Onboarding: The Power of Personal Connections
If you’re like me, you’ve been “onboarded” more than a couple times. Americans on average will change jobs 10 times between the ages of 18 and 37 and if you’re a millennial or Generation Y, chances are you’ll be onboarded many (many, many!) more times throughout your career.
While many HR professionals and business managers understand the benefits of a structured onboarding program, an overwhelming number of companies have no program at all.
Whether you have a program or not (and if you don’t, you should start thinking about it), you need to introduce your new hire to his or her immediate team and key people around the office. It often goes down in one of two ways: new hires get the whirlwind tour, meeting key colleagues and random employees at different stops along the office tour; or they’re introduced to everyone all at once at the next team meeting. While this is better than nothing, this method tends to leave a lot of unfamiliar faces, few names remembered and a feeling of disconnect for your new employee.
Real, personal connections at work increase happiness, which has a proven correlation to high productivity. In fact, the “mere opportunity for friendship increases employee job satisfaction and organizational effectiveness.” Even more important, a personal connection reduces anxiety related to asking for help.
You can help your new hires feel more comfortable, more engaged and more productive quickly by asking some simple questions during those first few interactions. HR has a huge opportunity to facilitate a personal connection for new hires outside their immediate team.
New hires need to feel like others are excited about them coming on. A quick question about where they were born, where they grew up, what sports they like or a question about other interests outside of work are extremely helpful. Chances are, you’ll know immediately of an existing employee who shares a similar background or interests. Invest the time to ask these types of questions and use the answers to make your introductions much more lasting. If you have an automated onboarding tool, ask questions ahead of time and share their answers with the rest of the company before they start.
But don’t just stop there. Take the time to introduce new hires to at least two people outside of their immediate group who might share an interest or background. Not only do you make an additional connection for your new employee, but you also give them another resource to help them better understand company culture or ask a question they might be too embarrassed to ask an immediate team member.
At BambooHR, we do a fun get-to-know email that’s sent out to the entire company. We ask questions like what’s something on the new hire’s bucket list, their favorite candy bar, home town and their favorite vacation destination. It also includes a photo of the new employee. This type of “welcome email” gives all existing employees a way to recognize the new hire when they walk by and gives them something to easily start up a conversation.
Just remember, it’s all about getting your new hires comfortable and feeling like they belong with the existing team. This is one important way to make sure your new hires feel comfortable enough to start concentrating on doing great work.
Next time, in part two of this three-part series, we’ll be covering another important aspect of onboarding: understanding employees professional goals and why it’s important.