Employee retention is a critical component of any successful business. Employee turnover can be extremely expensive, not to mention extremely disruptive to your business. Retention strategies need to start early. In fact, the best retention strategies start with well-developed onboarding strategies, strategies that are implemented on an employee’s first day – if not sooner.
Onboarding is the process where new employees get introduced to all the necessary behaviors, skills and knowledge they’ll need to succeed and contribute to the success of your company. It’s the process of integrating a new person into your small business’ culture and procedures. Not to be confused with orientation, onboarding is an ongoing process of building engagement from the first contact until the employee becomes established within the organization. Orientation, on the other hand, is a stage of onboarding where new employees learn about the company and their job responsibilities.
Today’s onboarding process can have serious ramifications for the future of your business. So it’s crucial to pay close attention and ensure that it’s truly setting your employees up for success. Here are a few tips to guide you as you think about building out your onboarding program.
- Prepare for new employees ahead of time
Send them a package giving them a brief overview of what their first days with the company will look like. Include initial paperwork and instructions for their first day arrival. A few days prior, prepare everything they’ll need to start their first week. For example, make sure they have the following
- Copy of the Employee Handbook
- A clean work area
- Schedule for the first week or two
- Any logins they may need
Introduce the new hire to everyone on the team. Adding a new member to your team will inevitably change its dynamics. Preparing your team for how the new hire will fit in is key: What are their responsibilities? Who will they be working with or reporting to? Are they taking on any work from other team members? What does that handoff process look like?
On the first day, let new hires know exactly how your company is working to achieve those goals so that they know what’s expected of them as a part of the company. By aligning your new team members with the company’s values, vision, and culture, you’ll equip them to contribute more positively to your business.
Make them feel special, accepted and surprised. Here are a few things you can do to start things off right:
- Have their desk already set up with everything they need (ID badges, forms, account IDs and passwords etc.).
- Give them a welcome package that includes gifts or messages from office mates.
- Schedule a lunch with the new hire’s co-workers
- Send a company-wide email introducing your new hire to them.
They say timing is everything, and with new hires, this is especially true. You can optimize new hire start dates by having them join at a time when they can contribute most effectively and when their team is available and present. For example, having a new hire start over the holidays or right before their manager goes out on leave means they have less of a support system. This can make them feel left out or like their arrival to the company isn’t a priority.
Policies and procedures may be dull, but leaving them out or putting them off could set new hires up for failure. Going over procedures also helps reinforce your value as an employer because you can add information like benefits, paid time off, and other perks your company provides.
Line up your resources
- Form a cross-departmental onboarding team
HR knows compliance; management knows performance expectations; coworkers know the day-to-day; and IT knows how to get equipment up and running. Forming a small team with members from each of these departments helps ensure that you’ve covered every new hire-related topic before they even walk through the front door.
- Keep their schedule tightly structured – at least to start
Scheduling a new hire’s entire first week or two ahead of time has a couple of benefits. For one, they’ll never be left wondering what to do next. Perhaps most importantly, it also gives the right impression: “Trust us. We know what we’re doing.”
- Set expectations early
When it comes to setting role responsibilities and performance goals, you cannot be vague. Setting defined (but realistic) expectations for new hires from the get-go—and communicating them clearly—can help workers evaluate their own progress and prepare for what’s to come. Set short-term and long-term goals, then have managers check in regularly to see if new hires are meeting them.
- Assign a buddy
Providing a buddy or mentor who works in the same department as your new hire is also a good idea. In fact, Gartner research shows that 74% of new hires consider their peers to be the most helpful source of support during onboarding. The new hire gets a point person for any of their questions, comments or concerns, and the mentor gets an opportunity to demonstrate leadership.
- Don’t expect new hires to hit the ground running
The phrase “hit the ground running” gets thrown around a lot with new employees. Have you ever actually tried to hit the ground running? While it can be tempting to speed up onboarding and training so your employees can start producing, this can actually be detrimental to worker development and retention in the long run.
- Line up your resources
A new employee can have questions even after the onboarding process is over. Having a team of people who can be available in key departments is invaluable. Setting up a social meeting or activity with this group and the new hire for the first few months can pay off in the long run.
- Collect and implement feedback from new hires
Many companies, if they even bother to create an onboarding strategy, put it together and stick to its methods and processes, not giving it much thought once it has been created. But an effective process needs to evolve, needs constant reimagining based on real-time feedback from new hires. Continuous improvements will improve employee satisfaction. They will feel heard and like they’re contributing to the overall wellbeing of the company.