required, however having formal plans really make a difference.
A standardised onboarding process can result in:
How to start: Creating an onboarding process from scratch can be overwhelming, so why not start with just one thing? That one conversation, piece of paper or task that would have prevented the most panic later on. By ensuring that thing happens consistently, you’ve already made a difference, for yourself, the leader and the next new person to come on board.
Typical example: Excited to start their new job, an employee arrives at work, only to be handed a wad of tax forms, super choices, and code of conducts to sign. They spend the rest of their day watching corporate videos and completing online learning modules about safety in the workplace, without actually talking to their new colleagues.
Paperwork is important. It’s a simple fact of business life that forms have to get filled out to ensure people are getting paid correctly, that they’re safe in their new workplace and that they are learning what they need to know to perform their role. Unfortunately, signing forms and watching videos is rarely engaging. It doesn’t feel productive and the first day is the most important.
Effective onboarding delivers role clarity, social integration, knowledge of the company culture and confidence that they can do their new job. These outcomes are linked to increased commitment, satisfaction and retention in new employees (SHRM) There’s a finite amount of social integration and self-efficacy that can be done by filling out forms.
How to start: As much as possible, an employee’s first day should be about people, not paperwork. When planning the first day, what social interactions can you schedule? Is there anything that can be sent to the person beforehand? (This has the added benefit of filling some of that ‘radio silence’ time between offer acceptance and starting, and helps your new person to start seeing themselves as a part of the organisation).
Typical example: A new starter has three emails to respond to, as well as one hard copy form to sign and fax to head office in another state. To get a computer, they have to fill out on online request, which can only be completed on the company intranet page, however they don’t have access without a login, and that needs a call to Technology.
Onboarding process grow organically over time as processes and requirements change. A new requirement like scanning a drivers’ licence, or an extra system that needs a login gets put into place and slots into the onboarding process. Bits of old and new processes, handled in multiple places by multiple people, grow up over time. Like Frankenstein’s monster, it gets the job done (mostly), but does tend to terrify the villagers.
It’s normal for it to happen in the busyness of day to day, but those small additions pile up when there’s no time to step back and review the process as a whole. Without a central plan of attack, it’s difficult to achieve your goal of getting this new person happy and productive as quickly as possible.
How to start: Humans are very good at getting used to things, so why not get a fresh set of eyes on the case? Talk to a new person and find out what in the process they found confusing or difficult.
We all set out to welcome new employees with the best of intentions. Unfortunately, other factors get in the way and can make the process less effective. A critical review every now and then helps to keep onboarding as good as it can be, laying a solid foundation for retention, engagement and employee development.