Tips for a successful Onboarding Program

The new year often comes with new opportunities and some organisations see a surge in new team members joining the business. New starters, team members and leaders all want new recruits to be productive and making a valuable contribution as early as possible. Preparing and planning for a new starter is a worthwhile investment that will pay dividends throughout their employment.

People remember how they started in a new team or organisation. Having conducted dozens of exit interviews in my career, I know that no matter how long someone was employed, they always remember how they started – even down to the details of their first day. We all have our own experiences of joining a new organisation and have even heard a few stories of the good, bad and the ugly from others. How people join your team and business makes a real difference to their engagement and satisfaction, their productivity and contribution, their intent to stay with the business, and your employment brand.

It is often the small things that can make the biggest impact. When I think about the experience of new employees I am reminded of the quote I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou. Think about how you are making your new team member feel when they join your team or business.

There are a number of things you can do as a leader or business owner that will help your new team member get off to a great start. Here’s our top five straight forward tips, for effective onboarding:

Get organised

We all know that first impressions matter, so make sure you are organised and ready to go for their first day. Ensure that you are there to welcome them and don’t leave them waiting in reception to be collected by someone else. You can ask them to start later on their first day if necessary, to allow you time to get into work and settled before they arrive.

Have their desk, equipment and access all set up so that not only are they ready to go on their first day, but also so that they don’t feel like an afterthought. Having a place to sit, a computer, login details and email address and business cards can make an enormous difference, but usually the first thing that lets down the on boarding experience if they have not been organised. Provide your new team member with a plan for at least their first couple of weeks so they know what to expect, where they need to be and what they will be doing. The plan should include the learning required, whether it is compliance training, systems they will need to use, or about the organisation, industry or business sector. Identify what the person will need to know in order to get up to speed with the requirements of their role. While all of this might seem simple and even a bit obvious, we often see cases of good intentions without the execution.

Make them feel welcome

Call your new recruit a few days before they start and let them know you are looking forward to them joining the team and offer to answer any questions, they might have ahead of their first day. As their leader, they are going to want and need time with you on their first day and even  more regular contact during the first few weeks. Set aside time in your calendar to meet and make them feel welcome during those times by providing information and context, clearly outline what your expectations are and what’s important to you, the team and the organisation. Be present in the conversations and make them feel valued. As the leader, you play a central role in making them feel welcome.

Role clarity from the beginning

Reading a position description and going through an interview process is not enough for a new employee to be absolutely clear on what is required of them and what good looks like. Avoid the employee having to make assumptions, read between the lines or even find out the hard way about how things work and what they need to do. Talk about the role purpose and key requirements, but then go beyond that to discuss how you work, what good looks like and how you measure success, expectations around organisational values , workplace culture, and behavioural standards. Meet regularly to provide feedback on their progress so they know how they are going, allowing them to make any adjustments along the way and have a sense of pride about what is going well.

Bring them into the team, not just the job

Let the team know ahead of time that there’s a new member joining them so that they can make that person feel welcome around the office or on site. This allows them to introduce themselves and offer help if needed.  Set up a coffee, morning tea, or lunch with the team so that everyone can come together and get to know each other. Schedule time in the onboarding program for your new team member to meet with key internal stakeholders so that they can make their connections early and discuss how they will work together. All of this helps to establish a network with their colleagues, driving engagement and collaboration, and promoting the sharing of information.

Learn about them

Put energy and effort into getting to know your new team member.  Uncover what motivates them, their values, what gives them a sense of achievement and pride, where their passion lies, their dreams and goals, how they like to be led by their manager and more. During your meetings, go beyond the tactical and operational aspects of their role and get to know them by including these elements in your discussion. By sharing this information about yourself, you can help forge a strong professional relationship, establish a good foundation of trust, and leave them feeling valued, motivated and engaged.

These are your foundations for a great onboarding experience. These are just some effective ways to get your people off to a productive and meaningful start.  Onboarding does not need to be flawless to make a difference, remember that your people will remember how you made them feel, not necessarily all of the details of what happened.