Last week we welcomed our newest employee, Rebecca Porter, to Chaloner and we decided to share some useful information about bringing on new staff. Too often the onboarding process is overly formal or a rushed afterthought (19% of companies have no process in place at all). A comprehensive approach is more effective in reducing turnover and accelerating your employee to full speed on the job. We reached out to Chris Coffin, Principal of CC Consulting, LLC for his thoughts on the topic. He says, “The objective of the onboarding process should be to delight, embrace and welcome the new employee in a way that makes a lasting impression of being fully engaged and truly finding a new professional home.”
Some believe the onboarding process starts as early as when you begin recruiting for a position. The more you keep your employer brand consistent with the information you make available to candidates on the website and throughout the hiring process, the better cultural fits you’ll attract and the less explaining you’ll have to do later on. Coffin says, “I think of onboarding in terms of pre-hire, Day One, Week One, Month One and first year activities. Having a list of standard orientation activities for each time period provides a welcoming blueprint for successful engagement.” You might consider sending out the handbook and paperwork ahead of time so that stuff doesn’t consume the first day. Some hiring departments prepare videos and other digital tools to introduce the key leaders, history and values of the organization.
Those values are a key part of content worth communicating during this period. The term onboarding suggests the experience of a sailor being pulled onto a ship and no matter how good he is at rigging, the sailor will be pretty useless if he doesn’t know which way the ship is headed. A united sense of purpose is so important to executives at Zappo’s that their new employees undergo a five-week course on the company values and at the end anyone who does not feel they belong is offered $2,000 to leave. This is not just about the company’s ideals but the reason they matter and how an individual can find purpose therein. Every new Apple employee receives an email on their first day: “People don’t come here to play it safe… They want their work to add up to something. Something big. Something that couldn’t happen anywhere else. Welcome to Apple.” What can you do to ignite a sense of purpose early on?
But of course, not much will be accomplished by an employee who doesn’t know where the copier is or how to get into the parking garage. “Remember that first day of school when you were the new kid on the block?” Coffin reminds. “The feeling is about the same. Put yourself in the new employee’s position and think about what would make that experience most comfortable and welcoming for you.” Don’t overlook those items you don’t have to think about anymore. Making the employee feel comfortable in the physical space, with the technology, and with daily procedures will go a long way in hastening their transition.
Make the Introduction
It shouldn’t be on the new employee to tell everyone who they are and what they’ll be doing at the company. Certainly, the follow through to invest in relationships with their colleagues must come from the new hire but do what you can to facilitate social introductions. Many companies will put a welcome flag or different colored nametag on a new employee’s desk to encourage other staff to say hi or you might consider seating them in a high traffic area of the office. Consider using software like Lunch Roulette, which matches employees from different departments to have lunch together.
Get Them Going
Coffin suggests, “Think of the new hire as your most important client.” The approach to each new hire should be somewhat customized; by teaching them personally, you send a message that they and their work are highly valued. It helps to give them a project early on and to come alongside them so that they feel a sense of purpose from the get. At Rover.com, a dog boarding site, they have their new developers updating the website on their first day. A thoughtful onboarding process need not necessarily mean postponing the work at hand.
Continue to evaluate the new employee experience at your organization and pay attention to signs of their progress and comfort level. “Turn ‘they’ into ‘we,’ Coffin says. “You’ll know you’re done when the new hire regularly refers to the company as ‘we’ instead of ‘they.’”
To inquire about Chris’s services, he may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chaloner, founded in 1979 as Chaloner Associates, is a national executive search firm that focuses on recruiting mid- to senior-level communications, public relations, marketing and investor relations professionals.