The right onboarding experience is a determining factor in how employees establish that important connection with the business. This experience, in turn, strongly influences an employee’s decision to stay in the company or seek a career opportunity elsewhere.
Employee onboarding is more than an orientation about the company and the rules employees must follow in the workplace. It is more than an event. Employee onboarding is a process that begins during recruitment, extends through the hiring process, evolves as employees change roles, and ends when they leave the company.
What is your company doing to onboard its employees?
Let’s see whose story resonates more with you. Let’s meet Francis, Angela, and Ted.
Francis accepted a position as an administrative assistant for a telecommunications company. He completed the required paperwork online and took multiple webinars about the company’s history, its vision, its mission, and its plans for the future. Other topics included scenarios designed to bring to life the employee handbook as well as the company’s code of ethics.
When Francis arrived at the company, the receptionist did not know who was expecting him. After making some calls while Francis waited in the lobby, she found out that HR believed they had completed their share of the process and handed it over to the learning and development team to do theirs. While the receptionist was calling L&D, Francis’s new supervisor came into the lobby and ushered him away to her office.
Francis had been looking forward to that first day of work. However, the confusion around his arrival and the company’s apparent lack of organization to establish clear connections between the online onboarding and the reality of the workplace was not what he had expected. He had second thoughts about having accepted the offer.
Angela is a recent engineering graduate who accepted an entry-level position at a construction firm. When she arrived for her first day of work, she was sent to a conference room where new hires received two days of presentations from senior engineers about the company, its history, and its most important projects. HR representatives discussed company policies and ensured that the new hires completed all the required paperwork. They were directed to a call center if they had questions.
Angela then reported at the construction site of a mini-mall for two days of shadowing her boss so that she could learn what to do. Her boss left for a three-day vacation after those two days and did not ask anyone to support Angela in his absence. Claire, another engineer, met Angela while both were buying coffee at a nearby bakery. Claire noticed that Angela’s hard hat had the company’s logo and introduced herself. Claire became Angela’s informal mentor during those crucial first days.
Ted’s background in chemistry made him an ideal candidate for the role of laboratory analyst at a new specialized testing facility for an emerging industry. His interviewers gave him a realistic job preview of the position and explained his responsibilities in great detail. They answered his questions about the company’s expectations for the position and were available to clarify other issues at a later time.
Because Ted values an environment where he can feel comfortable asking questions and where he can trust that he will receive guidance and direction to succeed, he accepted the offer. Soon after doing so, he received documents to review and sign, as well as access to a company website where he could learn more about the organization and the emerging industry that it is beginning to serve before his first day of work.
Ted participated in a three-day general orientation program that introduced him to the company’s culture beyond what he had learned on his own. On the fourth day, his supervisor shared with Ted the individualized role-specific onboarding plan designed to support him into becoming a productive contributor to the business.
The stories of Francis, Angela, and Ted illustrate the experiences of new employees in many companies and what happens as a result of those experiences. Francis’s company implemented an entirely online program and did not pay attention to how human contact is necessary for a new employee to integrate into the organization. Angela’s company misconstrued orientation for onboarding, disregarded the information overload for the new hires, and underestimated the need for guidance and support on the job. Meanwhile, Ted’s company paid attention to every detail during the recruitment and hiring processes for him to understand the business as well as later when he reported to his area for him to understand his role. Thus, Ted’s experience offers a snapshot of a well-designed onboarding plan.
Uncertainty about onboarding is not new. Yet all of us know that onboarding is key for employee engagement and retention. We recommend that you start by defining what onboarding is for you, for your company, and for your stakeholders before doing anything else.
Is your company’s onboarding more like Francis’s or Angela’s? If so, it’s time to change the plan.
For more advice, check out Effective Onboarding.