The Critical Importance of Properly Welcoming a New Employee

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When beginning a new job, you approach it with a lot of intentionality. You check how long your commute will take. You select your outfit and make sure it’s freshly pressed. You understand that you are starting a new chapter and want to put your best foot forward.

However, that level of purpose is often not matched by your new employer. Onboarding is a critical — and often overlooked — part of organizational success.

Onboarding is a key step that sets the tone for the employee’s work relationships to follow. Do onboarding well and you will have a reliable, productive employee for years to come. Do it poorly and you can sour a relationship before it’s begun, resulting in an employee who feels disconnected, underappreciated, and demoralized.

Many companies behave as though employee onboarding is solely about conveying information to the employee. It’s not. While the new hire does need to learn how to log in to the company email and what time the daily staff meeting is, this is not the main purpose of onboarding. Onboarding is about integrating a new employee. It is relational, not just informational.

Employees’ first days and weeks with a company define their relationships, goals, and paths within the organization. Below are three principles to follow to ensure those relationships, goals, and paths are defined the right way, as well as some practical steps you can take to apply the principles:

1. Be Personal

– Inform Your Staff: Several days before the arrival of the new employee, send an email introducing them to the rest of the team. Be explicit about what their role will be. Praise the specific strengths this candidate exhibits and explain how they will be an asset to your team. Onboarding an employee is a team sport.

– Be Present: Block out time to show the new employee around and introduce them to coworkers. This should not be seen as an interruption to your day, but an investment in a new employee.

– Involve Key Players: Ask several members of your staff to introduce the employee to their key job duties and important areas of the company. This allows the new employee and their team members to get to know one another. Assign clear objectives to each person to ensure no critical information is missed.

– Introduce the New Hire to the Company: Your onboarding process should include an introduction to the history, mission, and values of your company. This should be more than a paragraph in the employee handbook. Connect the new employee with the heart of the organization. If you work in development for a college, this may include sitting in on a class or a meal in the student cafeteria. If you are involved in a software startup, visit a company using your product to see it in action. Help the employee understand why the job matters.

2. Be Clear

– Make a Blueprint: Make an onboarding plan, divided into three frames: immediate needs, initial competencies, and final follow-ups. Provide the employee with a copy so they can track progress and be proactive in the process.

– Provide Resources: There is a huge amount to learn in any new job. Point the employee to formal resources, such as employee handbooks and vendor lists, as well as informal resources, such as the Mexican place that the staff likes to get lunch at every Thursday.

– Set Clear Expectations: Both you and your new employee will begin with assumptions. Begin a functional relationship by taking extra time to communicate expectations, processes, and deadlines.

3. Be Diligent

– Make Yourself Available: It’s common to be attentive to onboarding in the early days of a new hire, but other demands may soon crowd things out, causing efforts to lag. Transitions take time. Make it clear that you are invested in the new hire’s success and continue to check in after the initial flurry of activity has quieted.

– Schedule Reviews: Set aside specific times to check in with the employee for the first few months, weekly at first, then moving to monthly. These meetings should allow feedback in both directions. You can give input on how things are going, and they can ask questions and provide insight.

– Improve Your Process: As part of their one-year review, ask each new employee what was most helpful in the onboarding process and what they would’ve changed. Human resources should review the employee handbook twice a year to ensure it is up to date and a helpful tool for new hires.

When approached strategically, employee onboarding can be an enjoyable and productive process that integrates a new member of your team. It also can be an opportunity for you as a manager to take a step back to evaluate the functioning of your department and reflect on your mission.

Cheryl Hyatt is partner at Hyatt-Fennell Executive Search.

By Cheryl Hyatt