The first days and weeks on the job for new employees are critical to their ability to fit in and become as productive as possible as soon as possible. The predecessor to onboarding — the process to help just-hired employees acclimate to a new environment — is known as orientation.
Today, orientation is not a stand-alone event but part of a more comprehensive process. Some view onboarding as just a buzzword for orientation or something that occurs at large companies only, but it's actually an opportunity for small and midsize businesses to do more to ensure that new employees become productive and satisfied members of their staff.
The employee onboarding process goes beyond mere practicality and acknowledges that what new employees learn in their first few weeks has long-term effects on their ability to tackle the challenges of today's faster-paced business environment. It covers matters related to training, scheduled milestones, mentoring programs and interactive meetings. Here are some practical steps managers can take to improve a new employee's odds of success.
Employee onboarding: easing first-day anxieties
Even though new employees have likely been on your company premises previously during the interview phase, their experiences on the first day of work leave a lasting impression. You need to offer a first-day welcome to begin the process of making them feel at home.
- Alert the receptionist that a new employee is arriving and make sure that this person greets the newcomer warmly.
- Arrange for someone (you, if possible) to personally escort the new hire to his workstation or office.
- Personally introduce the newcomer to other members of the working team.
- At some point during the day, meet with the employee to take up where the last interview left off. Let her know how glad you are to have her on board and that you will provide a comprehensive introduction to the company and the job within the next few days.
Onboarding during the first week
During the employee onboarding process, go over the basics about your company, some of which may have been covered in the interview:
- Your company's basic products or services
- Size and general organization of the company
- An overview of your industry and where your business fits into the overall picture (including your chief competition)
- Your company's mission statement and values
- Company goals and strategic objectives
- Your organizational culture
- Provide the newcomer with the names and phone numbers of whom to call in the event of questions or emergencies
Taking the onboarding process through the second week and beyond
A key part of the employee onboarding process is early follow-up.
- You or supervising managers should meet with employees at predetermined points: two weeks after the first day on the job, a month after, two months after — or at intervals that work best for each job's complexity and changeability.
- At the meeting, ask new team members how things are going for them. How well do they understand the business and their roles? Do they have any questions that have not been answered?
- Inquire especially as to the value of training programs. Are they helpful? Do they address the right areas? Are they worth the time being spent on them? What future developmental experiences would employees like to see?
- These follow-up meetings are also good times to hear their assessment of the employee onboarding process thus far.