Think back to onboarding experiences that you’ve participated in. Those may have provided you with critical first impressions of the company. Research says that onboarding also can be a factor in how long an employee stays with an organization.
Chief Learning Strategist and Founder of ThinkLearnEngage Shana Campbell and Jason Sturges, CPTD, project lead of courseware development at AllenComm, co-facilitated the session “How to Rock Your Onboarding: 10 Steps to an Employee Centered Program.” During this upbeat presentation, Campbell and Sturges defined onboarding and reviewed onboarding’s role and purpose.
They then discussed three onboarding frameworks. The first model focuses on who needs to be involved—commonly the employee, HR, and the manager or supervisor. The second model emphasizes four Cs: connection, culture, clarification, and compliance. The third model from Bamboo HR offers seven steps: “Outline Responsibilities, Train, Accept the New Hire, Give Early Feedback, Put Management in Charge, Assign a Mentor, and Focus on Stuff That Really Matters.”
As Sturges pointed out, however, onboarding holds various meanings at different organizations. He covered some of the more prevailing definitions, including “Getting new employees oriented, integrated, and delivering results as efficiently and energetically as possible.” He noted that that definition covers the onboarding process’s business, social, and energetic aspects.
He likewise pointed out that onboarding’s ideal length is often debated and varies by company. As many can attest, onboarding can be nonexistent or seemingly never-ending. Imagine your first day at a new job, completing the paperwork and then starting on your work with nothing but well wishes.
Citing research, Sturges affirmed that onboarding begins at the point an individual applies for a position and lasts until the employee’s one-year anniversary. Does that mean onboarding leaders are tasked with a whole year of activities? No. However, during an employee’s first 12 months, Sturges says that companies should keep top of mind the “experiences, interactions, knowledge, and training” that new hires receive.
In designing an onboarding program that brings people into your organization, makes them feel welcome, trains them up, and aids in retention, Campbell and Sturges agree that it must be an employee-centered experience. Sturges shared 10 steps to accomplish that goal:
- Identify problems.
- Categorize the biggest hurdles.
- Brainstorm all solutions.
- Determine success criteria.
- Evaluate and brainstorm.
- Organize solutions into the program.
- Pitch to management and leaders.
- Gather feedback.
- Enhance and repeat.
He points out, though, that Step 0 is to remember that you shouldn’t develop onboarding in solitude and that generally you need multiple departments involved in planning a successful onboarding. “Don’t do this by yourselves,” he advised. “Just as onboarding is a social event, preparing onboarding should be a social event as well.”
In explaining Step 10—enhance and repeat—Sturges advised those planning onboarding experiences to refine along the way. “If it doesn’t work, throw it out, pull in a new idea, do something different, and just keep trying,” he said.
To wrap up the presentation, Campbell offered advice to those tasked with pivoting from in-person onboardings to virtual experiences. She noted that—regardless of the model you choose to shape your onboarding—your program doesn’t have to change because it is virtual. Focus on the how not the what, and consider aspects like screen time and creative ways to record video content, she said. Those are the keys to making your virtual session a success.
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