Getting On Track with Onboarding

May 1st, 2006

By Kelly Egan
Researcher, Executive Alliance
May 2006

Do you remember the experience of beginning a new position? Trying to become assimilated to a new environment, new peers, and a new role? If you think back to the new-hire paperwork to complete, the jumbo-size company manual to read, and the ancient training videos to watch, you might feel overwhelmed all over again. Many companies are now attempting to lessen this burden by providing a structured process – now commonly referred to as “onboarding.”

Onboarding enables an employee to become acclimated to their new work environment quickly and efficiently, so they become fully involved productive members of the team in a shorter amount of time. A streamlined onboarding process helps to ensure that new employees are happy with their decision to join your company while motivating them to do their best. Onboarding programs at many organizations include a face-to-face session, but some have turned to online orientation.

Using an online orientation process has numerous benefits for both the employer and the new employee. Many people find an instructor-led class as daunting as the employee manual – too much information to absorb in too short a time span. The online process caters to all individual learning styles and provides more flexibility as far as time constraints are concerned. Employees can easily go home and review any information they may need to refer to or brush up on. A successful online onboarding program contains all the information a company manual would, from where to park or eat lunch, to info on the company softball team, to company policies and procedures.

Ideally, whether the orientation will be held in-person or online, new hires should have the opportunity to review this employee information at least a week before their start date. They should also be supplied with any necessary paperwork in advance.

When applied successfully, this process enables new employees to hit the ground running on day one. Eliminating the usual “first day” bombardment will let your new employees join your company with a sense of comfort and ease.

To help facilitate that comfort, don’t forget about the little things that new employees will need on their first day! Make sure their email, voice mail, etc. are up and ready to be used, their keys/access cards are ready to be issued, and they have any passwords they may need to utilize. Most importantly, the employees’ work areas should be set up and stocked with office supplies, making them feel they are already part of the organization. This will also save your new hire anxiety and frustration.

To enhance the onboarding process, many companies also assign a mentor to each new employee. Mentoring should not be taken lightly, as this person will introduce your new hire to co-workers, explain internal procedures, and hopefully help the employee establish a sense of comfort. Therefore, the mentor should not be a staff member who just happens to have some free time that particular day, but rather a selected individual who will accurately educate his/her charge. A mentor should be an employee who has a strong reputation within the company, who is enthusiastic and motivated, and who will be able to establish a trusting relationship with the new hire.

It is important for senior management to think beyond those first few weeks and months with a new hire, too. Be sure to keep in touch with your employees, whether you simply stop by to see what they are working on, or schedule a meeting with the team once or twice a week. This communicates to employees that they are a significant part of the organization and encourages them to perform to their utmost ability. Keeping the lines of communication open with your staff will make them feel comfortable enough to discuss any concerns they may be having, thus enabling you to deal with any problems before they cost you a good employee.

To increase retention, a successful onboarding process should provide new employees with the tools to define their position with the company, create and set professional goals, and instill a sense of accountability. Employers have found that getting new hires involved in future planning right off the bat helps them to feel engaged, and employees are less apt to leave a position they already feel connected to. Many companies have enjoyed watching their turnover rates decrease while attendance and production rates increase as a result.

One of the most effective ways to retain employees is to encourage that sense of pride in their company as well as in their work. To keep existing employees engaged, firms are now offering side-by-side programs – one for onboarding new employees and one to address the needs of established staff. These plans enable loyal employees to start setting goals, learn better time management techniques, and help to re-establish that connection with the company they may have forgotten.

Onboarding programs can help ensure your organization provides the groundwork for happy and successful new employees. While many companies have no problem investing in the recruiting process to find the perfect candidate, they often forget what it takes to KEEP the perfect candidate. By utilizing a structured onboarding process that provides a streamlined entry into the organization, employers will find retention rates soaring, with employees who are happy, well-adjusted, and – most importantly – productive.

Kelly Egan is a researcher at Executive Alliance, an international recruitment firm and the leading provider of recruiting services to the Credit, Collections, and Call Center Management industries. Executive Alliance is the exclusive recruiting partner of Kaulkin Ginsberg and CollectionIndustry.com. For a confidential, no obligation discussion about your specific goals, contact us at hq@kaulkin.com.

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