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Acquiring Talent - Step 4: Alignment/Onboarding

At this point in the recruiting process, you've selected your new hire. Now it's time to make sure they get off to the right start. The best way to go about this is to think about your new hire's first day, and plan it.

First days are always bittersweet. There's a mix of excitement & nervousness, hopefulness coupled with the fear of the unknown. Hiring managers and current employees have a responsibility to ensure that Day One for a new employee is a positive experience.

A Cautionary Tale

I recall my first day at a company that didn't go as planned. After going through the interview, getting an offer, giving notice to my current employer, day one was upon me. The night before, I had made all the preparations to make sure I would get off to a good start. I made sure to wake up early that morning; I anxiously went through my typical morning routine and headed out the door. The commute was brief, but thoughts flooded my mind as I tried to think through what my first day would look like. I walked in, and quickly came to the sobering realization that no one remembered I was coming! The receptionist escorted me to my manager, who with wide-eyed embarrassment, informed me that they had forgotten that I was starting and that I didn't have a phone, email, computer, or desk. Not quite the welcome I had imagined!

The silver lining was this: it was a phenomenal lesson for me, as I pledged I would never allow that to happen to someone else if I could prevent it. I share this because it really underscores the importance of making sure the first day goes smoothly for your new hire.

Why is onboarding so important?

Onboarding is the process of easing a new hire into their new corporate environment. This always bring up the image for me of bringing a new goldfish home from the pet store. If you've ever done this, you know that you immerse the fish into its new bowl, while still in the bag and water you brought home from the pet store, so that it has time to acclimate to its new environment. In much the same way, onboarding allows a new hire to acclimate to the culture of their new workplace, and it requires patience.

So, why should we care about onboarding? If we need a reason better than "BECAUSE IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO", studies show that new hires who go through a structured onboarding are 58% more likely to stay with the company for three or more years. Three or more years! Imagine that. . . invest one to two weeks into a new hire, and get a return of three plus years!

Additionally, a structured onboarding process helps to improve "Time to Contribution". That is, the time it takes for a new hire to have a measureable positive impact on the business.

Ok, so let's assume we agree that Onboarding is important. That begs the following question:

What should an onboarding program look like?

There are some key components with onboarding that should be taken into consideration as the first day and the first week are built out:

  • Paperwork: Let's face it. No one likes paperwork. I have found that the best thing you can do to ease this burden from your new hire is to use an online onboarding (paperwork) platform where they fill out all the necessary new hire forms. This way, they can do it on a weekend, in their pajamas while watching their favorite show, rather than spending their entire first day in an office or cubicle, filling out paperwork by hand!

  • Swag: Company branded swag is an important part of the first day. Put together a care package of items that are both useful and consistent with the environment and culture.

  • Time with the Boss: Ask any new hire what they want more of during their orientation and the answer inevitably will be that they want to spend more time with their manager so that they can get to know him or her, make a connection with them and understand what their manager expects of them.

  • Time with the team: Remember your first day in a new school? Remember the anxiety you felt around that first day? Who would you have lunch with? Who would you hang with during breaks? Etc. First days in a new job can bring up similar feelings. A great way to further indoctrinate a new hire is to make sure we afford them structured time with the new team they are a part of. One great way to accomplish this is to assign them a "Buddy". A buddy is a peer who is the "go to" person for your new hire. Additionally, schedule a casual team lunch so that your new hire gets to know his or her team in a non-work setting.

  • Teach them the business: I have always believed that confidence is a byproduct of experience. I've never believed in "fake it til you make it" strategies, so providing a new hire with the information they need to be productive and contribute quickly is a very effective way to help them quickly feel that they are a part of the team. Use the first week to schedule meetings with department heads of different areas of the business. It is also essential to make sure those managers expect and prepare for the new employee (perhaps provide them with a bio). As a result your new hire will gain confidence in how to go about doing their job

  • Talk about culture: Discussions around culture should be a major topic of conversation during your interview process. Conversations around culture during the onboarding process should build upon those initial conversations. Culture includes acceptable times to arrive, acceptable times to leave, meeting etiquette,

  • Ask for feedback: One of my favorite Maya Angelou quotes is: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”. There is so much emotion tied into first, days, weeks, months and any new challenge. Make sure that you are considering onboarding from your new hires perspective, and acknowledging this emotional impact rather than trying to pack in all the things you feel you need them to get through and know in as short an amount of time as possible. A great way to do this is to simply ask them what they need, how they are feeling and making sure to allow them time to "breathe" and take it all in (schedule some "own time" into the onboarding schedule).

With all the work that goes into attracting and selecting the right hire, it is so important to make sure they get off to the right start. As the saying goes: "you never get a second chance to make a first impression". A simple, aligned onboarding process will go a long way to making sure that your newest employee is happy and is prepared to contribute to the organization.

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