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When it comes to welcoming a new employee to the team, “onboarding” is a word that often gets confused with “induction”. But in truth they’re two different things.
Induction is more about getting someone ready for their specific job and ensuring they have everything they need to perform at maximum capacity from the get go. It places a heavy focus on admin and process.
Onboarding, on the other hand, is a deeper, richer and slower process, which brings them not just across what they have to know, but also what will enrich them to know, grounding them in the company as a whole and giving them an insight into what the future might hold to build a strong sense of engagement. It ensures they feel a connection to the company, its people, services and products, rather than just their paycheck. Here are some top tips to help do it properly….
This sounds like such an obvious issue, but technology that doesn’t work properly is usually the No. 1 problem and frustration flagged by employees in their early days (and beyond). So it’s worth taking steps to cut any potential issues off at the pass. Firstly, recognise that avoiding problems goes beyond just getting them a username and password for their first day. Talk to them in advance about any special needs they may have, such as a standing desk, and do all the necessary forms in advance so it’s there when they start. Actually test their username and password, not only to get into the system but also to make sure it has access to all the programs and applications they will need from the word go. Make sure they’re hooked up to printers and scanners, that they have swipe cards if needed, that they know their office extension and, most importantly of all, that they have a direct line to the IT help desk.
How many times have we all been tapped on the shoulder and asked: “Excuse me, but I’m new; could you help me do this?” It’s part and parcel of office life, and most people are happy to help. But how much more productive would it be if they had a go-to person who could answer their queries big and small, from simple directives such as reminding them which printer is also a scanner to helping them get a handle on unwritten and unspoken codes of conduct, such as whether it’s really OK to request three weekends in a row off when there’s only four of you who work the Sunday shift.
You may have hired them to do a specific job, but the best organisations are ones that work as a whole, with plenty of intermingling, rather than as strictly separate units or divisions. So if you give new employees the chance to spend even a day in other departments – where staff are primed to be informative rather than resentful – it will give them a holistic overview of what the company does and what opportunities it might offer. Equally as importantly, it might also inspire a dialogue about everything from potential efficiencies to new revenue streams.
Nothing turns good induction or onboarding bad faster than a mountain of paperwork and reading matter. It can almost be enough to make new – and newish – arrivals head for the door. Truth be told, some of it needs doing or sharing on day dot, such as filling in bank account and taxation information or getting a list of go-to contacts for everything from pay inquiries to leave applications. But some of it – say a full company history, a who’s who guide complete with photos, a guide to social sporting teams, or a list of employee benefits available once the probation period is over – can wait a while, giving the employee the ability to dive in at their own leisure. This makes an intranet the perfect place to store it. As a bonus, by letting them self-pace the process, you make the acquisition of information easier, and therefore more likely to stick.
Most bosses would quite reasonably expect a fresh face to have done a certain amount of research into their new place of work, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take them to a clean slate in terms of outlining what the company is and what it stands for. This doesn’t have to be anything too intricate – it could just be a one-page positioning document or even a go-to guide – as long as it clearly outlines the company’s goals, vision statement and corporate ethos. Make that one of your first ports of call and that way, when the worker begins to come up against situations that require a judgement call, they have a full understanding of the factors and attitudes that need to influence their decision-making.
Nothing can fire up, or deflate, a new employee faster than their direct supervisor. So it’s important to make sure you keep an eye on management. It’s no point boasting of a fun and collaborative environment if you know one of your managers is anything but. It may seem more like a HR issue, but making staff feel valued and worthwhile is one of the most important parts of onboarding. So if your turnover suggests there’s an obstacle to that happening, be prepared to investigate why and take decisive action if needed.
Most bosses will check in with their staff member at the end of the first week, but more value will be had at the end of the first month – or even later. By then they should have settled in, firmed up their role in the team, mastered the technology and more. And if they haven’t, there needs to be a dialogue about why, whether it’s a lack of initiative and capability that needs to be identified within a probationary period to some angst from co-workers that needs to come to an end. It’s also a good time to ask for feedback on what could be one better, not just with the company’s products and services for external clients, but also internal measures such as company communication. Again, it comes back to the simple premise that allowing someone to have a say on their company will build engagement that secures loyalty and longevity. As Steve Jobs himself once memorably said: “You need to have a collaborative hiring process.”