Nine deadly sins of onboarding – induction
Very few people really look forward to induction at a new workplace. And you can’t really blame them. All too often the process is a talkfest full of facts and faces that seem to blur into one. Who could remember everything?
Thankfully, the concept of onboarding continues to evolve, with modern management recognising its importance and striving for ways to do it better.
With this in mind we’ve identified the nine deadly sins to avoid.
- Overloading new staff: New hires have a lot to take in already – a new office, new colleagues and new methods of transport … the list really does go on. So bear this in mind for day one and start their induction gently, with no more than a small amount of talking, videos, manuals, lectures, forms etc. Otherwise, if you try to do a cram, you can rest assured they will fail to process much of what they hear and see, which mains you’ll only have to go over it again later. Better to remember that famous saying – slow and steady wins the race.
- Planning too tight a timeframe: As we just said, anyone who thinks onboarding is a one-day process is not, likely, doing it correctly. Of course, this depends on the business of the company, the complexity of the role and the size of the company. Good inductions can take days, weeks or even months, as you properly onboard someone in the company by giving them a depth of information and cultural insight that will prime them for success. Rush it and you’ve wasted a stellar opportunity to start shaping a company asset, meaning you’ve not only failed them, but also your firm. Something else to bear in mind is that really good onboarders actually start the process before the employee has begun, with a slow flow of information that helps them hit the ground running. Or at least doing a brisk walk.
- Being absent as a manager: Life is busy; we get that. And it’s especially so for managers, who have commitments and priorities well beyond that of their direct reports. BUT, at the end of the day, you are their leader and unifying personality, and how you behave both matters and is taken on board. So with this in mind, make sure you’re there to welcome any new hire on day one. Even if it’s just for a short amount of time, before you hand them over to someone with a detailed brief of how the rest of the day should unfold, those small moments will do more to reassure the employee they’re important than all the new business cards in the world ever could. And it will remind your other staff that you are a boss who prioritises people.
- Omitting important information: Good inductions take a big picture approach, thoughtfully considering every aspect of an employee’s new world, and how to help them navigate it. This should involve showing them where to get stationery, who to call in IT about computer problems, how to check in with security and how to put in an expenses claim etc. Unfortunately, bad inductions use tunnel vision, and look only at how to train them to do their one specific job, minus context and perspective. This might be fine for a little bit, and save some time early on, but it’s guaranteed to come crashing down as soon as their email inbox reaches maximum storage while a client is waiting on a urgent email and they have no idea who to call for help. In short, think world building, not desk building.
- Causing needless delays: There’s an old saying: there’s strength in numbers. But that’s not always true. And induction can be a good case in point. Some companies will hold off on key onboarding elements and sessions until they have a few new employees to take through it. But by that point, they may as well not bother. The whole point of induction is to catch people fresh and to immediately shape their impression of the company and the role they’re going to play in it. It sets expectations and basically starts things off on the right foot. Squander this opportunity and by the time you get back to them, they may have already picked up unproductive habits and attitudes from colleagues that are going to be difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate.
- Using tunnel vision: We said earlier a good induction takes a big picture view, and we meant it. After all, if you focus just on an employee’s specific new role, they won’t think of life beyond it. If you give them the wider picture, however, they suddenly have a new horizon of what they can achieve both for themselves and their company. So talk them through company values, and through the management structure. Educate them about the country they live in if they’re an expat. Share some success stories of people who’ve gone before. Again, it all adds up to a picture they want to be part of now, and into the future.
- Having a one-sided approach: The role of an induction is to bring a newcomer onboard. But if you focus solely on giving information to them, you’re only doing half the job. The best induction is a two-way street, where information is shared to the benefit of both parties. For example, you tell them about a junior sporting association the business supports, and then ask about their interest in sport. You may then find they have professional accreditation that could be put to use. You could also ask them about who they’d like to meet, what they want to learn, their interest in training and the old chestnut – where do you see yourself in five years? Do it well and you can learn more in one session than you ever could from a 10-page resume.
- Thinking that one size fits all: Any company worth its salt is going to have a mix of personalities on staff. And all of them will approach learning in very different ways. For example, the logical mind of an IT professional will process information in a very different way to the artistic approach of a creative, so inductions that adopt a one-size-fits-all approach are going to fall down. Instead, have some core information and then build around the different personality types you expect to employ. Remember, presentation is everything. And talking to people in language they understand is half the battle won.
- Insisting on face-to-face time: The growing emergence of a remote workforce has shown clearly that face-to-face contact is not essential for a productive and thriving workforce. So why assume it’s essential for onboarding? At the end of the day what matters is that people have access to the right information, so as long as it’s available somewhere – for example on a training portal or even on Skype – you’re good to go. The other benefit of going online is that some elements of the induction can be tackled at a time of the employee’s choosing – within reason – meaning they’re likely to tackle it when they’re fresh and alert, which is exactly what you want their head space to be.
Finally, remember this key idea. Induction is not about someone from HR running through as many rules, regulations and introductions as they can. It’s about making a good first impression that will welcome someone to the team in the right way – and hopefully for the long term. In short, it’s worth doing it right.