How to Upgrade Your Employee Onboarding

Last Updated Oct 3, 2008 10:27 AM EDT

2282881973_462815e98b_o.jpgEmployee onboarding has two aims: to make new hires feel comfortable and welcome in their new gigs, and to help them ramp up to maximum productivity as quickly as possible.

But for many fledgling employees, the first day on the job consists of a painful, often day-long orientation session incorporating reams of paperwork, badly acted training videos, and forced team-building shenanigans.

And that's if they're lucky.

A friend of mine just started a new job and was stunned when she walked in the door and not one person welcomed her. She had to seek out the right contact to set up a phone and a computer, which were conspicuously missing from her desk. None of her co-workers offered information about where the restrooms were located, where to park, or where to grab a bite of lunch -- she had to ask every time.

Needless to say, she's now rethinking her decision about accepting the job.

As good talent becomes hard to find and harder to keep, starting out on the right foot becomes even more important. A good onboarding experience can show a new hire that he's valued, that he fits the corporate culture, and that he's likely to be supported and successful in his new work environment.

An effective onboarding program goes beyond a one-time information dump -- days or even weeks beyond -- and should include frequent feedback, relationship building and mentoring. In fact, some argue that what your new hire needs to know isn't as important as who he needs to know.

Are you bringing out the best in your new employees? If you're not sure, consider upgrading your onboarding process using the following guidelines.

1. Make new employees feel welcome. A gift basket, a group breakfast to introduce the new face, or other courtesies can help ease the transition.

2. Don't wing it. Create a solid onboarding program that ensures your new hires get the supplies, resources and support they need.

3. Lighten up. Orientations are often a necessary evil, so you can at least make them fun. Leave out the non-critical stuff, keep sessions short, and encourage camaraderie with an informal tone.

4. Start out right. This is your one chance to make a good (and lasting) first impression. Your words and actions should make your new employees feel delighted and excited to work for you.

5. Get social. Use relational onboarding techniques to establish a broad connection of important relationships for your new hire.

6. Provide ongoing support. Keep in touch with new hires and ensure that communication channels are wide open.

7. Don't forget the details. Follow a thorough checklist so you don't forget to issue a parking pass, provide an organizational chart or set up an e-mail account.

(image by Andy Roberts via Flickr, CC 2.0)
  • CC Holland

    CC Holland is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a number of national magazines. Online, she was a columnist for AnchorDesk.com and writes regularly for Law.com and BNET. On the other side of the journalism desk, she's been a managing editor for ZDNet, CNet, and KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, where she earned an APTRA Best News Web Site award.

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