Three Key Components of Effective Onboarding

 photo Three-Key-Components-of-Effective-Onboarding.jpg Jack listens as a company representative lectures for several hours about ABC, Inc. He leaves the meeting feeling disoriented, remembering little of what he has heard, and wishing he had gotten to know some of the other participants. Upon returning to his department, he is told by the secretary to read the Employee Handbook until his manager has some free time. Three hours later, his manager drops by his desk (which, because his own computer and telephone have not yet been set up, is actually the desk of a vacationing co-worker). Before rushing off to another meeting, his manager instructs him to sit with Jill to observe her as she performs her duties. Not only is Jill unprepared to train Jack, she isn't even aware that someone new has joined the department. Furthermore, dissatisfied with her recent performance appraisal, Jill spends more time complaining than working. At the end of the day, Jack leaves work famished because no one had invited him to lunch or even bothered to show him where the cafeteria is located.

Sound familiar?

As in any relationship, first impressions count. Unfortunately, Jack's introduction to ABC, Inc. did not set a positive tone for his career with the company. His first day was a huge disappointment; it was confusing, disorganized, and disconnected. Only hours after arriving at work so full of excitement and high expectations, he began to regret his decision to accept the position.

During the first few days on the job, a new employee seeks confirmation that joining a company was the right decision. His or her earliest interactions, therefore, are critical. First impressions, after all, are often lasting ones! Seize this chance to present your organization and department in a positive light; you otherwise run the risk of bitter staff members spreading their negativity, as illustrated by the example above. Even if Jack's experience with Jill were a pleasant one, however, his manager's failure to make time for him implies that he is neither important nor valued.

An employee is most motivated to do a good job on his or her first day. Unlike typical "veteran" employees, new hires - already in a state of transition - are generally willing to try out different behaviors as they adapt to their new environment. Onboarding, therefore, is a perfect opportunity for a company to provide employees with a clear understanding of its standards of productivity, quality, and conduct.

Effective onboarding is an ongoing process that eases a new hire's adjustment by providing the tools he or she needs in order to be successful. These tools are educational, psychological, and social in nature.

  • Educational tools, which prevent misunderstandings by communicating consistent and accurate information, include knowledge about the company, its policies and procedures, organizational structure, and the employee's specific job functions. Many onboarding programs focus on these elements at the exclusion of the others.

  • Psychological tools, which ease the anxiety associated with being the "new kid," include a warm and sincere welcome, communicating what is expected of him or her, and expressing confidence in his or her ability to perform well and make a valuable contribution to the company.

  • Social tools, which promote the feeling of "fitting in," include facilitated interaction with individuals both inside and outside the new hire's work group. If the company offers opportunities to get together in a non-work setting - such as a softball team or events planning committee - new hires should be made aware of them during their orientation.

Well-planned onboarding shortens the learning curve, increases productivity, reduces errors, facilitates compliance with company policies and procedures, improves job satisfaction and retention, and promotes communication between manager and staff.

While completing required paperwork is a necessary part of an individual's first few days on the job, be sure this is not the focus of your program. Instead, place the emphasis squarely on the employee. Convey information that will help the new hire perform his or her job more effectively, anticipate and address his or her concerns, and communicate your willingness to answer questions as they arise. Above all, make the experience enjoyable and memorable, while instilling a sense of pride to be a member of your team!

Copyright Christina Morfeld. Reprinted with permission.

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