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Effective employee onboarding makes all the difference

By Marc L. Goldberg

SCORE certified mentor

Question: What do I need to be doing to make sure I am onboarding new employees effectively?

Answer: Imagine that you got the nod for a new job with an up-andcoming Cape business and were told to report on Monday morning at 8 a.m. When you got there, you were greeted warmly at the door, directed to your work station and were told, “Good luck.”

If that were your onboarding experience, how would you feel? How secure would you feel in succeeding in the job? What would be missing? The better question: What happened here? What happened is what occurs at most places of employment — warm body, go to work.

Effective onboarding starts with the interview, the offer letter and progresses to orientation and engagement with the culture of the business. Before starting an onboarding process, employers should be prepared to answer these questions: When will the onboarding start? How long will it last? What impression do you want new hires to walk away with at the end of the first day? What do new employees need to know about the culture of the business? What kind of goals do you want to set for a new hire? How will you gather feedback on the program and its process? (shrm.org) Onboarding starts early: The best onboarding starts before the new hire is physically on site to work. After the formal hire offer is accepted, the information that will form the foundation of effective onboarding commences. Because we have a variety of means of creating community, employers can use technology to begin the process as soon as the prospective hire accepts. It might begin with fillable PDF forms that can be undertaken in advance of the start date so that integration, involvement and interactivity become the focus on the first day of work.

Onboarding is an extension of the recruiting and hiring process. These first steps are similar to the early stages of dating. During the onboarding, new employees are getting a glimpse of the reality of what life will be like inside your organization. When onboarding works well, employees hold their employer in high regard and are committed for the long term. In a 2020 study by Steven Holiday of BambooHR, of those who have had an effective onboarding experience, 87% feel they have strong role clarity, 89% feel very engaged with their work and 91% have a strong connection to their organization.

Culture and policy: The first stage of creating a positive impact on a new employee experience is orienting them to the organization’s culture and policy. This portion of the onboarding process establishes what the company stands for — its brand, its values. It outlines expectations for employee behavior and the behavior of others. It is an opportunity to showcase the human side of the business, the role and position of employees. If you are to ensure that new employees absorb this onboarding effort, it has to be inclusive, engaging, interesting and involving, not just reading policies and procedures.

Benefits: This is also the time that the benefits an organization offers are fully explained so they are understood. Organizations spend countless millions of dollars each year to support the employee benefits of their organization. For it not to be a waste of money, employees need to understand what benefits are offered and how to take advantage of them. Onboarding includes asking questions. It cannot just be “information out.” Time should be devoted to allowing new employees to ask questions to clarify unclear elements of the benefits offering.

See TIPS, C3

From Page C1

Team introductions:

If you are a small business, introductions are almost automatic and organic. As companies grow, however, this step needs to be planned. If you are a landscaper and have five teams that come to work, gather their tools and get their assignments for the day, there is little opportunity to make introductions of new employees. So, you have to plan an event to make that happen within the first few days of onboarding a new team member.

The role of the owner/manager is to make the newbie feel comfortable and accepted. Knowing more about each new employee beyond their name and skill set will be the basis for the introduction. Whether you use a questionnaire to learn more about each new hire or your interviewing techniques give you personal information you can share with the rest of the team is immaterial, so long as you have a process. BambooHR reports that 99% of employees who had an effective onboarding experience received introductions to key people and participated in some sort of get-to-know-you activity with other members of the team.

Time and process:

Employees with an extreme sense of commitment to their employer confirm the impact the onboarding process had in steering their employment in a positive direction. Those who had a well defined and executed process achieve this HR goal. Employees report that “effective onboarding has a lasting effect on performance, engagement, time-to-contribution and employee life cycle.”

Many small businesses compile policies and procedures in a physical document that is shared with new hires. But so much of what we do is online and delivered virtually, so consideration should be given to adopting HR technology to maximize the impact of your onboarding. Your organization's size will determine whether you are ready to move from the physical to the digital approach.

The first three months:

The goal of most organizations is to have new hires producing as soon as possible. The onboarding process should continue throughout the first year so that progress is being measured and updating is continuous. You also might want to spread out the onboarding so as to not inundate the new hire with too much information at one time. Another key to successful onboarding is to create a buddy system so the new hire has someone to go to with questions that seem too mundane to bring to management or ownership.

Contributed by Marc L. Goldberg, certified mentor. Sources: 'New Employee Onboarding Guide,' SHRM; 'The New Definitive Guide to Onboarding,' BambooHR.

For free and confidential mentoring for human resource questions or issues, contact SCORE Cape Cod & the Islands at capecod. score.org, capecodscore@verizon.net, or 508-775-4884. We go where you are!

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