How to Create an Effective Onboarding Program
Now more than ever, employers are examining and expanding their engagement and retention efforts in order to remain competitive in their respective industries. With approximately 60 to 70 percent of all separations being voluntary, employers are reshaping the employee lifecycle to ensure their teams are engaged and committed to the organization. One way that this is done is through maintaining an effective onboarding program.
An effective onboarding program introduces your new hires to the staff, management, and environment of their new workplace. More importantly, though, it provides them with the tools, coaching, and other resources they need to succeed and fosters a deeper connection between the new hire and the mission and vision of the organization. An effective onboarding program serves as the foundation for an organization’s retention efforts and therefore should be strategically constructed to maximize the organization’s efforts.
With such high expectations for a first impression, it is important to strategically think about your organization's onboarding program and understand that onboarding is not one day. Various factors such as the organization size, scope of work, and complexity of working relationships go into determining the length of an onboarding program, but the key idea is to leave no stone unturned when getting the new hire acclimated and situated for success. On average, onboarding is considered a 90-day process, however, there are organizations who have developed programs that last for up to one or two years.
The First Day
Speaking from personal experience, the first day at a new job can be just as nerve-wracking as the first day at a new school. Although you’re not concerned about being stuffed in a locker or having your lunch money taken, meeting and engaging a whole new group of people can be difficult. Therefore, an effective onboarding program will ensure that the first day is welcoming, informative, and runs as smoothly as possible for the new hire. Employers can achieve this by promoting or planning “intro” events such as a welcoming workspace decoration, or a breakfast/lunch gathering that day. This can calm a new hire’s nerves and give them the feeling that they are wanted and appreciated on day one.
The first day also gives employers the opportunity to go into more detail about their investment in the new hire. This is primarily the discussion of total rewards and also policies and procedures as they relate to how to be successful as an employee. The key to ensure that new hires receive this step of the onboarding program positively is to tailor your total rewards offerings and communications to promote the organization’s investment in the employee. Employers should communicate the necessary information such as benefits deductibles and time-off requests, and should also focus on topics related to work-life balance, growth and professional development opportunities, and engagement and community outreach programs.
The First Week
Continuing within that first week of the new hire experience, the onboarding program should gradually adjust from welcome to the organization, to welcome to your role within our team. Depending on the size of the organization and the new hire’s role, there should be a time for the new hire to meet or learn about the organization’s history and operations from a knowledgeable member of the team. The goal of this step is to focus on building that deeper connection to the organization and fellow employees. In addition, this team member should spend time going over the nuances of being an employee with the organization, for example how to access the facilities, how to request business cards, and where to find coffee or refreshments.
As the new hire develops their connection with the organization during the first week, the employer should begin to shift focus to the role of the new hire. This would include administering any training(s) that are needed for the new hire to perform their duties successfully. More importantly, this should include discussing and developing performance standards, expectations, and goals. Employers should ensure that managers are uniformly having these conversations with new hires so that they are not left wondering how they can contribute to the team. Furthermore, these standards, expectations, and goals serve as the foundation of the employee life cycle and will guide decision making going forward.
As the new hire continues to settle in, it is important for employers to track and evaluate their progress. Developing a 30-60-90 plan gives the new hire a plan for success within their first few months and also sets milestones for employers to evaluate their progress. This is imperative to having a successful onboarding program because it ensures that the organization and new hire are taking the correct steps for the new hire to be immediately successful in the role. In addition to adjusting to their new responsibilities, the first thirty days should be a continuation of the programs from the first day and first week. New hires should continue to learn the company culture and build relationships with their new teams.
Within the first sixty days, the new hire should begin to spread their wings as an employee. This includes working independently or in collaboration with other employees, facilitating their own work, and/or identifying areas for improvement within their role or team. The new hires contributions should be evident at this point and it is the organization's responsibility to ensure that the new hire is receiving constructive feedback that aligns with the direction of the team or organization. This feedback is a critical part of the plan because it fosters engagement from the new hire and redirects or affirms their efforts thus far.
Lastly, by the ninetieth day, the new hire should be fully engaged and functioning as an employee on the team. The new hire should be searching for projects, collaboration, and growth opportunities. Furthermore, they should have a solid understanding of what is expected of them and how they can contribute to the team. As employers, it is important for you to be prepared to channel that energy and engagement to the appropriate projects and assignments to ensure that this level of enthusiasm and ambition is maintained, and you are maximizing your resources.
Implementing an effective onboarding program will help to improve the foundation of an organization’s employee engagement and retention strategies and will also serve as the guide for decision making throughout the employee’s life cycle. This is why it is imperative that organizations think critically around how they will administer their programs, as it can be a key determining factor in the overall success of an organization.