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There’s a reason that onboarding is such a hot topic today. After the great resignation and our slow shift out of “hustle culture,” employees and job seekers alike are starting to shift their focus.
There’s more of a demand for culture, support and guidance in the workplace than ever before. And why not? We spend almost one-third of our lives at work, so it’s about time it becomes a place we enjoy.
With that said, onboarding a new team member is your chance to make a first impression, and during that time, your new hire will decide if they want to stay with you or move on to greener pastures. Today, let’s step back and look at some common myths surrounding onboarding along with tips for making it go more smoothly.
Onboarding is more than what happens on Day One
Think of onboarding as an ongoing process, not something that is done after a series of things on a checklist are marked off as “Complete.” Many hiring managers assume that onboarding starts on the first day and ends after the prescribed pieces of training for that role have been completed.
In reality, the onboarding phase can be as long as 90 days. When we talk about onboarding, it includes not just essential functions of the job, but also cultural and organizational onboarding.
Onboarding offers an opportunity to communicate your culture
Onboarding teaches a new hire what it means to be a part of your team. Yes, you want to make sure you’re teaching your new hire everything that it means to do their job, but you also want to make sure they understand the culture of your team. Here are a few key questions:
- How are conflicts resolved?
- How would you describe your place of work/environment?
- What is your management style?
- How are expectations communicated?
- How do team members communicate issues and/or situations that need to be resolved?
- How are victories celebrated?
Learning what it means to be a part of your team will ensure that your team member understands the deeper intricacies of how your team functions.
High-performing team members don’t always make the best trainers
This is a very common misconception, especially among high-performing teams. As a manager, never assume that just because someone is excellent at their current job means they will be able to train a new hire well.
Training and onboarding a team member can require a set of skills that not everyone has. More importantly, not everyone wants to train new hires. One of the best things to do is start the conversation with your current team members and see who might be willing to step into that training role.
A rule of thumb I have when helping leaders determine who to enlist in helping with onboarding is this: Find someone who is great at their job, has the heart of an educator, and, most importantly, is “caught up on their homework.”
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is having a mentor assigned to a new hire who is drowning and/or behind in their other work. Make sure that whomever you task to train the new hire has the time and the space in their personal workload to handle the fine details and that training will not stress their stride.
Tips for long-term success following onboarding
Now that we’ve discussed some common misconceptions, let’s chat about some tips to help set you and your teams up for success. Schedule weekly one-on-ones with your new hire. Dedicated time for checking in is vital, even if it’s only 30 minutes.
No, this doesn’t mean a quick call or a short chat by the water cooler. This is dedicated time for you and your new hire to check in and see how they’re feeling and if there’s anything they may be struggling with.
More importantly, it’s a chance for you as a manager to communicate if your new hire is or is not meeting your expectations. If you are pointing out areas of opportunity, come to this meeting with a dialogue that demonstrates exactly what you hope will change, with clear expectations, timelines and action items for both you and your new hire.
Outline what you will do to help them achieve the expectations that you’ve set out. An easy outline/informal agenda for these meetings could look like this:
- What are some successes you’ve had this week?
- What are some challenges and/or setbacks you’ve experienced?
- Where do you feel you need more support?
- What aspects of your role do you feel comfortable with?
- Where do you think you should be in the next 30 days?
- How can I help you get there?
Remove potential barriers to successful onboarding
One of the biggest misses I see with onboarding is when their first day comes around, and the new hire does not have access to their laptop, email or, in some cases, is waiting out in front of the office at 10:00 a.m. on their first day because everyone’s late.
Usually, leaders will say that they just got busy or that they’ve been swamped because they’re down a person. To get ahead of this, after your new hire signs their paperwork, immediately begin to gather everything they need — even if they won’t start for another month. Some things that should be top of mind.
- Keys/office access (if applicable)
- Parking information (if applicable)
- Email login/passwords
- Access to any applicable software (CRM, Microsoft, etc.)
- Working computer (if applicable)
You want your new hire to walk in stress-free on their first day. Aim to have everything ready to go and, ideally, already set up at their workstation (if you’re hybrid or fully in office).
Keep in mind that if someone comes in and receives a disorganized onboarding experience, their odds of leaving are slightly higher than if they walk in and find everything they need.
Growth talks should start early
From day one, we want our new hires to be excited to be a part of the team and, more importantly, to see a future with our team. Celebrating is a big part of this, but we also want to start discussing the future with them early on. Be clear with your new hire about their potential to work for you and grow into their professional goals.
What can they expect in a year or two if they can perform well in their role? What do you do to encourage growth? Starting with conversations like this will encourage your team members to think past the first six months.
A successful onboarding process will save you time and money in the long run. The preparation it takes is nothing compared to how long it takes to re-post, re-hire and re-interview candidates after losing someone within their first six months.