Western railroad station sign welcomes passengersAccording to research by the Aberdeen Group, firms that bring in formal onboarding – that is, a well orchestrated and deliberate process for orientating new employees and getting them up to speed – enjoy a 31 percent year-over-year increase in staff retention.

There is no doubt that an onboarding process will enable your new recruit to more quickly acclimatise to the surroundings, meaning that they will become productive in a shorter amount of time. This means that you can start to recoup your return on the substantial investment that you have made in hiring this new resource.

However, while immaculate onboarding processes are highly desirable, the reality is that it is often only achieved in largely well funded, well-organized firms with an extremely well resourced, trained and focused HR organization. At the other end of the spectrum we have smaller, less financially stable organizations that perhaps live from year-to-year, or even month-to-month and the reality is that in these environments there is simply no capacity for immaculate onboarding practices. Rather, a “sink or swim” approach is often adopted, which can be effective but is an inherently risky and ultimately unsustainable way to hire.

It is my belief that many organizations operate in that happy mid-ground between immaculate onboarding and sink or swim; that is, they have some capability and desire to more effectively onboard but do not have the resources to implement it on a grand scale.

So, in this article I thought I would focus on these mid-ground organizations and give some tips and advice on how a manager within this environment – without an all encompassing HR department to orchestrate – can engage in some simple but effective onboarding that will help to minimize new hire disorientation and quickly acclimatise their new recruit, increasing retention and reducing their time to productivity.

Please note that a lot of these suggestions don’t need huge preparation and those that do could be achieved by a good quality intern.

1. Make sure their desk and working area is well prepared

Ensure that the employee feels welcomed and at home in their new environment by making sure their desk is cleaned, and all signs of the previous employee are gone (such as coffee stains on desks or family photos). Ensure the desk area is well stocked with necessary stationary. It is a nice touch to include a welcome card on the employee’s desk with a gift card or a bottle of wine.

2. Help the employee make connections

A great way to welcome your employee and to get him/her to settle in more quickly is to prepare an introduce-yourself-list, which is a simple document that has a photo of all your new hire’s colleagues and any key contacts and also summarizes what each co-worker does. The new hire should be encouraged to introduce themselves and build relations with these workers over the course of the first week. Make it easy for your new hire to connect with others by having employees have name cards on their desk. This introduce-yourself-list will make it easier for your new recruit to make connections, socialize and to find out who the go-to people are.

3. Be the tour guide

Make sure you don’t overlook the office tour, e..g toilets, restrooms, cafeteria, but also remember to do a local area tour to show them where the best close by amenities are, e.g. coffee, launderette, gym, etc. The sooner employees are able to make themselves comfortable in the new environment, the sooner they can focus on work.

4. Assign a mentor/buddy

If you can’t be available to answer the employee’s question on a continual basis, then assign the new hire a buddy/mentor who can answer questions. But, make sure you choose a mentor who is willing and able to fulfill this function well. Make sure the mentor has pre-scheduled meetings with the new starter for at least the first month.

5. Social engineering

Don’t leave new employees to fend for themselves at lunchtimes for the first few days. Until they find some friends of their own, have some of your most trusted team members – who best reflect the culture you wish to portray – take them to lunch. Also, plan a group lunch or quick after work drink in the first week or two so the new hire can get to know others in a casual setting.

Think about including a nice icebreaker exercise in the first team meeting, the new hire attends, to help further acclimatise the employee.

6. Provide a list of go-to resources

Develop a list of go-to resources that the employee can read; this may include thinks like company reports, intranet, policies, marketing documents etc. These are great ways for employees to acclimatise themselves.

7. Develop a safe learning environment

One of the key things the employee will need to do to get up to speed is learn; so, make it clear that he or she should be comfortable asking you or any of your team questions – and ensure that team members are especially accommodating while the new employees gets up to speed.

8. Choose staff trainers wisely

It is likely that you may need to assign the job of training your recruit to one or more members of your team. Make sure that you assign those who are most willing and able to train effectively and train/coach the trainers as to what is expected.

9. Give the employees the tools to succeed

Make employees has a detailed job description with learning goals so they know what is expected of them. Ensure the appropriate trainers are given enough time to train them and give the new hires access to resources so they can engage in self-directed learning.

And finally, having set up this nurturing, low-maintenance onboarding framework, make sure to review progress with the employee on a monthly basis for the first three months, switching to quarterly meetings thereafter.



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