A change in a work environment is like getting acquainted with a new home. It takes a while and it is not always easy. Onboarding is the process that helps you smooth over the majority of those bumps and make for a more pleasant integration process.
What Is Onboarding?
It is pretty much what it sounds like – bringing an employee on board and getting them oriented around the work process. Onboarding aims to acclimatise the employee to all the aspects of their role within the company, including but not limited to, the company culture, the job function, workflow and so on. Getting them used to all these factors as quickly as possible should be the ultimate goal of any onboarding process.
Though onboarding and orientation sound like they are the same thing, they are not. Orientation is but a small part of the onboarding process.
Why Does It Matter?
As stated before, the aim is to acclimatise the employee to the work climate quickly but this goal is centred more on reducing the overall time, not speeding up the process necessarily. A rushed integration process can lead to many mistakes and make employees feel an unnecessary amount of pressure before they are even ready for it.
More and more, companies have begun to realise that rushing the integration process can be hazardous. Instead, what you need is a well-structured and well-organised onboarding program that takes its time to help new employees get used to every aspect of the job. This includes helping them perform efficiently, feel valued, get to know the work environment and have a high level of job satisfaction.
Onboarding And Orientation: The Difference
Onboarding as a process typically has a timeframe of up to a year, depending on the type of job that the person is signing up for, whereas orientation is just a small part of the onboarding process. Most likely you have experienced orientation in your lifetime as well, be it at a new school, a training program or college.
It usually only lasts a few hours and, in some cases, can be spread out over a few days. You can think of orientations as the front end of the onboarding process – a quick and cost-effective way to give new employees a brief overview of the company, the expectations, the mission and vision, benefits and so on.
Another key difference is that, onboarding is tailored to the needs of the individual and helps them get used to their new and very specific role within the company. Orientation on the other hand is for a more generic and widespread dissemination of information. Some companies stop at the orientation process, but investing in a well-structured onboarding strategy can work wonders for the business in the long-term.
The Objectives Of Onboarding
Aside from bringing new candidates up to speed with the work environment, onboarding also focuses on integrating the employees’ core values with that of the company’s culture. The reason that this is one of the main focuses is that the culture within the company shows everyone what the business and the brand stands for. It is therefore crucial that the employees be on the same page with the company values when it comes to their work and the output they give.
A good organisational culture maintains a meaningful and respectful workplace where there is an air of diversity, knowledge-sharing, community and respect. This brings us to the next objective of onboarding – making employees feel valued.
Beyond just getting the numbers up, an onboarding process should focus on making people feel like they matter within the organisation. The company should act as a platform for employees to voice and better themselves. This is only possible if the organisational culture is up to the task.
How To Approach An Onboarding Program:
Creating the program
A lot of the work in the onboarding process happens before the employees even arrive at the company. The majority of the process starts internally, so with that said, here is what you need to get things rolling:
Have the paperwork ready to go –
Before bringing in fresh blood, the company needs to have all the proper documentation squared away. This includes non-disclosure forms, employment contracts, liability forms, banking forms, new residential addresses and so on. In today’s world, you can easily send all these through email, fax, or if you prefer, courier service. Point being, there are a myriad of options to get the paperwork done well in advance.
Set up the admin privileges –
Once new employees arrive you would need to get their training started immediately and give them a rundown of their workstation, the system login info, the WIFI password, internal communication tools and their very own company email ID. It helps to have all these things prepped and ready to go from the beginning.
Let everyone know –
It is not just the new employees who need to be brought up-to-speed with a new work environment. You need to inform the concerned supervisor who that new employee would be reporting to as well. They also need to make preparations and adjust for the new team dynamic. Workload has to be managed without losing much momentum. It also helps to send out a company-wide email that lets all the employees know of the new arrival as well.
The first few days
It is true what they say about the first impressions being the best and this goes both ways. On the first day, the employee will form their impression of the company and work-style. Their first impression should not be, “Oh no, what did I get myself into?” In this time, old employees will also form their own opinions about the new arrivals as well as the change in workflow. The danger here is that if you do not set out a universally acceptable and clear outline of the new work dynamic, then everyone will end up resenting the management and the work. This does no one any good. So here is what you can do to make it a pleasant experience for everyone by minimising the growing pains.
Give them an office tour –
The best way to get someone used to a new work environment is to show it to them. Take new candidates on a thorough and detailed walk-through of the company and introduce them to all the management, and employees. It helps get them comfortable and makes the following days of work and communication that much easier.
Assign an orientation buddy to them –
No matter where you go, school, college or work, there are always going to be groups and cliques. Assigning an orientation buddy to the new-comer will help break that barrier and get them acquainted with everyone on the team.
Introduce the company to the employee –
Coming back to the point about company culture, the new employees must get a sense of where the company started, what it means to work there, the mission and vision of the company and so on.
Getting them situated within the department –
Regardless if they are a complete newbie or an expert in their field, it takes everyone some amount of time to learn the ropes and get used to the way a specific company operates. For example, you could have worked with the likes of Netflix as a producer or a writer, but this still does not mean you know how another production company operates internally. Everyone has their own system in place and you need to get the employee used to yours.
Define the goals and expectations –
Before the work process gets started, you need to give the new arrival some direction. That is to say, what you expect of them, how you expect them to achieve it and what the end goal is. Give them something to work towards rather than just shooting in the dark.
The first few months
Usually, within the first three to six months, you will come to know whether the employee is getting on well in the organisation or if they are struggling, whether they are going to stay or leave. This is why the first six months are crucial. At the end of every month, hold a review meeting to assess how they are getting on in their job role. Are they satisfied with the work and the management style?
This is also a good time to see if you as a business owner or manager find the employee’s work to be up to the mark. These follow-ups not only help measure the performance of the work; they also help identify any shortcomings in the onboarding process. Most companies follow the 90-day rule where they follow up 90 days after the employee was brought into the fold.
The first year
Though the first few months of follow-ups will give you a good idea of the employee’s performance, only at the end of the first year you will get the whole picture. Once you have all the data you can plan for further development. That is to say, you can start thinking about hiking up the payroll or promotions if things go well. If not, then maybe it is time to consider downsizing.
The first few days of the onboarding process will set the pace for the rest of the process depending on how much you cover straight out of the gate.
Some Best Practices To Keep In Mind
Do not expect employees to take on the whole workload from day one. It just will not go well if you try to force it. Yes, time is of the essence but so is quality.
It is a good idea to break up the first few days of the onboarding process into short segments. This will give everyone time to absorb and reflect upon the information they have been given before moving to the next phase.
Have the new employees work with multiple team members and observe roles outside of their own job description as well. This will give them an idea of the team dynamic, the different processes involved in the workplace and all the factors that go into the final output.
Do not let new employees feel isolated. Go out of your way to make them feel welcome in the workplace and even outside if possible. Invite them out for drinks or a meal every now and then – socialise.
The monthly follow-ups aside, give new employees the occasional ring. Call them, e-mail or something. The point here is to do regular check-ins with them to see how they are handling the change. This is very important, especially in the beginning.
At the end of the day, onboarding simply ties into a part of the training and integration process. To learn more on that go read our article on training so that you have all the tools you need to give your employees the best start possible.