Here’s a crazy idea. Neglecting your new employee onboarding program after you’re done recruiting is more or less like what Bush did in Iraq in 2003: going in and not having a plan for what happens next. Or else, you’ll end up with the 2016 Brexit scenario: they’ll ask to get out before you even know it.
But, seriously, now. You’ve spent a lot of time and money investing in the recruitment process and picking out the best and brightest of them all. How wise would it be to now risk the cost of losing them?
Yes, you ‘read’ me well. According to a Bersin by Deloitte study, 4% of new hires quit after a disastrous first day, while 22% of turnover happens within the first 45 days. Onboarding matters.
And it matters not only because, as the people at Wynhurst Group show, employees are 58% more likely to remain in the organization after 3 years if onboarding is done right. It also matters because not doing it right costs you some USD 37 billion/year, says IDC. That’s only counting the costs incurred as a result of your employees’ lack of understanding of “company policies, business processes, job function or a combination of the three.”
So, all in all, human resources management knew something when it came up with onboarding – the way to shrink the time it takes for a new employee to reach his or her full potential. Not to mention it reduces costs associated with learning on the job, saves co-workers and line managers time and it makes the new hire feel valued and excited to be there, in the first place.
But here’s the catch. It’s not all that easily done.
Nowadays, onboarding is more than just orientation or introducing the company. The big guys in the business, such as LinkedIn, are making it into a real experience for their new hires.
LinkedIn’s Jason Weeman and his team won a bronze Brandon Hall award for the Best Onboarding Program, in 2014, having led around 220 introduction sessions for 2800 employees worldwide.
Onboarding is now a multi-faceted approach that begins well before the first day on the job and which is best done as a highly individualized process, all in all.
Here’s how you can do it in style (read: so your employees don’t bail out the morning after).
Make it personal. A lot of people are now calling for a personal identity socialization for the new hire. Historically, employee individuality and their signature strengths have been pretty high up there, but this has not covered the onboarding process as well. Don’t waste any chances making your new additions to the team feel they truly are special and motivated from the get-go. Go on treating them like the valuable assets that you saw in them, when you were still courting them for recruitment. For starters, simply ask them – either in session or after, through a short questionnaire – how distinctive they felt throughout the onboarding process. Feedback is something you would have asked for either way. So why not make it about them, instead, and show them you really care?
Wipro, a call-center based in India, conducted a research whereby they divided new hires into 3 groups: one where onboarding focused on individual identity, one where it focused on organizational identity and one where no talk of identity was had – the control group. Results showed that those in the control group scored a 50% higher turnover than those in the individual identity one. Moreover, employees in the individual identity group also reported a higher customer satisfaction during the first 7 months on the job. All of this was done through a simple change in their onboarding processes: the two groups that focused on identity had an extra hour-long session where they discussed their main strengths, what they could bring to the job or how their personal identity mingled with the organizational one.
Start before Day 1. Why wait for the new employee’s first day to shower them under with all the paperwork and info you could possible think of? There’ll be plenty of pressure on their shoulders, as it is. Your job is to make that smooth for them and ensure it becomes a worthwhile experience. So, before they cross your doorstep, sign them up for your learning management system tool, or whichever internal communication app you use. Then send them straight out a message from the CEO, in video form. Make it personalized. Get the CEO to not only speak briefly about the company mission, vision and values, but also about that employee was chosen, what was it the company saw in them. Chances are, on your first CEO session during the onboarding, there will be several other new hires in the room. So this is your chance to make it special for each and every one of them before they’re even there!
Coordinate to facilitate. When a new person joins the team, a lot of departments will have a little bit to chip in with. Instead of having them all jump on the person on the first day, get them to funnel info via the app at pre-scheduled times and dates. That way, your new hire will have a clear calendar of when they’ll be dealing with whom and they’ll be able to properly take in all the info they’re given. Use this for legal paperwork, handbooks, benefits packages, etc. And, as a bonus, use this same medium to push notifications to the IT department for when the laptop or phone of your new employee need to be configured!
Introduce yourself at every step. Of course you will not miss an opportunity to tell the new person more about the other employees and company culture even before they start. Chances are, they are pretty excited – and you need to keep those excitement levels up! Feed them regular videos, podcasts, or employee testimonials about the company and what working there means. They’ll feel they get an insider’s perspective and that they are, indeed, stepping into a family.
Foot Levelers, makers of chiropractic products, have every person joining the team watch Rudy, the 1993 inspirational football drama. It’s a rite of passage that also perfectly showcases what the company is all about.
All the necessary evils. At some point during onboarding, you’ll have to discuss performance appraisal systems and how evaluation is done. Nothing is worse than having a person not know what criteria they’re judged by, in their work. So instead of having them frustrate in confusion, set the records straight from the very beginning. It’ll show you as a professional and very dedicated company and it’ll set their benchmarks up front. That way, when you set objectives and KPIs together, they’ll know where you’re coming from. Take the occasion of doing this also pre-Day 1. How a company evaluates its employees most often also defines its values and what it stands for.
Day 1 Bonanza. Many new hires questions their decision to change companies by the end of day 1 on the new job. Don’t be in those shoes! It’s quite odd that we only celebrate people when they leave a job. Instead, why not make Day 1 of a new hire a celebration in itself? Throw a welcome party for them, give them a thoughtful and inspiring letter from the CEO, or simply a t-shirt just like all the other department members have. Go the extra mile, even, and have a welcome dinner on their first week, where spouses and family is invited. If that won’t get them all pumped up for the foreseeable future, nothing will!
Key moments: First day Lunch. For a lot of employees, old and new ones included, lunch is usually designated as a socializing and bonding time. Your new hire will probably be under quite some stress, trying to figure out where to go for lunch or who they can hang out with. Sort that out for them by having their line manager take them our to lunch first and then having department coworkers reserve time to take lunch with the new person regularly within the first few weeks. If you’re welcoming a batch of new hires, then set up a table especially for them! It’ll be way easier for them to bond, given that they’re all new to the place.
At LinkedIn, Jason and his team prepare a special table for new hires in the canteen. They decorate it with balloons in company colors and mark it out especially as the new employee table.
Key people: The Buddy/ Mentor. This is absolutely crucial. Your new employees will be eager to impress their new manager and/or colleagues. They’ll be at pains to figure out their way around the office in the first few days. But you can solve all of that by pairing them up with a buddy or a mentor, at least for their first month. Provide a context for them to be in constant communication and make sure the newbie knows who their go to person is, in case of need. Take this chance to also turn it more widely into a mentorship program. Have the buddy or mentor monitor the new hire’s experience and offer feedback regularly, as well as collect feedback through quizzes and questionnaires. Have them set up timelines and objectives for the first month’s workload and then check-in with both of them regularly to see how it goes.
At Citymax.com, a build-your-website service in Canada, new people always start on Fridays, because work is less hectic and that gives colleagues time to introduce themselves and socialize.
Key places: The Workstation. Nothing says more ‘We value you’ than welcoming a new employee with a top-notch workstation. And no, that doesn’t mean acquiring new equipment or having professional artwork done. It simply means taking care that their laptop and phone are configured, email accounts set up, software up to speed and, ideally, there’s also a stack of business cards ready for them. Apart from these, your new employee will need a copy of an organizational chart, a staff list, and a phone directory. If you don’t want them to receive an entire encyclopedia’s worth of paper, then adapt these for the mobile version and have it sent out to them via your internal communication app.
Key actions: Constant Feedback. Start asking for feedback from day 1. Send out a questionnaire to all new employees asking them how they each would like to be managed, what they react to best and what would make them most productive. This will be a first-step in a get to know each other phase that begins as soon as they cross your doorstep and continue throughout, at least, the first 3 months. Feedback will also allow you to keep track of their first steps in the company. It will accompany and complete that occasional check-in by their desk, that ‘Hey, how’s it going?’. So long as they feel they are being regularly asked for their opinions, thoughts, and feelings – and that their answers really make a difference – there is nothing to worry about. You will know exactly how to tailor their initial experience with the company and they will feel truly welcome in the team. Include all sorts of questions in the feedback forms and send these out in digital form so you don’t overcrowd them with paperwork. Some examples are: questions about the recruiting process, how the first day went and what would have made it better, how they’re getting along with the team and if they feel they have all the resources they need to do their job. As time goes by, start asking them bigger questions, like how they see their role within the organization and what strategic goals they aim for, in the next 6 months.
The bespoke training schedule. Take these first few days to also set up a bespoke training schedule that answers their needs. This will also help plan out their path within the company and it will clarify their development path, so they feel motivated to deliver and perform. Use your learning management system to push notifications on deadlines or check progress with them. Of course, everyone will be happy to get benefits and other perks. But investing in their training while also explaining why and how that fits in with the company vision will make all the difference in the world!
Make stuff fun. Get people to sit through endless PowerPoint presentations about the company and you’ll lose them within seconds! If you’re planning to say Hi to a batch of new hires, mix info about the company with fun team building exercises. Of course, these could be competitions and contests that relate to the values of the company. That way you present some heavy stuff in a way that sticks. Team building activities help people relax and enjoy themselves. And what they’ll associate with that familiar, homey environment is none other than your company and your brand, as an employer!
LinkedIn employees are asked to fill in some sticky notes with their names and professional headlines, as well as an interesting personal fact about themselves. This always helps lighten up the atmosphere right from the start!