Employee Onboarding: Best Practices & Tips from HR Experts
Just like with people, first impressions of a company are crucial.
We believe in getting things right from start to finish during the hiring process, and we want to help others do the same. We asked for onboarding best practices and tips from 11 of our industry experts.
Here it is…
We’ve put together this guide featuring their choice of wisdom to give you the opportunity to avoid some of the most common onboarding mistakes.
During your customers’ initial interaction with your business, they’re looking to see if you’re reliable and trustworthy. Their evaluation of your company will have a significant impact on their upcoming decision on whether to pay for your goods or services or not.
New team members receive the first impression of your team as they come aboard. They are feeling things out during this period to determine if this is a place they’ll want to be for the long term.
How Can I Improve My Onboarding?
It’s important to keep the first impressions in mind as you welcome new employees to your team. These first few days will often determine whether you’ve gained a loyal employee or if you’ll be seeing the position vacant again very soon
By reflecting on these onboarding best practices and tips, you can restructure or reinforce your onboarding process to ensure it becomes an effective retention tool.
Underwhelming Onboarding Practices
When we asked our experts what the number-one onboarding mistake was, we received a variety of answers, but all of them shared a common theme: in one way or another, the mistake was in not providing sufficient guidance or training to ensure success. Across the board, experts agreed that this mistake led to longer time to proficiency, slow adoption of the company culture, increased frustration for the new hire, and ultimately, higher turnover rates.
Too many companies give the new hire some paperwork and leave it at that.
Stacy Lindenberg of Talent Seed Consulting warns that organizations shouldn’t confuse new hire orientation with onboarding. “Too often, companies think that by providing orientation, they are ‘onboarding’ the new employee,” says Lindenberg, and she’s not alone in her opinion. According to Heidi Kurter of Heidi Lynne Consulting, “throwing the employee into the fire in a ‘sink or swim’ type of mentality . . . is the easiest way to chase an employee away.”
This is often the result of companies giving little or no thought to what their new hires might need to hit the ground running. Anyone who has seen new hires develop performance issues or watched them struggle to assimilate knows onboarding takes more than just signing some tax papers and pointing out where the bathroom is. It takes forethought and preparation; onboarding success is predicated, as Kurter puts it, on “having a well-planned and structured orientation in place.”
It also takes involvement from the right people on the team, particularly the hiring manager, who should be involved in the onboarding process from the very start. Ricky Joshi from Saatva says, “Onboarding is the responsibility of the manager, and oftentimes, the biggest mistake I see is a manager not taking the lead on onboarding tasks.”
The best onboarding is about helping new employees understand their place in the company—what’s expected of them, what they can offer, and why they’re important to the team. Too often, they’re not given this sense of purpose and identity within the company. According to Bob Ellis, CEO of Bavarian Clockworks, that’s a serious mistake.
“I’ve seen a lot of small businesses that don’t have any onboarding process,” Ellis says, “formal or informal, for onboarding new employees. The new hire shows up for their day of work and they aren’t sure what they should be doing. They know they have a job to do, but they haven’t spoken with anyone from management or HR about company expectations and processes. It doesn’t leave a good first impression of a business.”
Oppressive First Days
On the other hand, employee onboarding programs that overwhelm incoming hires can be just as bad. With everything from stacks of paperwork to endless training materials, some companies inundate newcomers with information and responsibilities, sapping the excitement from the idea of starting a new job.
“Bar none,” says Melina Gillies of SalesUp! Business Coaching, “the biggest mistake that I see consistently made is poorly executed planning that sends employees home with a wealth of paperwork to be completed after the first day.” Despite the value most of us place on our own time away from work, it’s nevertheless a mistake that many make: assuming no one will mind spending personal time filling out three hours’ worth of documents for their new employer.
Most of the paperwork should be completed ahead of time, either by sending new hires hard copies before day one or by using an online document-signing program. This keeps their first day from feeling like they’ve taken a time warp back to their homework days.
Paperwork is usually the least of a new hire’s worries. More often, they are overwhelmed by the truckloads of information given to them right as they walk in the door (most of which they may never even use on the job). Tim Toterhi of Plotline Leadership puts it this way: “Many companies waste an insane amount of time by loading employees up with information they won’t recall, training they don’t need, and organizational commercials they don’t want. It is one of the least ‘customer focused’ processes that HR provides.”
It’s a common pitfall to stumble into, says Ketan Kapoor, CEO and co-founder of Mettl. “Information overload happened to be our deadliest onboarding mistake,” he says. Kapoor lists policy documents, employee code of conduct, and rules and regulations on his list of items that can overwhelm and suggests that “new hires expect their first day to be cordial and mostly reserved for friendly gestures.
It’s a sentiment shared by Stefanie Frenking of Spreadshirt. “Forcing too much information on new colleagues will raise pressure and can quickly overwhelm them. As an onboarding expert, you have to think of what will be important for the employee in the first week, in the next three weeks, and within the first six months.” Doing so will help you tailor the onboarding process to them individually, ensuring that they have the training they need when they need it.
Remember, the goal is to get them ready to contribute to the company quickly, and that requires being efficient with the information you give them.
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