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3 min read

Get On Board with Onboarding: Why The Way You Hire Matters

Business man pointing to transparent board with text You're Hired!.jpeg

Most of us can remember being the new person on the job. Even if you’re excited for a change, it can be a little scary when you don’t quite know what to expect from the group (or what's expected of you). Did your new co-workers help you learn the ropes, or were you left to sink or swim, clutching your benefits application and employee handbook and little else? It’s not hard to guess which scenario most people prefer. Let's talk about how to avoid the latter.

Complying with regulations and helping new hires acclimate to the workplace is what onboarding is all about. To a seasoned employee it might not seem necessary to spend time and money on this. After all, they’ll catch on soon enough, right?  Not necessarily. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), “one-third of approximately 1,000 respondents to a February 2014 survey by BambooHR said they had quit a job within six months of starting it.” Why did they leave? Reasons cited include lack of clear guidance on responsibilities, ineffective training and a lack of camaraderie with team coworkers and supervisors. A well-planned and systematically-implemented onboarding plan addresses these factors, speeds new employee productivity and reduces turnover (and its associated costs).

It’s worth your time to develop a strong onboarding plan – it shows your investment in employees and your commitment to your company’s mission by giving new hires the best possible start. As Talya N. Bauer, Ph.D. says in her excellent introduction to onboarding, “the faster new hires feel welcome and prepared for their jobs, the faster they will be able to successfully contribute to the firm’s mission.” 

Onboarding Best Practices

  1. Start early in the hiring process

Before you even start recruiting, check that your documents are accurate and clear. Job requisitions should reflect the knowledge and skills you seek and give a realistic preview of the responsibilities “to prevent new employees from suffering unmet expectations,” says Bauer. Likewise, at offer time, your offer letter needs to spell out terms of employment clearly.  And, if you're using time-saving automated onboarding, be sure your employee portal is up to date with necessary forms, the latest handbook and other documents.

Consider “pre-boarding” too. The 2013 C and E survey, which looks at candidate experiences in the hiring process, found that 50% of candidates look at company materials to learn about its values and culture.  Before you even know who your candidates are, make sure your company’s website and online documentation are “consistent, value-based, and [that they] accurately reflect your company’s unique workplace culture,” says Meghan M. Biro in Forbes.

  1. Continue beyond the first day

Gone are the days of the one-shot new hire orientation. Yes, new hires still need to complete paperwork, enroll in benefits and learn about corporate policies; however, the best onboarding programs address much more, and that takes weeks or even months. Things like job duties and responsibilities (and how those play out in the real world), team dynamics and relationship building can’t be mastered in that first day on the job. Scheduled check-ins with managers and team members and regular performance evaluations give new hires opportunities to ask questions and get valuable feedback over their first several weeks and months.

  1. Involve stakeholders

Don’t leave onboarding to the realm of HR alone – ask for input from your new hire’s coworkers and give new employees opportunities to get to know their department/team colleagues before diving into their job. Supervisors and managers also play a critical role in onboarding. According to the Harvard Business Review, a manager’s “support may directly improve or undermine a new hire’s chances of succeeding.” The authors’ research found that “managers were more likely to provide new employees with helpful information when employees actively sought out information about their role and worked at making connections with new colleagues." They further note, “new employees sought out more information when they felt connected to others in the organization.”

  1. Document your plan

Taking the time to write out a formal onboarding plan and checklist ensures consistency and means you don’t have to rely on your memory to cover everything.  Does your company have a message, slogan or culture you want new hires to understand from the start? Do you want to encourage buy-in to your brand or service early on? Write down what knowledge you want new hires to come away with after their first day, first week, first month and beyond. Note how you’ll do this and who is responsible for each onboarding role.  You may even want to give your new employee a role by setting up an employee portal that links to forms, policies and training opportunities.

Small Businesses Take Note

What do Zappos, L’Oreal and IBM have in common? They all have systematic, formal onboarding programs that assimilate new hires quickly and thoroughly… and they’re all corporate giants. It’s true that much of the research into effective onboarding practices involves large companies that employ hundreds or even thousands of people. But what if your business is small? Onboarding takes up proportionately more of your time and resources, so you need to be smart about it. Do you have your checklist and documentation ready to go? Don’t rely on institutional memory or a list thrown-together at the last minute – plan and write it out now to save that time later. Can you outsource some onboarding functions? Automated systems let your employees file paperwork, review the handbook, track training and more. This frees you up to focus on mentoring, periodic check-ins and team building activities that help new hires feel like part of the team.

At first glance the onboarding process looks far more challenging than a traditional orientation session. But the planning, face-to-face time, follow up and team building efforts pay off in the form of adjusted, productive employees who feel good about their new jobs – the kind of employees who are likely to stick around. Horizon Payroll Solutions is here to help you create a solid onboarding program. Check out our new onboarding ebook or contact us today.


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