How Do You Handle Onboarding of New Employees?

onboarding new employees

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The CEO and his deputy were incarcerated. They had it coming. I should have seen it coming … on Day One.

Your Business Professor was retained as a consultant for Business Development — these are code words for Sales and Marketing. However, few companies use these actual words.

Sales invokes visions of a used car salesman. And nobody knows what marketing is.

Anyway, I was preparing a seminar on sales management and followed the CEO as he greeted his three new sales hires.

The boss pointed at some desks at the end of a cubicle prairie and said, “Welcome to the company.” That was it.

No introductions. No meet-and-greet. No computers. No chairs.

This was my first clue: The Big Boss didn’t know about new employee orientation or onboarding.

He didn’t know big things, like the law.

He didn’t know little things, like welcoming new hires.

The folks in the C-suites would soon run afoul of all manner of regulatory practices, get caught, tried in a court of law, and carted off to jail.

Now, of course, no manager should be imprisoned for failing to competently run an on-boarding program. And the CEO’s failure to obey the law might not be a proxy for management failure.

Or maybe it was…

Consultant Tom Peters writes in his book “Chaos” that people must be a prime source of value-add. People, let’s not call them — us — ‘human resources,’ can never be trained or involved too much.

The employee training does not end at orienting the new guy on the points of the company compass: restroom, cafeteria, office supplies, fire escape plan. The company and the new hire need more from the new relationship.

Thomas Bateman and Scott Snell detail the new hire process in their text book, “M:Management“. They write that orientation can be explained as training that familiarizes:

“New employees with their jobs, work units, and the organization in general. Done well, orientation training can increase morale and productivity and can lower employee turnover and the costs of recruiting and training.”

Managers will use the term ‘orientation’ because ‘onboarding’ sounds too close to ‘water boarding.’ Whatever the nomenclature, a proper personal personnel introduction to the organization will reduce turnover by about a third (PDF). It makes good business sense.

A good onboarding program will cover three points: equipment, culture and check-up.

The new arrival should be outfitted with equipment and a guide.

In the Army, we would lovingly call the newbie a “turtle” because he was expected to ride the back of his mentor as he learned the ropes.

The best companies will have a bag of SWAG (Stuff We All Get) ready for welcoming the incoming employee: polo shirts with the company logo, first impressions and all that. Profiles International, a company that solves talent management challenges, suggests having a “prepared desk and equipment.”

“In addition to structure, make sure that everything — from the desk, office supplies, security badges, computer passwords, phone numbers, and access keys — are prepared for the new hire. You want them to feel at home!”

Company Culture

Culture will encompass the training and the expectations of how business gets done around here. Corporate culture training details how staff and management interact and how the organization interacts with customers and stakeholders. More important, Andre Lavoie, the CEO of Clear Company, advises that:

“New hires must understand how their daily work fits into the big picture in order to be productive and engaged. When on-boarded into a system that allows them to visualize how their projects contribute to the bigger strategic picture, it will be easy for them to hit the ground running.”

A Check-Up

A check-up should be done within 90 days to follow-up on the performance and integration of the employee with the organization. There should also be a small win; some small measurable success where the new hire can feel and demonstrate value to the team.

During this new phase of accountability, some companies go even further by going in reverse:

“Zappos’ CEO, Tony Hsieh, offers new hires a $2,000 bonus to quit after only one week on the job. Sound crazy? Maybe, but it’s much less costly to weed-out job-hoppers and the uncommitted before investing more into them. The sooner you can identify a bad investment and cut your losses, the better. Making a bad hire may be unavoidable every now and then, but the more selective you are—and the more time you take to hire — the more likely you are to avoid hiring mistakes.”

On-boarding might not create a workers’ paradise but done right can enhance the experience of joining our small businesses. This will make sure that the valued new hire stays for those critical, impressionable first days.

Boarding a Train Photo via Shutterstock

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Jack Yoest John Wesley (Jack) Yoest Jr., is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Management at The Catholic University of America. His expertise is in management training and development, operations, sales, and marketing. Professor Yoest is the president of Management Training of DC, LLC. A former Captain in the U.S. Army and with various stints as a corporate executive, he also served as Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Resources in the Administration of Governor James Gilmore of Virginia.