Onboarding is a Process, Not an Event

We all want to have those new employees who after just a few short days, give you this overwhelming feeling that they’ve been a part of the team forever!  It’s a fantastic feeling when that happens.  You found that perfect person that was missing from your team.  Other times it’s less instant but that’s not because they aren’t the right fit, it just might mean they need a little extra time to find a rhythm and feel secure in their role.  By creating opportunities for your new team members to make connections and build lasting relationships, you are helping to deeply root them into the culture where they can flourish and grow over time.   This also benefits those individuals who are instantly connected to the culture because you never want them to lose that “honeymoon” feeling.

Here’s the problem:

Too many times I hear, “after onboarding the employee sits through orientation.” Screech… hit the brakes.  Hold on, wait a minute, this doesn’t make sense to me.

Onboarding is not a 2-hour presentation about your culture.  It’s not even a full day workshop dedicated to living your philosophy or values.  Onboarding is the process (not a one-time event!) of integrating a new employee into an organization.  Sure, you might have the most fun fantastic culture deck in the world, but that doesn’t mean your new employees are suddenly integrated after a quick presentation on what it means to work at your organization.

Consider a new resident.  Are they fully acclimated to the ins and outs of their new residence after just a few short hours? Oh heck no. Onboarding is a series of events in which the new employee shares several experiences that helps them settle into their new role and build the confidence to perform at their best, similar to how a new resident takes time to learn the ropes, make friends, and feel comfortable in their new home.

Orientation is part of the experience, a big part I might add, but it’s so much more than that. Onboarding includes setting expectations, ensuring the employee has the tools they need to do their job, making sure that the new team member knows what to do and who to ask when they have questions, need clarification or have other general concerns.  It is also about helping the new employee reach their productivity potential more quickly.

Onboarding is about making sure the new team member feels welcome and included.  I hate to use the phrase that it’s the process of holding a new employees’ hand while they are getting their feet wet, but in a sense, it is.  Yet, it’s even more than that!

I personally believe that onboarding is the foundation for retention and your performance management process.  Again, I say process, not event!  Please don’t think performance management is an annual evaluation.

Take an inventory of your onboarding process and ask yourself these five simple questions:

  • Are you setting your new employees up for success by providing them with adequate information during orientation and training?
  • Are you getting to know your new employees (what’s important to them, their strengths, special talents, their short and long-term goals)?
  • Do new employees feel welcome and do they receive a mentor, coach or peer support during and after the initial training is completed?
  • Are new employees given the opportunity to sit down and discuss and set clear expectations for their performance?
  • Do you have regular ongoing check-points scheduled with your new employee to discuss their experience, answer questions, and engage them in new opportunities?

If you’ve answered no to any of these questions, you might you want to take a look at your onboarding process and remember it’s more than just creating a good first day or fun orientation.

This article was written by team member, Allison Duda.

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