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Foundations 2 – Keep the Fire Going – Onboarding Success

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The recruiting race is over and you found the best employee for your current needs. Way to go! Now is your chance to make a significant impact. With this fresh beginning, you enjoy the mutual spark that accompanies a new team member. It’s crucial to treat this time as if you were Bear Grylls creating a fire in the wilds of Alaska. What does he do once he has a spark? He treats that spark with great care giving it 100% focus until it grows into a flame. Our new employees deserve and want full attention to their needs. Because, if we fall short, that flame fizzles, the employee leaves and we’re back to recruiting for an open position.

Why is this important? According to BambooHR, 31% of people have left a job within the first six months. The top reasons people leave quickly: 1. Changed mind on work type 2. Different work than expected. 3. Boss was a jerk. 4. Not enough training and 5. Under appreciated. So often, the leader has tremendous influence on the outcome here. If only leaders would realize their awesome potential to create an environment where new team members receive the tools, support, and recognition they need to be enthusiastic players who want to stay on the team.

What to do in those critical weeks leading up to a new team member’s first day and beyond? Recognize what new employees tend to value most: a friendly environment, clear guidelines, and effective training.

Why are we missing the mark on creating a friendly environment? Our relief knowing that help is on its way, allows us to relax and forget what it’s like to be new. How uncomfortable to go where you don’t have a pal and don’t yet understand the culture or expectations.

Cutting edge companies recognize the extreme return on investment received from successful onboarding programs. They are going so far as to invest heavily in “pre-boarding” activities to help the new person feel like a team member even before they start. These gestures don’t require a huge budget, so the smaller organization is fully capable of making it happen. Things like sending a welcome packet (electronic or paper) where they learn about the organization or read about benefit details. Send advance copies of benefits paperwork to get a head start. Include company history and culture information and perhaps a fun story about the team. Finally, absolutely essential that the new supervisor give a call the night before that first day to make sure they know where to show up and when. Have the desk ready to go – clean, well-stocked, with a welcome card from the team. Business cards printed and ready to go. Email set up. No excuses. These are the basics. Fall short here and the new team member will already start to question why they accepted the job.

Next need is for clear guidelines. Your new team member wants to be productive and contributing as soon as possible. The more quickly you can give real and meaningful work to do – the happier your new employee will be. That means taking time to explain the role, parameters, and performance expectations the first day or two. Ask the employee for feedback and questions. Invite their input and ideas. By inviting a two-way conversation, your employee will feel valued and take notice of your rare, and effective, management style. Collaborative leadership not being the norm.

Finally, your new team member wants effective training. One of the greatest engagement drivers is for the opportunity to develop and grow. Again, does not require a huge budget, a large training department or huge investment of time. The leader in a smaller organization needs to give thought to what skills are expected of the new hire and how to get there. Then, capture that in a written development plan so there is a blueprint to follow. Assign a buddy mentor to be that person’s go to with any question that come up. Confirm with the buddy what is expected – that he/she be available, approachable, and reaches out at least daily with the new hire.

Large organizations like Facebook, Ernst and Young, Zappos, IBM and Rackspace invest in comprehensive pre-boarding and onboarding activities. They recognize that successful onboarding programs ensure a good 66% of those employees will stay with the company at least 3 years. That is a seriously long time given the chaotic nature of the current employment market. With creativity and imagination, smaller organizations can enjoy the same success.

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