Onboarding is the new black

Whether you have one or 1000 employees, setting up a great induction for a new team member can be a deal breaker in the war on talent and engagement. There are other important business reasons to give this priority, even more so as we look to the future of work. One recent large survey indicates that employees are 60 per cent more likely to stay beyond three years with a company if they feel they have had a successful onboarding.

I’m still amazed at how many organisations I work with fail to have a well-oiled process for ensuring new staff are prepared for their roles and equally importantly, view their organisation positively from the get-go.

Who should own onboarding?

Everyone from the CEO to the car park attendant actually! The more people that are involved, the more connected a new employee will feel. Additionally, sharing the large information load required makes sense from a time and resources point of view.

The aim is for the new employee to feel positive, enthusiastic and engaged as they enter their day to day work.  It’s natural to feel a little overwhelmed in the beginning but the new team member should feel supported and comfortably challenged.

Here are a few tips for optimising the starting experience:

  • Start and finish onboarding with a purpose: Our modern-day employee wants to work for organisations living and breathing behaviours that support their core values. Set the scene early and authentically.
  • The information: Too many power points send an already overloaded brain gaga. Blend the learning. Include videos, practicals and a combo of written, online and simple listening.
  • Environment: Change it up as much as you can. We’ve all been trapped in stuff badly lit meeting rooms at times, trying to stifle yawns… When the environment changes often, we are able to remain more alert and retain more.” Schedule a variety of speakers to add interest, speaking about their own work passions.
  • Timing: This is a biggie! Insufficient time set aside for induction is not practical. Mix hands on work with time “in the classroom.” Think about separating days in induction with days “in the field” to allow information to more readily assimilate.
  • Assign a mentor: A team mate who is skillful and a good communicator, working in a similar role, can be gold for a new employee. It is also a good development opportunity for the mentor too, who may aspire to a supervisory position in the future. Ensure that the mentor can describe “a typical day” (if there is one!) Being able to paint a mind picture helps with adjustment to a new routine.
  • Pre-work: Depending on the role, pre work such as product information, safety accreditations etc should be done in advance. Try to have intranet connections, laptop set up also completed in advance. It sounds obvious but it is really frustrating as a new employee (I can attest for this!) to spend what seems like ridiculous amounts of time trying to navigate set up of a system you are unfamiliar with.
  • Delegate, delegate, delegate: Variety is the spice of life! In this case will also help you devise a great program that doesn’t regularly consume your own day job too. A group of select staff contributing to the onboarding experience can produce a great outcome.

Remember, when it comes to an employee’s first days at a new workplace, perception is reality. First impressions really do count.

Lexie Wilkins, Culture and Employee-Engagement Expert and Director, Lexie Wilkins Consulting

Lexie is this year’s ISB Top 50 Small Business Leaders Report judge in WA

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