How to Create a Multigenerational Onboarding Program
An onboarding program is essential to the success of your new hires. It eases the new employee’s transition into the organization and lays the groundwork for their employment.
There are a number of ways to approach the development of your company’s onboarding program, but no matter how you choose to onboard employees, your process should align with the culture and values of your organization. An onboarding program must also speak to the unique individual who is joining the company, touching on their own concerns and addressing their own potential challenges.
It is not uncommon for organizations to struggle with this last part. This is especially true as more and more organizations become multigenerational workplaces where employees of all ages intermingle. Every professional of any age has their own capabilities and skill sets. Tailoring your onboarding program to meet the needs of all of these very different but equally valuable employees can mean the difference between a successful hire and an assured exit.
Onboarding a Baby Boomer
Baby boomers are those born between 1946 and 1964, which means many of them have been working for at least 30 years. When it comes to employment, they get it. They understand guidelines, rules, and how to navigate the complications of office personalities and workplace stresses. Many boomers are comfortable with conservative company cultures and less interested in newer management trends and employee perks.
Chances are near 100 percent that your onboarding process is not the first one a boomer employee has experienced. They know a thing or two about starting a new job. These employees might expect the traditional orientation led by HR and heavy on presentation decks. They will quickly pick up any rules and regulations set forth, but they may hesitate when faced with cutting-edge technologies. They might also be stuck in their own ways, holding tightly to the processes they have followed throughout their careers.
Before Day One
A good onboarding program for baby boomers capitalizes on their self-awareness and experience. Instead of guessing how a boomer employee might work best, just ask. Have them explain their preferred learning and working styles and try to accommodate those going forward. Also be sure to discuss technologies used in the office and the new employee’s level of comfort with these tools and processes. Offer them guidance if they need help getting used to new tools.
There will be some non-negotiables that require diplomatic resolution. For example, your organization might have a process that every employee needs to follow but with which some boomers are uncomfortable. Explain the importance of the process, then ask how you and your team could help the employee follow it comfortably. That way, the employee understands they must participate and knows whom to approach for help if issues arise.
Employees, regardless of their age, all have their own working preferences. For example, extraverts might be most happy in an open office conducive to chatting, while introverts might need solitude to feel most productive. If possible, create various types of workspaces in your office so that each person can find one that suits their style.
Onboarding Generation X
Generation X was born between the early 1960s and the early 1980s. These professionals are youngish, but experienced. They have watched workplace technology develop firsthand, and they very much understand the rules of corporate life. Chances are a Gen. X-er will have experienced onboarding enough times to be comfortable with traditional orientations but is young and enthusiastic enough to be open to more modern techniques.
Gen. X is known for independence and an emphasis on work/life balance. Because of their interest in working independently, Gen. X-ers may prefer onboarding programs that incorporate self-guided processes. Gen. X-ers will appreciate on-the-job training that lets them get involved in actual projects right from the start.
Before Day One
Mentorships and coaching programs can be great ways to feed Gen. X’s desire for independence while also integrate new hires into the company culture. Find an established employee who understands the new hire’s role within the organization. Work with that employee to develop a few projects the new hire can jump into immediately, and have the established employee act as the new hire’s go-to for guidance on the projects. Prepare an outline for each project prior to the new hire’s first day so that they can jump right in once orientation is over.
Mentoring is a great way to help new hires of all ages get acclimated to the job and meet their new team members. There’s nothing more comforting than knowing at least one person you can eat lunch with on your first day.
Onboarding a Millennial
Born between the late 1980s and late 1990s, millennials are some of the youngest workers in the workforce. Many are just beginning to rise out of entry-level positions, while others are just embarking on their professional journeys. As a result of their relative newness to the workforce, some millennials may not know yet exactly how they prefer to work or learn. Overall, millennials have an affinity for technology and connectivity. They also desire meaningful work and career growth opportunities.
Traditional orientations and onboarding programs probably won’t be best for millennial success. Instead, most millennials share Gen. X’s preference for on-the-job training. If you can incorporate gamification and social experiences into the process, you’ll get even more buy-in from millennials.
Before Day One
Develop a clear plan for millennials’ onboarding processes, including project outlines, goals, KPIs, and scheduled check-ins with management. Within the new hire’s first few days, detail their current role and how the employee can build from it toward other positions within the organization. Also, help millennial employees see the potential for growth in your organization by encouraging them to innovate and explaining how they can bring their ideas to wider implementation.
As Kforce’s Allison Kruse points out, millennials’ technological tendencies can frustrate their abilities to connect in the real world. As a result, it’s important for managers to make extra effort to build rapport with millennial team members. Kruse quotes another Kforce employee, Kristan McCants, on how managers can do this: “Scheduling regular [one-on-ones] or simply grabbing a coffee during a work break are just a few ways to establish a level of trust and understanding with colleagues.”
Each generation has a different outlook on the world of work. Whether you blame the state of the economy during a generation’s formative years or the parenting techniques trending when they were children, the fact is that different generations generally have different preferences and behaviors in the workplace. Building a multigenerational onboarding process means understanding these differences — as well as the uniqueness of each individual new hire — and tailoring your approach to each employee’s needs.
A version of this article originally appeared on the ClearCompany blog.
Sara Pollock is head of the marketing department at ClearCompany.