Regardless of your business’s size, history and industry, every one of your new employees must go through an initial learning process. Despite most people viewing this “onboarding” process as innocuous, or even trivial, it’s one of the most vulnerable periods of your hiring process. How you approach it could mean the difference between starting off your new working relationship with momentum and setting up your new employee for failure.
But how can you make your onboarding process better?
Why Onboarding Is So Important
First, let’s work to understand why onboarding is such a crucial development opportunity in the first place:
- First impressions. You may have addressed some questions and concerns in the interview process, but onboarding is the first chance your new hire has to see how your company really works. If this process is chaotic or unhelpful, you could scare them away.
- Retention. A good onboarding program can help ensure your employees stick with you. According to Wasp Barcode, employees who go through a structured onboarding program are 58 percent more likely to stay with a company for three years or more.
- Training. Onboarding often serves as a form of introductory training, which means it will affect your employees’ performances during their first several months and years.
- Consistency. If your onboarding execution is inconsistent, you could wind up with a disjointed workforce or one with multiple different sets of expectations.
How to Improve Your Employee Onboarding Process
So how can you keep your onboarding process running as smoothly as possible?
1. Have a documented plan. Even if your business only has a handful of employees and you’re just starting out, you need to have a written plan (PDF) for your onboarding process. Take the time to hash out exactly what you want to include and finalize your document. You can always add to it or adjust it over time. This way, you’ll have something consistent to follow, no matter who’s actually doing the onboarding. It will also give you a framework to improve upon as you learn which parts of your process are effective or ineffective.
2. Train your onboarders. Next, don’t let just any of your employees step up for the onboarding process. They may be eager to show off what makes your company great, but you need to make sure they’ll hit the key points you need for setting expectations, introducing the company, and establishing a foundation for future training. Try to keep one designated person in charge of onboarding if you can. That way, they can perfect their approach over time. But make sure all your onboarders are trained in the basics.
3. Start slow. There’s no better way to scare someone off than by throwing them to the wolves their first day on the job. It’s tempting to get your employees trained and ready to work as quickly as possible for productivity reasons, but it’s better if you give them a chance to warm up to their environment. Introduce things one at a time, and give them some breathing room with breaks throughout the day. Employee retention is a marathon. You don’t want to exhaust them on day one.
4. Don’t neglect the culture. According to the Association for Talent Development, company culture is one of the most important considerations for job seekers. Make sure you show yours off throughout the onboarding process, both to pique their interest and let them know what they can reasonably expect from this work environment. Allow your new hires to meet and engage with your other workers and demonstrate what kind of atmosphere you strive to maintain.
5. Open a dialogue. Much of the onboarding process is about conveying information to the new hire in a one-sided conversation. This is inevitable. However, it’s important that you spend at least some time opening a dialogue, giving your new hire the chance to make comments and ask questions. Not only will this help to clarify some points of confusion, but it will also demonstrate that you care about them as a worker. That way they aren’t just being pushed through an onboarding assembly line.
6. Keep it consistent. Finally, keep your process as consistent as possible as you execute it with more new hires. The extra practice will make you better at the process, anticipating worker needs and finding a good rhythm, and this will enable you to make small adjustments over time and measure how effective they are at improving the process. Change is good, but only when executed gradually.
If you follow these six steps, your onboarding process will instantly become smoother, more effective and better at keeping your employees productive and content with your business. There’s no way to reduce your turnover to zero, but you will find higher employee satisfaction and less time searching for new candidates overall.
New Person Photo via Shutterstock