Posted May 7, 2022 by Mark Perna
Only 12% of employees say their employer does a good job of onboarding. Here are five ways to do better—plus, some advice if you’re a new hire. Mark’s article, “5 Keys For Everyone To Unlock A Positive Onboarding Experience,” published at Forbes.com on May 2, 2022.
Most managers would agree that onboarding is an important step in an employee’s journey with the company—yet, Gallup found that only 12% of employees believe their organizations onboards new hires effectively. What gives?
I recently talked to Lindsay Chim, SVP of the Talent Management Practice of Right Management, about why onboarding is so pivotal amid the Great Resignation. In part one of this conversation, we talked about the top 7 onboarding mistakes that companies commit and how to avoid them.
But of course, it’s not enough to simply sidestep the pitfalls; we should be proactively pursuing an effective onboarding experience that will solidify an employee’s commitment to the company. What follows are five keys that can unlock a positive onboarding culture in your organization—plus, some tips for new hires to make their own early experiences better.
Sometimes the simplest things are the easiest to trip over. According to Chim, the first signal to a new employee that the company has their act together is whether or not they’re given the right hardware, software, configurations, access rights, key cards, office equipment, business cards and everything else that they need.
“While many organizations have strong processes for this, there are often dropped balls or individual needs that create complexity,” warns Chim. She advises companies to designate a single owner who understands the logistics and who can make sure everything is ready on or near Day 1. “Something as simple as presenting the manager and new hire with an onboarding checklist with as many self-guided action items as possible is an excellent way to help someone who is brand new get their first sense of accomplishment in a new role,” Chim says.
Whether an individual is starting in a new company or a new role within the same company, they need to understand the business context. “A manager should be able to clearly convey these market and organizational dynamics to a new employee in the first couple of weeks,” says Chim. “Don’t just rely on corporate training or another function—hearing their manager tell them in their own words how they see the world and where they fit into the bigger picture will help a new hire to calibrate future interactions with colleagues and customers.”
Managers should walk through key responsibilities, accountabilities and metrics—especially when there may be a discrepancy between how the recruiter touted the role and what it really is. After this conversation, says Chim, a new hire should be able to articulate what success looks like and begin to take ownership of achieving it. “This should then be reinforced with regular touchpoints to clarify roles and assumptions as new information and perspectives from stakeholders are revealed,” she says. “Schedule more frequent touchpoints up front to establish alignment, then taper to an ongoing cadence as the new hire demonstrates comfort in role.”
One of the most nerve-wracking moments for a new hire, says Chim, is when they need to introduce themselves for the first time. “Even the most natural extrovert will be worried about their first impression,” Chim says, “but a manager can put those concerns to rest with a personal branding session early in a new hire’s journey to help them with their introduction and language for their professional profile.”
How else can managers lay the foundation for a new hire’s network? Create a list of people the new hire should meet, says Chim, that details how they might work with each other and what topics should be covered in the first conversation. “Then, sequence those meetings by priority in the first 2–4 weeks on the job.”
Even the most optimistic hiring decisions may prove to be mistakes if the individual and culture of the organization don’t mesh. The good news, says Chim, is that we can be intentional in how we invest in making it work. “Begin with an assessment during the final stages of interviewing to make sure that the candidate is the right fit to the role—this ensures that individual biases don’t eclipse underlying capabilities and engagement styles that will lead to success in role,” she says. “Then make sure that the assessment and associated debrief helps the new hire to understand how their individual personality traits can support them to deliver on role requirements and adapt to organizational culture.
“As the new hire settles into the job, make sure to check in with them frequently with coaching on how to interpret behaviors, and adjust individual approach and style to adapt to team culture.”
These five strategies are helpful for organizations seeking to improve their onboarding process, but what part does the new hire play in their own successful launch into the culture? If that’s you, Chim has some words of advice for you, too.
First, take a pulse on how open the organization is to change. “We have all seen (or been) that person that comes into a new role guns blazing and ready to make an impact,” says Chim. “In some environments, that is a welcome approach and in others it is not met with as much enthusiasm by those who have been there awhile. A new hire should be able to read the situation and adapt their style.”
How exactly do you go about doing that? Chim believes you should start with listening, asking questions, playing back what you heard and then testing ideas. “Find likeminded peers who see similar issues that you believe are high priorities and enlist their help to get things moving,” says Chim. “When you sense that you are moving too quickly, slow it down. Sometimes our own expectations of ourselves get in the way of results.”
New hires should also form realistic expectations about the feedback they will receive. “No one should expect to start a new role and not have areas to calibrate or improve on,” says Chim. Being open to constructive criticism is great, but proactively inviting it as a part of your onboarding experience can be even more effective as you settle into your new role.
Finally, be ready to join in the social scene at your new company. While it’s important to learn the day-to-day responsibilities you need to perform, remember that your peers are often your greatest resource in picking up those tasks with ease.
Chim believes that while many companies recognize the importance of onboarding, too often they stop short once they’ve covered the logistical needs. Such organizations then leave the rest up to the hiring manager to figure out, which is a hit-or-miss approach.
“The first thing is to ask how consistently do we do the five best practices named above?” says Chim. “How we are holding ourselves accountable to achieving this consistently?”
For scaled roles (e.g., front line workers), an organization may have great training for basic skills in the role. But Chim argues that does not go far enough. “Are we thinking about helping individuals develop relationships and understanding of potential career paths that will help them to develop a deeper sense of connection to the organization?”
For more specific roles in leadership or corporate, Chim urges hiring managers to consistently think through the nuances of conveying role clarity and setting up the new hire with the right connections across functions and teams. “How are we keeping hiring managers accountable for addressing all five areas of onboarding success?”
Leveraging different types of data collection can also help to evaluate the efficacy of on-boarding, says Chim. “This can include targeted surveys to understand the new hire process, evaluating attrition data and integrating with exit interviews to understand drivers of voluntary exits, especially in the first year.” Doing this over the course of several years will yield insights how the organization is trending and if they need to do something different.
A powerful onboarding process may take time and resources to build, but the Great Resignation has made it a strategic advantage that can’t be brushed aside. Start investing in your process today and join the elite 12% of companies who—according to employees—are getting onboarding right.