Onboarding is the process of bringing a new hire into the game, and up to speed. Employers know that the costs of employee turnover are hefty, for all parties involved. Companies that onboard well can reduce turnover rates that occur at lower times, increase the overall productivity of the company, and help employees succeed and integrate well. Onboarding is a complex process, one that is part training and part culturalization. Onboarding best practices can help you train and integrate a variety of types of employees.
Goals for Onboarding
Why would you want to use onboarding best practices? What should your company hope to accomplish?
Off to a Good Start
First impressions are incredibly meaningful. While we all know that it’s important to represent your company well when hiring, the onboarding process is probably just as important, as an indicator of employee satisfaction and turnover rate. Get an employee off to a bad start with their work and social situation, and they might leave the job years sooner than they otherwise would have. Following the onboarding best practices as described in this article can help you prevent this from happening.
Training and Productivity
If you teach an employee to do something the wrong way, there’s a strong chance that they’ll do it the wrong way for a long time. This can cost your company efficiency, time, and resources. Training employees the right way the first time is critical, and paying keen attention to employee training is one of the most vital in the list of onboarding best practices. If a trainee knows how to do things correctly, there will never be a time when you have to teach them a new way of completing that task.
How to do Onboarding Right
Every employee is different. One of the most important principles behind onboarding best practices is the idea that good onboarding practices will change from employee to employee. Some employees will need more on-the-job training, some employees will need more oversight into the way that the company works, and some employees will need more social events, to help them make friends at work and loosen up around the edges. Creating confident, comfortable, capable employees can be difficult. Pay close attention to the way the employee is fitting in and adjusting, and change the onboarding process accordingly.
One of the key factors for productivity in a new work environment is feeling like you really fit in with the culture and have friends in the right places. Even a single friend at work can increase the chances that an employee stays long term, and is more productive.
Correct onboarding will provide opportunities for the new employee to find their social footing in a productive, healthy way. This might include things like:
- Have company events structured into work life which give employees, especially new ones, access to new kinds of friends.
- Utilize team lunches.
- Make sure to model friendship yourself. It’s important to create a culture of friendship, starting from the top down. No amount of onboarding socialization can create a friendly environment if one doesn’t already exist.
While icebreakers are often lampooned for making grown adults engage in ridiculous conversations and activities, they can be really helpful for breaking down the walls of professionalism, to get a little bit of real connection.
Unlike popular opinion might hold, the point of icebreakers is not to start conversations with people who wouldn’t have them. Icebreakers help break down the power structures. A senior-level employee who has been with the company for 20 years can be the equal of an entry-level employee on their first day, but only during an icebreaker game.
Use a great icebreaker at the right time to make a new hire feel welcome, and take advantage of holiday parties and events to get to know people.
Company culture isn’t just a list of adjectives that describe the vibes of the break room. Company culture is about who sits where in the break room, what the rules are for the coffee pot, and how the parking lot politics function. It’s important for new hires to have more than just a sense of the values with which the company likes to associate itself.
To create some training for company culture, walk through your entire day from beginning to end. Think about all the things that you do naturally and know: things that a new hire might not know. Transitioning to a new company can be difficult enough, without a long list of social faux pas committed on the first day. While the way that the fridge is used might not be company policy, it will certainly affect the way that employees fit in. If they take the wrong parking spot on their first day, that can really set them back socially.
In adhering to the onboarding best practices, anticipate these social situations. Pretend your company is a high school full of drama and rules, that the kids just “know.” While it’s certainly better than most high schools, most companies have an element of this. Helping new employees understand the rules of the school makes them more comfortable and confident, and confidence helps people find success in new and often uncomfortable places.
Training and Expectations
Training and expectations are two things that go hand in hand for the onboarding process. When you train employees, you also need to impart company expectations for the ways that they will do their job. Training without giving expectations causes employees to have no sense of direction and be underwhelmed by the job, while having expectations without training causes employees to be overwhelmed by the lack of resources. This might lead to them feeling unqualified to do the job.
Onboarding as an Employee
Employees should be aware of, and follow, onboarding best practices as well. You’ve gone through the strenuous process of looking for a job, interviewing, and landing a gig. Once you successfully find a job, it’s important to participate in all of the onboarding process. Being present and attentive for the whole process will show that you’re a team player, and ready for bigger assignments. While you might feel above the whole process, and may even have reason to think so, it’s important that you don’t ignore the entire situation. Be present, and humor whatever practices and events the company throws at you to project a positive image.
Onboarding and the Gig Economy
The gig economy has changed the nature of employment, causing new employees to have wildly different expectations for the onboarding process. Many people are used to a greater degree of autonomy in their jobs, and so making them learn new systems will require greater patience and training. When you get gig economy employees, you are generally getting people used to a higher degree of independence.
How should you onboard gig economy contractors? It can be difficult to know what steps you should take when you’re beginning a new relationship with a worker who is not a full-time employee. When you contract with a freelancer, how much information is too much information, and how much training is too much? Are there distinct onboarding best practices for gig economy employees?
It will depend on the company, and the employment situation. If you plan on having a long-term (indefinite) relationship with the employee, then you may want to give them a ton of details about the nature of your company and how it works. Remember that it can be difficult to transition from freelance to full-time. If you are hiring them for a single gig, then you may not need to give them much information. Think about the expected terms of the relationship. If the relationship will last a while, invest time and money into onboarding practices so that you’ll derive the greatest value.
Your onboarding will only be as good as the employees that you generate. Make sure to get some help with the job process to get the right kinds of candidates that can really take your company to the next level. Staffing agencies can help deliver those quality candidates.