Thursday, June 27, 2013

Help Your New Hires Become Productive Quickly - The Importance of Onboarding

It is with excitement, and a degree of trepidation, that your new employee walks in the front door of your office building on their first official day of work.  Those employees who have experience may have in mind a course of action they hope to follow on their first day.  The new college hire will likely be wondering what is in store for them in the new business world they are entering. 

It is worthwhile for a contingent of company representatives to embrace onboarding to ensure the new hire is off to a productive start.  Who is responsible for a successful onboarding experience?  Company leadership, human resources, peers, the newly hired employee and most importantly, the direct manager of the new hire.  It is undoubtedly a team effort, but someone needs to lead the team and no one is more invested in and responsible for the success of the new hire than the manager.  Study after study shows that the most important factors in an employee's success and loyalty to an employer are the level of engagement and commitment by the employee's manager.  Let's review an onboarding plan that will equip the employee for success:

Day 1:  Ideally, the direct manager should be available to greet the employee within minutes of walking in the door.  Yes, some companies leave the initial welcome to human resources.  This isn't bad, but it is not optimal.  The manager should be the one to welcome the new hire and show him/her to their work area.  After allowing a few minutes to put down belongings, the manager should then take the new hire around to meet employees that sit nearby as well as to meet peers the employee will be working with regularly. 

If your company procedures includes meeting with human resources to complete new hire paperwork, that should be the next stop on the tour.  Human resources may also share a basic onboarding overview which describes the company history and philosophy as well as instructions on how to navigate the corporate infrastructure - how to access the intranet, how to use the phone system, how to get into the building during off-hours, how to set up computer access, etc.  Ideally, there will be an employee handbook that will be shared with the employee so he/she can read about company expectations and policies.  Best practice suggests having the employee sign an acknowledgement after reading this important document.

Ensure that you do not leave the employee alone for lunch on the first day!  If the manager cannot spend lunchtime with the employee, the manager should ensure that other lunch arrangements are made so the employee is welcomed appropriately on the first day.

The balance of the day may be left for the employee to work through set-up procedures and to read new hire documents.  At the close of the day, the manager should ask the employee how the first day was and close the day on a welcoming note.

Day 2:  Time for the new employee to get down to business?  Well, yes.  Arrange to have the new employee attend a meeting or two with either yourself of a peer.  Nothing helps an employee feel more integrated than being integrated.  With that in mind, what other steps lead to integration?  We all know that half the battle isn't what you know, but who you know.  The single most effective tool that can be used to help with this vital step is the Assimilation Plan Meeting Schedule.

The Assimilation Plan Meeting Schedule is created by the employee's manager with the help of human resources.  The manager and HR determine the work associates the employee should meet with who will provide vital information to allow the new hire to execute their job and/or any work associate that the employee should build a relationship with to ensure success.  Each work associate identified will be assigned a priority one, two or three status.  Priority one associates are those employees who are vital day-to-day support for the employee.  Priority three associates may include those employees that the new hire should know, but are not pivotal for success.  Scheduling one or two meetings per day is sufficient as the new hire needs time to digest information learned at each meeting.  The entire plan should be scheduled to complete within 60-90 days.  As each meeting is scheduled and then occurs, it should be updated on the master Assimilation Plan Meeting Schedule so that a running digest is maintained to track progress and ensure completion.

First Week:  A secondary tool that is also powerful to equip the new hire for success is the 90 Day Success Plan.  One of the goals listed should be completion of the Assimilation Plan Meeting Schedule.  Work goals for the first 90 days should be included as well.

The new hire now has a 90 Day Success Plan and an Assimilation Plan.  What else do they need to become successful integrated?  Regular one-on-one meetings with the direct manager are vital to ensure that the employee has the support and direction to achieve both plans.  The new hire will have a question or two that arises from meetings with associates.  During regular one-on-ones, the manager can answer questions and expand on information that the new hire learns from others. 

By following this onboarding protocol, the new hire will feel that the manager and the company have invested time and effort towards the employee's individual success.  The employee will become productive quickly.  I always tell managers, hiring exceptional talent can only make you look better and help you achieve your goals.  Employee onboarding is an investment that will provide abundant returns.

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