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All On-Board: Giving New Hires the Tools to Succeed

With proper on-boarding, hiring managers can quell new employees’ anxieties and take advantage of their natural enthusiasm for starting a new job.

Thursday, December 6, 2012
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A software developer accepts a role with a media company after considering offers from several competing firms. Upon starting the new job, he goes almost two weeks without a computer or work station. Meanwhile, his second- and third-choice organizations use the opportunity to resume their pursuits.

 

After accepting a job, a new hire eagerly awaits her first day. When she shows up for work, she discovers her manager is on a two-week vacation. She spends that time struggling to get acclimated and figure out the responsibilities of her new role.

 

A recent college grad starts a job at a large interactive-media firm. He is assigned to a temporary office that he must share with freelance contractors in a different building than the rest of his team. He’s not clear about who he’s supposed to report to or what his responsibilities are.

 

Sad -- but true -- the above examples are real-life stories.

 

Most hiring managers pour countless hours and resources into recruiting top talent -- they only want the best candidates for their team. Once those candidates accept the job, however, many managers think their work is done. But those first few days, weeks and months of a new job are crucial to an employee’s success, and hiring managers can sabotage their efforts during the recruitment phase if they don’t help new hires get acclimated to their working environments. 

 

Most people are excited about starting a new job, but they may also feel nervous and a little vulnerable: Did I make the right choice?  What if I don’t get along with my manager and co-workers? Who will I eat lunch with on my first day? With proper on-boarding, hiring managers can quell new employees’ anxieties and take advantage of their natural enthusiasm for starting a new job.

 

Here are some simple on-boarding strategies hiring managers can implement to help new employees succeed:

 

Have a plan

Effective on-boarding is not just about giving employees a quick orientation and a stack of forms to fill out.  Its purpose is to educate new employees about the operational aspects of their jobs, and to help them assimilate into the organization’s culture.  Depending on the position and the industry, on-boarding could take a few weeks or up to a year.  Managers should put together a comprehensive schedule for employees for at least the first few weeks and check in daily to review it and discuss what’s coming up.

 

Give a tour

Managers should show employees around on the first day so they know where to find the basics—restrooms, conference areas, copy machine and the cafeteria.  They should also be introduced to everyone they will interact with, as well as other departments and teams that may be close by.

 

Provide the Tools

New employees should have all the gear they will need to do their jobs on the first day. This includes a clean work station, technology and supplies. Voicemail and e-mail accounts should be set up, and business cards should be printed in advance. If employees need training to utilize any technology or office systems, that should be scheduled immediately. Also, make sure the receptionist knows a new hire is starting so he or she can welcome them warmly (as well as add them to the phone list).

 

Partner with HR

Hiring managers need to realize that on-boarding is not just an HR function. In fact, much of the success or failure of a program lies in a manager’s hands. Hiring managers should partner with HR to take advantage of the organization’s on-boarding procedures. Managers can also serve as their organization’s ambassador by greeting new employees on the first day, personally introducing them to colleagues and team members, giving them work schedules and being available to answer questions. 

 

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Managers can designate a fellow team member to serve as a guide to help the new hire through the first few weeks, and to fill the void when the manager isn’t available.  Buddies can teach new hires some of the important tidbits that aren’t printed in an employee handbook, like how staff meetings work, the best method for reaching co-workers quickly and which neighborhood restaurants to avoid.

 

Showcase the Culture

Employees can get excited about the bigger picture if a hiring manager explains the company’s goals, values and mission. They will become more engaged in their jobs if they can understand how they fit into the company and why their work matters to the success of the organization.

 

Set Expectations

Managers should have direct conversations with new hires about their management styles, work hours and deliverables. They should make clear what is expected over the first few weeks and months, and give new hires responsibility and their trust that they will deliver. 

 

Feedback

One of the best ways to determine if the on-boarding efforts are effective is to ask. Managers should check in with the employee after several weeks to get their opinion on the process. What worked well? What would have improved the experience? 

 

A successful on-boarding program can improve productivity and reduce turnover in a competitive market.  By investing in the transition period, managers are sending a message to new hires that they are valued by the team and the organization. On-boarding also helps employees get ramped up more quickly so they can begin making contributions to the organization. 

 

Managers only have one opportunity to make a first impression, so make it a good one! 

 

Michelle Roccia is the executive vice president of employee engagement at Winter Wyman.

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