The Secret to Effective Employee Onboarding
It’s not enough to hire great people, you need to set them up for success.
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A growing company spends an enormous amount of time recruiting. Between sourcing candidates, interviewing and hiring them it can easily take up 50% of your team’s time. Sometimes more!
With all of that time investment, it always amazes me that companies spend so little time on employee onboarding. The most common form of onboarding is to throw the new hire into the mix and rely on them learning as fast as possible from what is going on around them. This leads to employee dissatisfaction, low productivity and general frustration. After investing so much effort in recruiting, why would you risk your investment so quickly?
Employee onboarding is the key to unlocking the potential of new hires and to building a healthy and empowering company culture. Here is a playbook for making employee onboarding a competitive advantage for you.
Part 1: Rooting Out Bad Habits
Most of the employees you hire will bring bad habits with them from their previous jobs. In most cases they don’t realize these are bad habits, so they will try to instill them at your company under the guise of “best practices”. Don’t let that happen.
A great example is interviewing. Many people believe they are great interviewers because they did a lot of interviewing in their prior jobs. Unfortunately, the interviewing they did was poor because the recruiting process their prior employers used was poor. They got good at a bad system without realizing it was a bad system. If you let them use those same techniques at your company, your interviewing will be bad as well.
You cannot assume your new hires know the best ways to do things, and your onboarding should be designed to root out bad habits and replace them with good habits. To do that, you should have formal training on the fundamentals of working at your company.
These trainings can include:
Effective interviewing and recruiting
Proper use of messaging and email for communications
Meeting etiquette and communications
The training doesn't need to be long, each can be as short as 10 minutes. The important thing is that you are explicit and clear about what you consider to be best practices instead of assuming the new hires already have them.
Many small teams complain they are too small to need formal training, but these are important no matter what size your company might be. If you aren’t formal about the fundamentals, you are just acquiring a lot of bad habits you will need to fix later. I started doing these when my team was as small as 3-4 people.
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Part 2: Do The Job
In designing employee onboarding, the priority should be to have the new hire do the job as quickly as possible. The longer you wait to let them work, the more likely that frustration and discontent will set in. For each new employee I hire, I set up three projects:
Something to complete on their first day
Something to complete in their first week
Something to complete in their first month
It might seem impossible to believe that employees can complete a project on their first day, but it doesn’t need to be a big project. Even something small means they will end their first day with a feeling of accomplishment which is something very few companies offer.
The projects will vary wildly by position and function, but everyone should have them. Even executives! The days of an executive joining the team and spending a few months “getting up to speed” are over, no business has that kind of time. Executives need to show they can do the job on day one and handle getting up to speed on their own.
Great projects are not busywork or simulations, these should be real projects that have real outcomes even if they are small. You will need to invest time in crafting these projects, but that time is an investment in productivity of the new hire and will pay dividends.
Part 3: Feedback
The best way to measure the success of your recruiting process is not by how many people you hire, but by the job satisfaction and productivity of new hires after their first month. Recruiting is successful only if it produces happy, productive employees! To know if you are doing well, you need to ask them.
At the end of a new hire’s first month, sit down with them and understand how they are doing. What have they accomplished? What do they like about the company? What do they dislike? All of these are important inputs to evaluate your performance.
This feedback is also a rare opportunity to see your company with fresh eyes. After a few months, all employees will start to blend into the company habits and culture which makes them unable to look at everything objectively. A new employee has a completely fresh perspective and can often see things that are invisible to long term employees. Use that opportunity to find out what the new hires see that you can’t.
You can also learn what they wish they had known in their first week, to inform the training you do in Part 1. Your company is always changing, so the training needs will change as well. By closing the loop here, you can get the next hire up to speed even faster.
In business, as in life, you cannot make someone else happy. The best you can do is put them in a position where they can choose to be happy. Great employee onboarding does just that, by giving a new hire the best experience possible while positioning them for future success.
If all of this seems like too much work, remember how much work you put into recruiting. All of this onboarding is a fraction of that time, isn’t it worth it?
For more on recruiting and team growth, see:
There are two ways to build a team: Up and Down.
Your Company Culture is a critical leadership tool
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