If you work in HR, you’ll have been on both sides of the on-boarding fence. You’ve been hired and done the hiring, but you’ll know that, depending on the business for which you work, neither scenario can be a particularly nice place to be.
Think of the new jobs you’ve started where you were thrust into a room full of people you’d never met before, plonked at your desk, given a couple of manuals relating to the tools you’ll be using and left to work it all out for yourself.
Wasn’t much fun, was it?
Now consider those new hires you’ve been tasked with brining on board, albeit via methods which feel archaic and devoid of having the employee or employer’s best interests at heart.
That wasn’t much fun either, was it?
Common mistakes made in the above scenarios have led to on-boarding processes being feared and seen as nothing more than inconveniences that must be navigated. This doesn’t work for anyone, and will only ever result in a disengaged new employee and stressed-out HR team that has to deal with the eventual fall out.
So, what’s the solution? How do you create an employee on-boarding process that everyone loves? Do you turn to expensive consultants, or hire people in specifically for the task of showing new employees the ropes?
If you’re considering either of those options – stop, straight away. There’s a solution to this conundrum and, believe it or not, we’ve managed to break it down into just five simple principles that will help any organisation create an on-boarding process that is neither feared nor loathed.
1. Start the process before the employee starts
Chasing your tail in business is never a good thing, no matter the job in hand, but when the job in question relates to easing a new member of staff into the business, being unprepared is nothing more than a recipe for disaster.
This is a common mistake, too, and a very easy one to make. The working week is a very busy place to be and when you have to-do lists, emails and employee requests coming out of your ears, a new starter has little chance of gaining the full attention they deserve.
To negate this, start the on-boarding process earlier – much earlier. Once a job description has been written and advertised, start thinking about how the successful candidate will be inducted into the business. What tools will they need, who can best help them out during the first few weeks and which mundane procedural-based stuff do they need to be made aware of straight away?
Create workflows including a series of standard emails and procedural content that can be called upon whenever such people start. Ready the staff with whom the new starter will be working and encourage them to prepare in advance for their arrival.
The more prepared you are, the more pleasurable the induction will be for everyone.
It’s good to have friends in business, which is why one of the most common questions asked at employee reviews remains “do you have a friend at work?”.
New employees should be given the chance to latch onto someone for their first few weeks in the firm. A friend is most certainly needed during those tentative steps into a new career, and from HR’s perspective, if you can find a buddy for a new starter, they’ll only have one point of contact for any queries or concerns. That should result in fewer direct queries to deal with on your part.
The friend in question doesn’t need to be an expert in the business, and doesn’t necessarily have to be within the same department, either – they just need to be personable, approachable, experienced and willing to help new people come on board.
You might want to consider some sort of employee directory where employees can upload their photo and even include information on their hobbies, interests and so on – this is a great way of letting the new employee get to know a little about the people they will be working with at their own pace.
3. Don’t overdo it if you’re a small business
It may be tempting to lean on the advice offered by the gurus within your sector when it comes to on-boarding, but in doing so you may inadvertently build a process that is far too big for your organisation.
If you run a small business, you don’t need a colossal on boarding process. In your company, any issues should present themselves relatively quickly, which is why techniques employed by large corporations simply won’t be appropriate. In their world, they need to undertake precise reviews and data mining in order to spot displeasure among new employees. In your world, regular meetings with new employees will be far more effective – and less time consuming.
Which brings us onto our next point…
4. Don’t be afraid to ask new starters what they think
What use is an on-boarding process if it doesn’t evolve (see point 5) and adapt to the changing requirements and beliefs of the next generation of employees?
The problem is, if you create a process and then stick to it for years, it’ll quickly go out of fashion and become irrelevant, and it’s for this reason that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask new employees what they think of the on boarding process.
The answers you get won’t always be easy to hear; none of us enjoy receiving criticism, after all, and some people aren’t always that gentle in their delivery of it. However, they will help inform future iterations of the on-boarding process and enable you to create one that remains relevant and of benefit to everyone involved.
To do this, you can stage regular, short update meetings with new members of staff. Ask them how they felt on their first day, whether or not they’re getting on with their ‘friend’ (see point 2) and if they’ve come across any bumps in the road that could do with being ironed out.
Alternatively, you might want to consider sending an online survey (anonymously if you wish) to get their feedback – employees are more likely to give candid feedback if they feel there will be no negative implications for them as a result of doing so.
Ask how they’d improve the process, too – they might have some great ideas, and in doing so, you’ll demonstrate that you care about their welfare – a sure-fire way to begin building a solid bond with the employee in question.
5. Evolve, evolve, evolve!
Yesterday’s new recruits are the business’s future managers and leaders – never forget that. This is a primary reason the on-boarding process should consistently evolve; it needs to move with both the times and the people that flow through it.
It’s easily forgotten that the initial experiences offered by the company and the way in which new skills are taught will trickle down as those new employees become old hands. They’ll pass on their initial experiences of working for the business to future colleagues and people who start after them. If they have a bad first few weeks at the company, there’s a very good chance they’ll share it with their colleagues (new and old).
You only get one chance to make a great first impression and develop employees so that they all share a common vision. Don’t mess it up!
New people need to be eased in slowly. The old adage ‘into the frying pan’ isn’t particularly helpful, nor is it a good tactic when bringing on new employees. Throwing people into the thick of it straight away might be a good training exercise, but in order to get someone off to the best possible start, they need to be treated relatively gently.
The first impression offered by a business will largely dictate whether or not the employee in question develops that all-important emotional connection with the organisation early on – something that is a lot harder to do further down the line.
We’ve only discussed five on-boarding techniques in this post. There are plenty more, which we will doubtless cover in the future, but we believe we’ve picked out the five that can be applied to businesses of all sizes and which are perfectly attuned to the new generation of employees.
Starting a new job should be fun for both the employee and employer. Avoid making it a chore by following our advice above – you won’t regret it.