A Strong Start for Your Startup: FAQ for Onboarding Employees

Like adulting, managing people is both hard and rewarding. As a manager, there are a number of ways you can creatively develop your people and achieve amazing business goals. On the other hand, there are a disturbingly equal number of ways attributed to poor management to lose employees.

We know a strong start is important in anything we do. This is also true for new employees. However, something in our entrepreneur brains keeps us from realizing that the candidate experience during the recruiting process does not directly translate into the day-to-day experience of being a productive employee.

We also fall into the trap of thinking that we are too small, too nimble, or just too busy to focus on onboarding as a core organizational competency. If you have found yourself guilty of thinking or saying any of these excuses, then you may find the findings of Bersin’s Onboarding Software Solutions 2014: On-Ramp for Employee Success enlightening. “Losing an employe in the first year,” the report shares, “can cost 3x the salary of the employee.”

Over the past 20 years, organizations — including startups — have done an increasingly better job directing resources and utilizing tools to shape the candidate experience during the recruiting process. We have also started to focus in on the importance of the employee experience after new hires join the organization.

However, we have not consistently identified and created solutions for the overlap of the candidate experience and the employee experience. Each side either assumes the other will handle it. Or, more likely, there is no solution in place at all. As every London-based commuter is reminded each morning as they ride to Tube to work — we need to mind the gap. And the solution? Onboarding.

If you have a few new faces joining your organization soon, use this FAQ to help you mind the gap and create a simple, yet compelling onboarding experience.

What is onboarding?

In their popular book “Strategic Staffing,” Phillips and Gully define onboarding as the “process of completing new hires’ employment-related paperwork, and familiarizing them with their jobs, coworkers, work spaces, work tools, and the company’s policies and benefits.” Socialization is another closely related concept that helps convey both the process and the importance of this process. Orientation, yet another related term, is often thrown in the same sentence as onboarding in larger companies. All three concepts are related, and all drive towards the same purpose as outlined in the Phillips and Gully definition.

Why do we even do this?

If the arguments shared in the introduction above do not convince you onboarding is a worthy investment, there is another, more practical reason. Onboarding is the first opportunity to help your new hires to transition to the mindset of a productive worker.

How do I do this well?

Onboarding processes will differ depending on your organization’s variables. However, Bersin again offers a few key steps that any organization should consider.

  • Be consistent: Keep the experience and the content consistent throughout the entire organization. You do not want everyone’s foundation to start off with different core messages, especially around key constructs like mission and values.
  • Welcome your robot overlords: Find every opportunity to automate your onboarding experience. Reducing human interaction with both data entry (think paperwork) and interpretation (think scripts) helps keep the experience timely and uniform from one group to the next. The human factor should not be removed completely; rather, save it for those situational conversations, dialogues and other face-to-face components AI hasn’t quite figured out. Yet.
  • Think in months, not in days: Early employee engagement is low-hanging fruit. The real proof of engagement comes a few months into the job. Onboarding programs should still be running strong months into the new employee’s time with the organization. Having a support network when the workload gets heavy, new routines are not yet established, and performance is dipping (a common feature with new employees) is where onboarding can provide a huge return on investment.

Anything more practical to take away?

Time for an onboarding cheat sheet. Here are a few process suggestions to get you started.

  • Also plan a variety of activities to make sure your onboarding is comprehensive: Jacob Morganrecommends including three introductions early in your onboarding process: the Cultural Environment where you share the mission and values, rituals, languages and traditions of the organization; the Technological Environment that equips new employees with the technology and tools they need to do their job including a personal computer, software programs, and any other tech-related gear that is key to success at your company; and the Physical Environment so your employee knows where s/he will be sitting (or standing), where the team is located, and where other vital sites like the bathroom and the snack counter are located.
  • Plan your onboarding activities over a longer period of time: A common recommendation is to create milestones on Day One, Two Weeks and 90 Days.
  • Keep your recruiter involved throughout the duration of onboarding: If you are a smaller organization, there is a chance you are both the recruiter and the hiring manager. If you do have a separate Talent Acquisition team member or use outside recruiters, consider keeping them involved through the time it takes for your employees to get accustomed to the new work home.
  • Make your own checklist. In fact, make three: a New Hire list, a Hiring Manager list and a Recruiter list. Make sure the checklists are distributed early and that all parties involved know how to use it. As you build out your activities and requirements for onboarding, just make sure to put the item on the right checklist and off you go.
  • Measure your success and continue to refine your product: Treat onboarding as you would a product launch, and be sure to include an update cycle so you capture new ideas, new elements of culture and any other components you find help bring your new hires up to competency more quickly in their transition to your company. A common practice is to attach your measurement cycle to the same milestones you establish for you program (i.e., Day One, Two Weeks, and 90 Days).

What have you found works well to onboard your new employees? We would love to hear from you in the comments to keep this conversation going.

Article originally published at StartupSoutherner.com