Leadership

Onboarding – Who, When, and How

Congratulations! Your organization has hired a new employee. They’re excited to receive a job offer and contribute their skills and knowledge to your workplace’s success. You’re excited because you’ve identified and hired a strong candidate that can contribute to the success of the organization. Now what?

According to a 2021 article by Gallup analytics, “One in five employees either report that their most recent onboarding was poor — or that they received no onboarding at all.”

Onboarding is a multifaceted, ongoing process that remains active throughout the employee’s career at the organization.

Onboarding is no longer a single act or event where the new employee may meet a few people, attend an information session about benefits, and view their new workspace. It’s a multifaceted, ongoing process that remains active throughout the employee’s career at the organization. The process of welcoming, introducing, and socializing a new employee to the organization must keep pace with the growth and complexity of your workplace.

Who should participate in the onboarding and when does it begin?

Who

Onboarding isn’t the sole responsibility of the HR department – it takes a village! Identify those who can provide the organizational, departmental, team, and role perspectives. Then include key stakeholders (payroll, union, EAP, IT, etc.). Informally, all staff are involved in the process as it relates to social onboarding.

It is important for a new employee to feel like they’re a part of the larger community, as all staff are working toward common goals. Every employee will either formally or informally communicate the values, behavioural expectations, and norms of the organization.

When

The onboarding process is activated the moment the new hire signs the employment agreement. That’s right, it begins before the “start date.” Here are a few examples of how you can start onboarding a new employee before their official start date:

  • Send them a welcome letter from the CEO, supervisor/manager, and/or HR department
  • Provide information to help them prepare for their first day of work (e.g., arrival time, where to park, who they’ll be greeted by, what documents or personal items to bring, what to expect on the first day and in the first week, etc.)
  • Secure access to the necessary corporate systems and documents to complete their required training or gain security access (e.g., WHMIS, respectful workplace policy, emergency procedures, etc.)
    • The first week on the job should be about getting their feet wet with the actual work, not reading hundreds of pages of corporate documents alone!
    • One way to compensate a new hire for time spent reading documents or training before their start date is to allow for a shorter first work week.

Make sure you regularly check in with the new employee between the hiring date and start date to answer questions and make them feel welcome before they start. This is particularly important if the new employee has been asked to complete pre-start-date training and reading.

How

Below are some examples of how you can ease the employee into their new job. These apply whether they are starting work remotely or in person.

  • Make sure the organization is prepared for the new employee’s arrival.
  • Confirm that their direct supervisor is available to greet and actually spend time with them.
  • Introduce them to staff that they’ll have a working relationship with.
  • Discuss the strategic plan, corporate culture, role expectations, and how they will contribute to the success of the organization.
  • Review the onboarding plan for the week, month, and year. (Notice that the onboarding process doesn’t end after the first day?!)
  • Explain your corporate systems and how they can access information. Anticipate responses to questions like, “Where do I find . . . ?” “How do I get . . . ?” and “Who do I talk to about . . . ?” Feel free to ask your newest employees about their onboarding experience to identify gaps and get feedback about how the process is working and areas for improvement.
Hold off on making assumptions that an employee “knows enough” to perform after their first week or month.

Beyond the first day, there is still much to learn. Don’t forget that the new employee will be unfamiliar with the organization’s structure, norms, culture, work, and systems for at least a year. Hold off on making assumptions that an employee “knows enough” to perform after their first week or month. Knowledge sharing between existing and new employees is critical.  Without access to information and knowledge sharing, a new employee can feel isolated, lost, and unmotivated, and they may question their decision to take the job.

Conduct a yearly review of your onboarding process by obtaining feedback from new employees and recent hires. Your organization should always be asking:

  • What information does a new employee need access to?
  • What does a new employee need to know?
  • Who does a new employee need to talk to?
Conduct a yearly review of your onboarding process by obtaining feedback from new employees and recent hires.

A new employee’s first few weeks will communicate what they can expect for the duration of their time at the organization. First impressions matter!


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Author

Charmaine Wintermute

Trainer, ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership

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