Autumn is the time for new beginnings...
Since many of us grew up starting a new school year each September, the increasingly shorter days and crisper air are reminders of the time of year for new pens and colourful folders, fresh starts, and the sense of the possible. Remember how welcome your teachers made you feel? It is good to remember that feeling of anticipation for the possible future when your newest employees join your organisation. They too have that excitement and eagerness to do the best they can, and to get involved and be contributing as soon as possible. How can you help make sure that happens?
Onboarding can capture the magic of new beginnings
Except for my first retail job, one of the things I have rarely experienced, or practiced for that matter, is a really effective onboarding experience, (onboarding is the new way to say employee orientation, in case that term is unfamiliar). In my first job working for a small retail business selling hundreds of cheeses, I was flooded with a lot of information my first few days, but that was OK. I was obviously not going to be able to learn it all at once, and it was clear I was expected to ask questions. My training was really good, in measured doses, with supervision when needed, and I was able to contribute even a little from the first day. During a lull some days, the owner would teach us all something new, like how to cut a whole, unopened stilton (using an amazing wire cutter), or how to sharpen the different knives. And of course we had to taste everything in order to learn! (yes, I still love cheese, and for awhile I could identify over 200 cheeses by sight, smell and texture alone).
But after that, during a career of office-based jobs from small non-profits to large corporations, none of them provided what I would call an exemplary training and orientation process. From having busy or absent managers, to reams of dull paperwork to read through for 'background', to being thrown into projects with no explanation, it was always something to get through rather than a process of systematically learning the values and ways to do things in the new organisation.
In perhaps the worst of my onboarding experiences, my first 3 days of work in a large company were spent in an HR office filling out new employee paperwork (before computerised files), receiving and being told to read through several three-ring binders of corporate manuals, and then given long technical reports to help me 'get up to speed' on what would be my first project. I was in a large 3 person office by myself, and the main person I talked to each day was the guy bringing around the mail once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
In those pre-email days, our in-house communication memos and outside mail were delivered by a guy pushing a cart around the hallway. Instead of looking at a computer, imagine all your emails being printed out individually and delivered twice a day in stacks for you to read! I asked the mail guy loads of questions every time he came around, about how things really got done, and what some of the words meant that I was reading; that was how I learned he was a great source for understanding actual company practices as well as useful personnel gossip.
Not having any experience with good orientation processes, I didn't know there were better ways to become assimilated into a new job, only that mine had been fairly ineffective. Now of course there are numerous articles, books, courses and of course software packages to help you set up more systematic and successful onboarding practices. Since we know so much more about the effect of onboarding on long-term employee satisfaction, most organisations pay a lot more attention to the whole lifecycle of employee experience, including the very important first few days and weeks for a new employee.
Setting up a productive and effective onboarding process can enable your new staff to feel welcome, comfortable, able to understand your organisation values and practice norms, as well as to begin contributing from that very first day. Just like at primary school!
Linked below are a few examples of articles providing ways to ensure successful and productive onboarding. Have you had good or bad onboarding experiences? I'd love to hear about some of the good ones, and why it worked well. Share with us in the comments below!
Some links to check out
Plan for your new employee
This article focuses on developing a plan before your new staff arrives at your front door. Broken into three time periods: before the new staff arrives, the first week, and within 30-90 days, the suggestions for what should be covered during each time period provide a roadmap for organisations to consider. Some tasks may not make sense for your organisation; your orientation should always be consistent with your organisation's values and style. This is a useful place to get started.
What do new hires want? Infographic
This infographic provides a great summary of what new hires want when they start their job, and how you can help them believe they have joined the right organisation as soon as possible. "They want to learn how to do their job and the inner workings of your company. In short, they want to start doing meaningful work and contribute fast!"
Talk to your people
This article is about improving engagement in your organisation, and there is no better place to start than at the beginning: "Organizations can better engage their people by having a strong sense of values that people can align with. People accept jobs based on these values, and by the same coin, become disengaged when they feel they no longer align with or are unable to influence them. If you want to drive engagement, understand the reasons people join your company. Then, continue to keep a finger on the pulse."
Fun friday workplaces
Today's workplace photo features a cozy meeting room that softens a square, potentially bleak white room. Looks like a great space to work on your own, to collaborate with coworkers, and would be a great place to bring your newest employee to meet some of their colleagues. (photo from onoffice magazine)
Hope you've had a great week and make sure to take deep breaths this weekend! If you are in the US, happy Labor Day weekend!
As always, let me know if you have any questions, or post your comments below!