The Top 5 Ways to Create an Effective Onboarding Program for New Hires, by Alexia Vernon
Ask any manager, trainer, HR professional, or corporate coach what makes for a successful new hire and they will most likely tell you the same thing:
By the end of their first 90 days, successful employees know how to think critically, communicate effectively, solve problems, work on a team, speak before an audience, respect authority, and provide good customer service.
On the flipside, they would probably also say that new hires who are not successful have a lot in common as well:
By the end of their first 90-days, they still require a lot of handholding and supervision. They don’t manage time effectively, don’t ask the right questions, don’t work well with others, and don’t see opportunities in the midst of challenges.
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In a perfect world, recruiters and hiring managers would be able to select the former kind of employee and avoid the latter. Then all new employees would be good fits. But, as we know, this is very often not the case. If you want to take all employees from new hire to peak performer, you’ve got to be prepared to do the work from the moment each new employee says “yes” to the job.
Here are 5 ways to create an effective onboarding program for new employees:
1. Begin day 1 before day 1
Employees put a lot of stock in the first day experience, particularly when they are Generation Y (which 50% will be by 2014).
To make the first day memorable rather than regrettable, aim to get compliance conversations completed in advance. By putting HR info, company history, and so forth into an online portal, you send a message that you respect employees’ time and free the first day up for job-specific activities.
However, because of the importance of this traditional part of an onboarding program, you should have a way to document that they actually reviewed the material, such as an online quiz to complete. And if they are non-exempt employees, this is part of their compensable working time, even if done on their smartphone while sitting on their back deck having a beer.
2. Create a knockout first day
Now that you have found additional time in your new employees’ first day, use it to make them feel welcomed and excited to be working for you. This doesn’t need to be complicated. Make sure that whoever greets new employees when they arrive knows their names. Assign an engaging first-day task. Ensure that new employees take lunch with co-workers they can bond with. And, perhaps most importantly, give them an opportunity to address any confusion or anxiety.
3. Communicate responsibilities clearly
When you set employees up to understand their roles correctly from the start, you enable them to be more self-directed, engaged, efficient, and happy. As a result, managers will be able to attend to their own responsibilities and lead their departments, rather than worry about their employees’ moment-to-moment, day-to-day performance.
While new employees will likely have some idea of their responsibilities from a job description and job interview conversations, as well as possibly from having served in similar positions in the past, each situation is somewhat unique, and communicating roles, responsibilities, and expectations is an important ongoing management responsibility, especially during the first days and weeks of employment.
4. Give feedback early and often
Psychologists and neuroscientists have concluded that it takes approximately 90 days to make a new habit – whether that habit is creating a plant-based diet, communicating effectively, or being productive in one’s role in a new job.
By the time most companies let employees know how they can improve, the employees have solidified their habits—good and bad. Therefore, good supervisors always give feedback that is timely and behaviorally specific.
5. Finally, turn mistakes into “teachable moments”
If you want employees to perform well, stay engaged, become self-directed, and move to their next level of success, you must consider yourself to be in the business of facilitating learning and growth.
In our still-fragile economy, too many new employees are terrified of taking risks, and as a result they create their own glass ceiling for performance.
Without management creating and modeling a culture where it’s okay to take calculated risks and sometimes fail, your new hires might be good in their roles–but they will never be great.
In order to institutionalize teachable moments into your new hire’s first 90 days—and beyond—begin by asking coaching questions to see if the employee can identify their mistake on their own.
If the mistake is something they wouldn’t recognize—for example, failure of a cash drawer to balance with the register—you may need to begin by identifying the mistake yourself. Then, staying in a coaching frame of mind, identify specifically with your new hire what can be learned from the mistake and focus on co-creating a lasting solution.
There’s a reason enlightened and progressive employers are paying more attention to the initial days and weeks of employment—now often called “onboarding.” It’s because what happens during this critical time period often makes the difference between a satisfied, productive employee who works well with others and a marginal or problematic one.