HR experts say that it takes at least three months for a new employee to learn the ropes and start feeling at ease at the workplace. And how long does a typical onboarding period last? Only 7 days, reports say.
Although 3 months can sound like a lot of time in the corporate world, it’s unrealistic to expect that a person will just jump into a new environment and tasks. To be in a group of companies with high retention rates of new hires, you need to put in some work.
But before we get to hows, it’s also essential to cover the whys.
Why Onboarding Matters?
All employees go through certain stages within their lifecycle in a company: attraction, recruitment, onboarding, development, retention, and separation.
As these stages develop chronologically, it’s clear that the onboarding process is directly related to retention: according to research conducted by Brandon Hall Group, great onboarding can significantly improve retention.
Employees who stay in the company for years offer it stability and influence greatly the productivity, team dynamics, the overall industry-specific knowledge of the company, its culture, and relationships with clients/customers, to name a few things. Not to mention that lower turnover rates save the company money and time.
Pre-Boarding, AKA Before the New Employee Comes
What’s better than having someone greet you on your first day at work? Someone sending you the basic information you will need for that first day beforehand.
Start date and time, office location, and your contact number in case something comes up - these are just some of the information that can help new employees feel more at ease.
The idea is not to overwhelm people with a bunch of information before they even start working so it’s best not to send them any rule books and similar but instead just show that you are available for all questions they might have. Maybe they aren’t sure if there’s a dress code and whether they need to come in business attire on their first day.
From an HR specialist’s perspective, this period also includes double-checking if everything is ready for the new hire:
- Assign a Mentor and a Buddy: We all know the feeling of the first day of school and the difference a familiar face can make.
- Get the Welcome Team in Sync: The future mentor, team leader, buddy, and you must coordinate everyone’s responsibilities, schedule introductory meetings that will take place during the first week or two, and be clear on the frequency and the type of feedback you expect from them
- Let the Team Know About the Newcomer: To ensure a smooth integration into the team, all members should know that a new member is joining their ranks.
- Notify the IT Admin: The new employee’s workstation (equipment and account access) should be prepared in advance.
- Have the Contract Ready: Getting the signing out of the way immediately is in everyone’s interest.
- Prepare the Digital File: It’s best you prepare it beforehand to be ready for employee’s data and documents
- Consider a Welcome Gift: If it’s a part of your company culture, a small gift (e.g. company merch - a mug/T-shirt with the company logo) can go a long way.
Who’s (Not) Afraid of the First Day?
It goes without saying that being late on an employee’s first day at work leaves a bad impression on the person who is anxious to start and doesn’t even know where the kitchen or the toilet is. Consider asking them to come an hour later than they would usually start to ensure it’s less hectic - the first hour can be a busy period until everyone has made coffee and eaten.
What’s important is that you leave enough time for everything - while you welcome the person for the first time, don’t rush it because they will feel it and get more nervous. Take your time chatting them up, offer them coffee, and show them around the kitchen and where the toilet is. This is also a good moment to give them a welcome gift (as we’ve mentioned earlier) if that is something your company does.
After that, it’s time to show them their workspace so they can leave their things and soak in the space they’ll be working. Let them know that the IT administrator will come later on to greet them and show them their work tools. If they haven’t signed their contract earlier, this is an appropriate time for them to do so.
Next, it’s time to meet people and to see more of the office - take them on a tour, emphasizing which people will be their closest collaborators. Introduce the new hire with the team leader/manager, mentor, and buddy. If it’s not against your work policy in some way, you can also organize a small introductory get-together and introduce the team.
After that, their first day is mainly in the hands of their team and other colleagues, but you need to remain available for any questions they may have.
First Week AKA Help Them Find Their Groove
Throughout the week (sometimes already on the first day), new employees need to get the employee handbook and the time to get to know your policies, legal obligations and rights, and the company’s vision and mission statements.
An employee handbook should include your business’s policies, your expectations of your employees, and what your employees can expect from your business. It should outline your legal obligations as an employer and your employees’ rights.
During this first week, the new employee should form a clearer picture of what each department is responsible for, who leads each department, and of course, who their closest collaborators will be.
Another process that should start taking place in this period is the onboarding to the project the employee will be assigned to. If there’s no specific project, the new hire should be introduced to tasks and goals in more detail.
After the First Week: Impressions and the First Feedback
Be there for the new employee: the enthusiasm of the first day and week can quickly turn into an overwhelming dread of all-new-and-unknown. Gather first impressions, ask about how their days are going, and if they need help with anything.
When obtaining feedback, it’s crucial to remember that during this period, the new hire has to process a lot of information, so they shouldn’t feel this feedback as a burdensome duty.
In general, after a period of time you agreed on a communicated earlier, you should have a feedback session, either just with the new tire or you can include their team. Only if this process is repeated regularly will you, as an HR specialist, get as realistic as possible insight into the new employee’s development, detect potential issues within the team/project, and get valuable input about the onboarding process.
The Crucial Role of Feeling Valued and Supported
There are, of course, different factors that influence how the new hire will take in things - their character, seniority level, etc. But the HR team, together with the mentor, buddy, and teammates, can have a huge impact on someone who is just starting.
If the new hires get the support they need - with work tasks, company policies, and simple everyday work things - if they feel valued and accepted, the chance of wanting to stay with the company and the people who make it increases.
This not only cultivates a loyal and dedicated team but also fosters an environment where success becomes a shared journey, where every individual's growth contributes to the collective prosperity of the organization.