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“Transitions are periods of opportunity, a chance to start fresh and make needed changes in an organization. But they also are periods of acute vulnerability, because you lack established working relationships and a detailed understanding of your new role.”

These words from author Michael Watkins state the case for building a robust employee onboarding process. Watkins is a renowned expert on the topic and a professor at the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Other than their recruitment period, onboarding is the first image an employee has of their new company – a picture that will stay with them permanently. Leading companies have learned that an effective and consistently executed onboarding strategy goes a long way toward tapping into the full engagement potential of their newly hired talent.

Be Prepared

In the United States and the United Kingdom, employees cost businesses an estimated $37 billion a year because they don’t fully understand their jobs. Effective onboarding helps minimize this risk.

To start the onboarding process off on the right foot, have the people, the place and the materials ready to go when the new hire arrives.

  • Provide a written overview of employee objectives and responsibilities. This will diminish any confusion about the job function or expected results.
  • Have relevant paperwork ready. This includes any documents that need to be completed or signed. Get this out of the way on day one, so you don’t have to deal with it later.
  • Set up the employee’s work station. Fully stock it with everything from phones, computers and laptops to pens, pencils and legal pads. Be sure email and voice mail accounts are active. Leave a copy of your organizational chart and phone directory on the desk.
  • Clarify company culture. I once started a new job wearing my best business suit. However, it was a Mondayand nobody told me that the company implemented a “business casual” policy on Mondays. So everyone else, including my supervisor and the CEO, were wearing khakis (sans jacket or tie) while I was in my full three-piece grandeur. To avoid this kind of confusion or embarrassment, let the employee know up front about pertinent policies. Provide a handbook if you have one.

Be Real

  • Don’t misrepresent the position. This immediately undermines trust. No amount of backpedaling can undo the initial damage.
  • Set reachable goals. New hires want to contribute right away. Give them real work that can be successfully completed within the first few weeks. Getting them up and running as soon as possible makes them feel valuable and impactful.

Be Accessible

New employees need and deserve undivided attention. It will be well worth the investment as they will more quickly adapt to their role.

  • Make a checklist of topics to cover. Set aside ample time to spend with new hires and go over everything on that list. Make it clear that you are not to be interrupted.
  • Position managers in key onboarding roles. By setting understandable expectations on both sides, employees know what they need to accomplish and what to expect from their supervisors.

Be Successful

  • When onboarding a new employee, think beyond the first few days. After 90 days, request formal feedback on performance from the involved supervisor. Be sure to solicit input from the employee as well.
  • Implement a mentoring system. Assign a high-performing co-worker to the role of mentor. This relieves anxiety and helps an employee start their tenure in the right direction.

Onboarding a crucial element in both individual and organizational development as it establishes a strong foundation for future success. To learn more about best practices for onboarding and related aspects of HR management, why not consult the expert recruitment team at BrainWorks? Contact us today.


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