Ten onboarding activities Onboarding is about so much more than showing newcomers where the kitchen is and giving them a security pass.
It’s an overarching process that involves not only educating them about the company and its people, but also making them feel part of it, with a welcome that is both practical and personal.
It’s also a commitment that must extend beyond an hour on their first day.
A brief showaround before tossing them in at the deep end will only create a new staffer who is wondering what they have gotten themselves into – and perhaps already what they need to do to get out.
To avoid things getting to that point, here’s 10 great onboarding activities to include in your induction to help create an employee that fast becomes a happy – and valued – member of the team.
Leaving your new employee’s name at reception with no other details is a wasted opportunity to make a great first impression. As the experts always say, they count, and imagine how relieved you’d feel to enter a new workplace where the person behind the reception desk knew who you were, when you were coming, the title of your new job and who you needed to see first up. It’s a surefire way to reinforce for them that people matter in your organisation. Then, when it’s time to start making introductions, avoid the obvious temptation to drag them up in front of everyone during a meeting of some sort. Instead, one-on-one, or small groups, are the way to go. Start with their direct manager and the people they’ll be working with every day and make your way from there to other departments. Allow time for introductions that go beyond someone just smiling mid phone call and instead extends to a name, a handshake and some small chat or words of welcome.
Showing someone the toilets and kitchen as you breeze past them at speed, does not count as giving them a tour of their new workplace. Of course it depends on the size of the space, but a proper tour needs to give them a look at every area, apart maybe from the ultra-sensitive ones. Even if you just stop by for a minute at each, they’re going to pick up handy information every step of the way, from where they collect their printed documents, to where they get stationery and who they go to see with an expenses claim. If you don’t have time to do it, delegate the task to someone who does. It’s a much better activity than leaving the new hire feeling anxious about having to bother someone with endless questions about where to go for what.
No one likes to feel like they’re just another face in a big company. But sometimes that’s exactly how it can seem to a newcomer. So arrange a little time – not long enough to be boring – to guide the new worker through an outline of the company, its divisions, what it does and – just as importantly – their role in it and your expectations for what they can do. It’s all about reminding them that you hired them for a reason – because you have faith they’re up to the job.
In some industries, it’s common to have a group of people start work at the same time, for example, if you take on a yearly crop of apprentices. When this happens, set it up so the newcomers can do some onboarding activities together. Not confidential matters, of course, but simple things like filling in basic company paperwork. Nothing creates a bond like shared experience and even something as small as helping another colleague answer a question on a payroll form they weren’t clear on can start to forge a bond that will hopefully grow the longer both stay with the company.
Question and answer
Staff these days generally want more from a job than a paycheck. They want value, worth, satisfaction and more. So as they begin, ask them the sort of questions that will help them realise this job will be a two-way street. Ask them what their strengths are, how they visualise their career unfolding, what sort of tasks are their favourite. It doesn’t mean you have to act on all of these at once, but by taking the time early to focus on them as a person, rather than just as a new employee, you can make later decisions factoring in this information and hopefully ensuring they get just as much out of work as they put in.
Few people come into a company in a newly created position; they’re almost always following in someone else’s footsteps. So the best thing you can do for integration is to make sure their predecessor has arranged a good handover. This could be having completed the next two weeks of work so the newcomer has the chance to settle it. It might also involve writing a thorough step-by-step guide to doing their job or supplying notes that will help things run smoother, such as tips for handling tricky clients. This ability to create a good onflow package will really depend on how the first person leaves the business, so a good bet is to have your people write and then constantly update job manuals so any replacement is never starting from scratch.
Most people are happy to take questions from a new arrival, but that doesn’t mean they’re always going to get asked. After all, it’s a fine line between sorting out what you need to know as a newcomer and feeling like a pest. To avoid this scenario, set up an arrangement for fresh faces to have a colleague to shadow. In even two or three days watching the action, they’ll get a real feel for how things run, how to get things done and even how to deal with outside clients. It’s this unspoken and instinctive knowledge that is just as important as company policies and procedures, so make sure the person involved has time to talk their shadow through the hows and whys, without explaining everything as “that’s just how we do it”.
A networking lunch usually involves working contacts outside the organisation, but since it’s early days, keep the focus of this gathering to allowing your new employee to network with colleagues. People always loosen up over a meal way more than they ever would at their desk or in the office kitchen, so ask people to come and then arrange seating so there’s ready conversation available with a wide range of colleagues. It’s also a great way for you to find out stuff you might not have known, or even been able to ask yet, such as marital status, sporting teams, favourite TV and all the stuff that makes the down moments and joint approaches to the watercooler that bit more enjoyable.
Everyone loves feedback, and when you’re new to a company, and trying to prove yourself capable, it’s more important than ever. So schedule some regular time during onboarding – and beyond – to go through what they’ve been up to. Make any feedback constructive, make allowances for it being early days and, equally importantly, organise training and support for anything they may need a little help with. Do it correctly – without being overbearing – and this will reinforce for the staffer that you’re invested in them, their skill set and their success.
It’s almost impossible to define what ‘settled in’ means, as every employee is different. But with a welcome plan tailored to their specific circumstances, you can certainly help to speed up the journey. If your employee is moving from out of town, this welcome plan might involve organising open home inspections to help them find somewhere to live, assigning an assistant to sort out admin tasks such as getting the electricity connected, and compiling a list of all the best places to go shopping for anything they might need, including a new wardrobe. On a smaller scale, a welcome plan might just be making sure their hardware, software, computer log-ons and phones work the day before they arrive and then having a tech stop by on their first afternoon to make sure all is going smoothly. This is a small one, but equipment failure is one of the biggest frustrations for new employees, so circumvent that, and the battle is half won.
In short, onboarding is about making sure the employee knows they are welcome, they are valued, and have a great future ahead with the company if they work hard.
Do it right and you’ll have a staffer who gives 100% every day and thinks about climbing the company ladder rather than just the career ladder.
And everyone loves a long-time employee.