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Deconstructing the Onboarding Process

Onboarding.  It’s a term almost every business owner is familiar with but what does it actually mean? 

What constitutes a good, complete onboarding process and why does it matter to your company? 

Those are fair questions and in this article, we’ll take a closer look in hopes of demystifying the onboarding process.

Let’s start with the basics.  According to Merriam Webster, onboarding is simply the process of bringing a new employee into your company.

Sounds simple enough, but most people equate the onboarding process with an employee’s first day of work.  The day when your new hire fills out a bunch of forms, gets a copy of the employee handbook and gets ushered around the office to meet everyone.

While a new hire’s first day is certainly part of the onboarding process, it doesn’t necessarily start or stop there.

Training takes time, and should definitely be counted as part of the onboarding process, which can often extend it to 90 days, 120 days, and in some cases, even longer.

You could also count the period of time between the date you extend an offer to an employee and the date the employee first shows up to work as part of the process; a ‘pre-boarding’ period, if you will. 

Most companies don’t actually make use of this period of time, but those that do have reported consistently good results with it, so it’s something you should consider if you’re interested in ramping up your company’s retention rate.

As to particulars, let’s review the matter from pre-boarding to onboarding and the end of your new hire’s probationary period.  Here’s a snapshot of what that might look like:

Pre-Boarding

After interviewing a number of candidates for a position at your company, you’ve settled on one and made an offer.  That offer is accepted and you set a date for your new hire’s first day at the office.

That’s a great start, but you can do a lot to generate excitement in your new employee by sending him or her a welcome aboard package. 

It doesn’t have to be much.  Just a few supplies to get your new hire off to a strong start.  A notebook and a pen.  Maybe a soup mug and a spoon, or if you were able to start gleaning some personal details about your new hire and have begun to learn a few things about personal preferences, you could get a little something that plays into that. 

Ideas might include chocolate, a small planter, an inexpensive book.  Just something that demonstrates you were paying attention when your new employee provided a few personal details.

You can also use this period of time to generate some buzz in the office about your new hire.  Maybe post something on the company’s blog with the new hire’s picture and some details you’ve gleaned about the new employee and what role they’ll be playing at your company.

First Day

Most employers don’t have any trouble on this front.  A new hire’s first day is usually pretty busy.  There are forms to fill out, papers to sign, places to go and people to meet.  There’s probably not much you need to do differently or change about a new hire’s first day except to try and get more organized.  Just be sure you’ve got everything ready to go so the first day goes smoothly and you should be fine.

The Rest of the Onboarding Process

This is the part that gets tricky.  All too often, after the new hire finishes filling out the forms and is taken on a whirlwind tour of the office to meet everybody and maybe given a crash course for some basic training, that’s it.  He or she is shown to the desk and told to get to it. 

Maybe the new hire will get a mentor they can ask questions of when they inevitably run into questions or problems, but that’s about it.

The real trick here is to make sure the new hire feels taken care of. 

One way to do that would be to assign 1-3 people who look after the new hire.  One personal responsible for training, one to serve as a liaison between the new hire and member of other departments he or she will be interacting with on a regular basis and one person in the same department who can serve as the new hire’s point person when there are questions about specific job duties.

This sounds like a lot, but it’s not something that’s terribly time intensive for any of your veteran employees, and it accomplishes one incredibly important goal.  It makes your new hire feel taken care of from start to finish. 

It also serves to bolster and improve your company’s culture, increasing the spirit of teamwork and acceptance as your team of veterans rally around the new hire to make sure that the newest member of the team has everything he or she needs in order to thrive.

It tightens up the organizational structure of your company and highlights areas of weakness.  See, ultimately the onboarding process is about more than just your new hire.  It also reveals where your own company’s structure could use work.  In other words, it’s an important opportunity. 

If you treat it as such, then each time you onboard a new employee, you’ll tighten up the process further, and improve the morale of everyone who works for you. 

Your company will increasingly come to look and act like it’s on a mission and that’s a very good thing.  It’s refreshing.  It’s energizing. 

Your employees will appreciate that and your new hires will feel both welcomed and secure.

The onboarding process doesn’t have to be mysterious.  It doesn’t have to be minimalistic and it shouldn’t be.  Make it complete and make it comprehensive and your employees, both old and new, will thank you for it. 

Their thanks will take the form of higher productivity and higher retention rates, which will save you money and improve your bottom line, to say nothing of the improved morale. 

That’s great news for you and everybody who works for you.