Effective onboarding, both in and out of the office

By Sara McAuley, WorldatWork

My family recently adopted a shelter cat, bringing our total cat count to three. As we were adjusting her to our household, it occurred to me that I’ve been bringing my work home with me in a very fundamental way.

Consider it: On her first day we introduced her to her new environment — finding food, a comfortable chair, the water supply, and restroom facilities. There wasn’t too much socializing; just the basics. The second day we included her in treat time with the other cats. The three of them were wary, but we continued the process for several days. After a couple of weeks, she was a regular member of the Cat Team and showed signs of fitting in with our family culture.

It was during this process at home that I realized I was borrowing many techniques from years of experience with onboarding new employees. Obviously more complicated when you’re addressing human beings, business results and performance, the initiation process into an organization still involves many of those basic “get to know you” moments. These moments are the ones that ultimately (hopefully) lead new hires to becoming team contributors that produce high-quality work and collaborate with other staff members constructively.

Once employees have settled into their work and their roles, that’s when engagement, motivation and communication all come into play (if not sooner) — these are must-haves for a successful work experience. And don’t forget feedback and coaching, too (and I’m talking about more frequently than the annual performance review).

And I can be honest enough with myself to say that, in looking back at my experience with various companies in developing onboarding processes, I’m not sure we spent enough time reinforcing important basic information. Here are 10 suggestions that might get employees more engaged and productive earlier in their assignments:

  • Plenty of scheduled face time with supervisor and team members
  • Detailed expectations for the first three weeks, the first three months and the first year
  • Specific information about the company’s culture and customers, how business gets done, and what part every employee is expected to play
  • The employee’s expectations for his/her contribution to the company, short and long term
  • Personal goals for the employee and what motivates this employee outside of work
  • Examples of opportunities for employees to develop themselves, personally and professionally
  • Examples found in press releases, media coverage or social media that demonstrate company accomplishments or challenges
  • Reinforcement (at least twice) of resources available for company benefits and other programs
  • Honest discussion about performance and feedback and reinforcement of the employee’s role in the process
  • Clear communication about pay philosophy, incentives if available, and what the employee can expect.

What else should be on the wish list for orientation? How can rewards and HR teams engage managers and help them understand the importance of the early days of a career?

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