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10 Best Practices and Tips For Onboarding Your New Employees

Inducting a new staff member into the team

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The objective when inducting a new recruit is to trigger a chain of events that lead towards a high level of employee engagement, productivity, and a desire for ongoing professional development.

For the new recruit, the managers overall goal is to help them become a model employee within the organisation-  this is no easy task at the best of times, yet so critical.

It’s a rare person who is capable of jumping into a workplace without some friction- challenges with their new workload, and fitting in with the existing team.

This is why a good hiring manager should design effective, streamlined onboarding processes.

What exactly is onboarding and why is it so critical?

‘Onboarding’ describes the experience of new employees for up to their first year of work. For many businesses, this process is straightforward, carried out either by the hiring manager and HR, or by a buddy/mentoring system.

However, for businesses that want more effective workers and better retention rates, employee onboarding must be a more strategised process that engages, illuminates and motivates.

As mentioned, every new workplace comes with challenges for a new employee. Not only are there processes to be learned and new work duties to be mastered, but also a whole new company culture has to be processed. Again, it’s a daunting set of tasks.

New hires are vulnerable to ‘employer regret’, where the challenges of their new workplace make them rethink their decisions. Getting new employees started off on the right foot is critical.

Business.com advises if an employee has a negative onboarding experience, they might determine that the organisation is poorly managed and that they made a mistake accepting the role in the first place.

It’s not just a matter of opinion either…

The Society of HR Management found that new recruits are 50% more valuable when they are put through a standardised onboarding process.

Not just this, but 69% of workers surveyed stayed with their employers for three years or more when they experienced effective onboarding.

Clearly, in a modern work environment, employee loyalty (and productivity) created by onboarding is significant.

So as a manager, how do you evaluate your existing staff induction process?

Evaluating the organisation’s existing staff induction policies and procedures is a great place to begin.

The first task when reviewing your onboarding processes is to determine whether your company offers actual onboarding or just orientation.

Orientation processes are relatively simple. Basically, new hires are given the paperwork they need to sign, asked to review the safety procedures they’re required to know, shown the employee break out room, and given basic information they need for their new role.

Onboarding however is different.

As stated above, it can take up to a year for a new employee to feel like they’re part of the company culture, ideally that’s how long your onboarding vision needs to capture.

When reviewing your existing onboarding procedure, ask yourself the following:

What does your induction process say about your company? What impression does a new employee get? Is it likely that new hires feel at home at the end of the process?

Furthermore, how much human contact does the process involve? How prepared will a new hire feel when they take their place as part of their team?

Unless your company has undertaken a previous review of induction processes, the chances are that your current ones are letting new employees down.

Why having a standardised system for onboarding is key

standardised system for onboarding new recruits

If onboarding is so important to individual employees, why should it be standardised? It’s a good question.

New workers have individual needs, but your company should have a central culture that they can acclimate to. If your onboarding process is all over the place, your employees will feel all over the place as well.

Standardisation is a way to confirm with new employees that your company is a clearly defined entity. This doesn’t just help them get on board, it helps deal with some of the stresses new hires experience during the process.

As Edward Cranswick in Human Resources Director Magazine notes, it’s important to make clear the expectations not just of the company regarding the new hire, but also the employees expectations about the company.

Failing to establish and empathize company expectations throughout the induction process is a sure way to confuse new hires”, he writes, also noting that “Employees can lose focus and become apprehensive if they’re unsure on how best to proceed.”

Aptitude Management’s guide on the 10 best practices for onboarding your new employees

The best approach for onboarding processes begins even before a new employee has signed on. As you’ll see below, the best practices for ‘onboarding’ and the definition of ‘general working life’ can sometimes overlap.

1. Reach out to new hires before their start date: One of the biggest failures of onboarding processes is to start on the first day.

While there is a natural instinct to ‘start at the start,’ companies like Google begin their processes even before the hiring process is complete, conducting multiple conversations with the potential new employee before their contract is signed.

This kind of approach ensures that a new worker can hit the ground running, feeling comfortable and at home even on their first day.

2. Communicate the organisational culture right from the start: “Upon surveying new hires after recently going through out-dated onboarding, they unfortunately often describe it as ‘a disorienting experience’ due to the overall focus on dry policies and videos, sign-ups and filling out forms,” writes business expert Dr John Sullivan.

Is this the impression you want a new hire to have of your company?

The essence of your company’s culture should be instilled in the onboarding process. This applies to everything from the person directing the process to the technology used in the induction process.

If you’re showing new hires a mass-produced ‘how to look after your back’ video during induction, you’re telling them that your company has a cookie-cutter kind of attitude to their safety.

3. Set expectations early: Just as a new hire will wish to present their best selves in the interview process, hiring managers should present the company in its clearest form during onboarding.

This can begin with the interview process, with the selection of the interview board, and move on through the new hire’s first weeks. The selection of workers that the new employee interacts with is key at this point.

4. Give new hires a chance to communicate their vision, goals and expectations: Just as with any other relationship, a work relationship is more likely to be successful when both sides are committed to it.

New workers are more likely to invest themselves emotionally in a new company when they feel their opinions and ideas are welcome and valued.

For this reason, it’s important to allow time to discuss a new worker’s vision for their new place in the company, what they want to achieve and what they think the workplace is going to give them in return.

This last point is also important when it is time to re-evaluate the relationship several months in, such as during a performance review.

5. A brief point, yes, but key to effectively inducting new staff: Keep their new work schedule slightly structured. As noted above, uncertainty generates anxiety.

Good managers will keep an eye on new employee stress levels by instilling structure into their day. These managers are aware that certainty increases confidence.

6. Schedule regular check-ins during the onboarding phase: Uncertainty is a word that comes up again and again in discussions of employee onboarding.

A way to combat the uncertain, ground-shifting feeling of a new workplace is to check in with the new hire regularly. If a new employee is experiencing confusion, they may be reluctant to express it. This is why communication should be built into the process itself.

7. Consider allocating a mentor: The human touch should not be undervalued in an onboarding process. While it’s tempting to automate the process with software programs, videos and tests, this is likely to leave the new employee feeling disconnected and remote from their team.

Allocating a mentor or a work buddy will also help you to identify when a new employee is struggling and may be in need of help.

8. Interactivity and involvement are key: As noted above, the new work relationship is not just one way. Your onboarding process needs to be interactive simply to be interesting. Invite investment from your new workers by building in processes that invite their involvement.

9. Gather feedback: Reviewing is possibly the most important part of an onboarding process. As you’ve probably already discovered, the older an onboarding procedure is, the more likely it is that it contains irrelevancies or misdirections for new workers.

Gathering feedback as part of the process is a good way to keep your strategies relevant and fresh.

10. Role clarity: Help them to clearly understand what will make them successful in their new role. Providing clarity in expectations will provide new hires with the certainty they need when everything else is changing.

This applies not just to people fresh to your company, but to any existing team members in the middle of changing roles.

As Cranswick notes, new employees “feel like they’ve been dropped in the ocean without a life jacket”, and clarifying expectations gives them the secure, safe shore they need.

Remember: During the staff induction phase, first impressions count

An effective onboarding process isn’t just about getting new employees. Onboarding processes contribute to job satisfaction and company culture overall – and, perhaps most importantly, reducing turnover rates.

With a process that encourages new employees to connect emotionally to your company’s culture and vision, you’re on the way to greater employee loyalty, higher levels of production and – in the end – a more successful business.

Your comments and insights are welcome.

Please also check out our full list of managerial courses.

The Aptitude Team

Aptitude Management is a corporate training provider operating throughout Australia. We provide public workshops and inhouse programs specifically designed for middle managers. We can be contacted on 1800 753 087.
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