Onboarding, training, new employee welcome—whatever you call it, welcoming new staff to your team in the right way is an important part of ensuring the people you’ve chosen not only get off to a good start, but also understand the company culture, are happy and stay longer. My experience with onboarding is mostly within the realm of student affairs (student government trainings, new member education, intern training and resident assistant training), but I’ve typically looked to the business world for inspiration and best practices.
When you supervise individuals or are responsible for their onboarding experience, it’s important to think holistically about the process. Onboarding isn’t just a single day or week, but rather what I typically view as a three-part process: laying the foundation, onsite training and continued education. By thinking of onboarding as more than just the onsite training, you can improve the experience of your new employees.
Laying the Foundation
The process of onboarding begins from the moment a candidate accepts the offer for employment with your company or organization. Just because they’ve accepted the offer doesn’t mean they won’t go somewhere else. A study by BambooHR showed that 31 percent of people have quit a job within the first six months.
Prior to an employee’s first day, be sure to provide him/her with the appropriate paperwork and documents that will introduce them to the company or organization. Although not everyone will read an employee manual from cover to cover, it’s an important document to share as early as possible, as it outlines the basic culture of the company. It will help new hires understand what is minimally expected of them.
Be sure to prepare for their first day. You don’t want to just walk them to a cubicle or empty office and say get to work. Welcome them with some of their favorite snacks, some nice company swag, etc. To you, these little touches might seem cheesy or unnecessary, but for many new hires, this sets the tone of their experience with your company. Spend the time before they arrive trying to get to know them so you can make their first day unique.
This is typically the area HR and managers are most comfortable in putting together. This is the training that occurs when new hires arrive. There are a few things you’ll need to figure out for onsite training. First, are you training a single person or a group of people? The answer to this question should change your approach to how you set up the timeline for the training.
What facets of the company and the job are essential for their first six weeks on the job? Train new hires on what is essential rather than components that are just nice to know. Will they be utilizing the database of your organization heavily and therefore need intensive training? If so, adequately plan for that.
The last question is usually how long should this process last. There really is no best answer here; you know your material and the expectations of the new hires more than I do, so do your best. Fill time, but don’t waste it.
Beyond building the schedule and training material, don’t forget the importance of helping new hires feel as though they are a part of your team in the onsite training portion. Introduce them to the rest of the team and explore assigning them a “mentor” of sorts who can help them with getting introduced to the company. Mentors should be someone new hires will interact with on a regular basis so they can begin to build strong relationships.
If I’ve learned anything from working with college students and redesigning new member education programs, it is that the learning process never ends. Just because the onsite training to get their feet wet is over doesn’t mean new hires have learned all they need to learn. As I said before, onsite training covers the essentials and minimum amount of knowledge they need to get going. You, as the manager, should continue to work closely with individuals and help them continue the learning process.
Be sure to check in on your new hires every week or two for the first few months to make sure they are doing well. Provide feedback on their work so far and give examples of how they can continue to contribute early on. Ask them what areas of the company or organization they still need to learn about or want to improve in and help them in that process. Either provide resources for them to learn or pair them with another employee who can teach them the ropes.
Provide continued education opportunities related to their area of expertise. Are you a part of a professional organization that could help them? Know of an upcoming webinar or company training they might benefit from? Let them know about these opportunities and they can decide which they want to participate in to further develop their skills.
My last word of advice is ultimately to let your employees do what you hired them to do. This doesn’t mean to take a complete hands off approach to their work, but rather tell them what you need done, and allow them to do it. When you hired them, you had the confidence in them that they could do the work you needed them to do; so train them and then get out of their way.
 Ben Peterson. (2014, June 5). What do new hires want from onboarding [Blog]. Retrieved from http://talent.linkedin.com/blog/index.php/2014/06/what-do-new-hires-want-from-onboarding-infographic