I always look forward to the weekends because those are times for me to catch up with friends and family. During most weekends, there is often a planned or unplanned phone conversation that occurs, which could last for a couple of hours. Sometimes, those conversations touch on HR-related subjects, especially if we discuss work.
This past weekend was one of those weekends. I had a lengthy conversation with a friend who had started a new job two months ago. It had also been two months since we last talked, and so, we had a lot to discuss. I looked forward to that phone call because I remembered all the excitement he expressed when he first told me about the job. He said good things about the company, the role, and what the job meant for his career aspirations. I couldn’t wait to hear all about how he was settling into this new role.
To my surprise, I didn’t sense any excitement when we greeted. When I asked about his job, my friend’s first response was, “Have you ever started a new job where it felt like they didn’t prepare for you? Well, I have resigned from that job.”
Wow. I didn’t see that coming! So, I probed into his experience and discovered the following:
According to him, his first week was a total flop on the part of HR. He arrived, and there was nothing that showed that they were expecting a new employee. There was no special treatment that at least acknowledged that he was a new person. After completing his HR documentation on Day 1, they threw him into an ongoing project, with no form of orientation or guidance on Day 2. He struggled a lot and made mistakes along the way. During the subsequent weeks, he hoped that things would get better. However, things got worse.
His manager didn’t make matters any easier—frequent demands for project results, no time for feedback sessions, and no concern about his well-being. Before one task ended, another had landed on his desk. He likened this experience to being thrown into a fire and having no one to help him or at least ask how he was doing. When he couldn’t cope any longer, he left the company after spending only six weeks.
I was quite unhappy to learn about his experience and disappointed that his employer made no preparations for his arrival. I felt so because I’ve handled the onboarding of many employees, and I remember the positive feedback the organization usually received about the impact of our onboarding process.
Based on my experience as an HR professional, onboarding is a make-or-break period for a new hire. Onboarding determines whether that new hire stays with or leaves your organization. So, how can employers set new employees up for success?
Here are a few (simple) suggestions:
Preboarding describes the activities that occur after the new hire accepts the offer letter and before the first day of employment. Preboarding helps to ease the employee’s transition process into the organization. Preboarding activities include:
- Sending a welcome email expressing that you look forward to seeing them. In the welcome email, you can include relevant information regarding their first day, such as requesting for required documents or providing directions for entering the building. Such relevant information helps the new hire look forward to the first day.
- Sending a new hire announcement email. This could be a company-wide or department-wide email that announces the arrival date of the new employee, provides brief background information and encourages everyone to welcome their new coworker. Announcing employees ahead of the first day creates a sense of belonging when they arrive on that day and feel that coworkers know who they are.
Personalize their welcome package:
Make the new hire feel special and reduce their first-day stress by preparing a personalized welcome package. The package may include some of the following:
- a handwritten or typed welcome letter from the CEO/hiring manager
- company swag (branded gifts)
- business cards
- employee handbook
- an organizational chart
- an employee directory
- an office map
- an information guide
- security keys or employee cards
- other gifts like books and stationery
Discuss company structure and culture:
New hires need to understand the company’s structure and how they fit into it. They also need to have a good understanding of the company’s mission, vision, and values, as well as other rituals and practices within the organization. Dedicate time to discuss the structure and culture with the new hire and allow room for questions.
Assign them a buddy/mentor:
A “buddy” (or mentor, as used in some companies) plays a significant role in helping new hires settle into their new jobs. Typically, a buddy is assigned to new employees and expected to provide them with useful information. A buddy can answer questions, provide physical or moral support, help the employee adapt to the new environment, and provide information about the company’s people and culture. To ensure successful integration into your company, assign a buddy to your new hire.
Plan their first-week activities:
From my experience, there are two things a new employee doesn’t desire for their first week—being unproductive or being overwhelmed. New employees do not enjoy sitting idle, or feeling like they lack guidance for what they should be doing. To avoid either situation, plan the activities for their first week. Set the expectation that the first week (and maybe the second week) is for settling in. For example:
- Schedule their training sessions.
- Schedule their introductory team meetings. You can also take advantage of existing meetings to introduce them to their teammates and projects.
- Schedule their meetings with key organizational players like the CEO or unit leads.
- Do not let them eat alone. Schedule at least one lunch meeting with an employee (preferable the buddy).
- Include break periods or social events in their schedule.
Set goals and expectations:
New employees should meet with their managers to discuss goals and expectations. Managers should make the employees see how their roles connect to the existing projects or their coworkers’ projects. Managers should provide clear guidelines about projects and answer the employee’s questions. Ensure that both of you leave the meeting with a clear understanding of the goals and expectations of the role. Doing these can increase the employee’s chances of success in the role.
Schedule check-in meetings:
It is crucial for HR managers and line managers to check in with the new employee periodically.
- For HR managers, ensure that you schedule milestone check-in meetings during the employee’s probationary period. Milestone check-in meetings include 14-30-60-90-day check-in meetings that lead up to the end of the probation period. The whole point of doing this is to ensure that the employee feels supported and has all the resources to do their best work. These meetings also help to address issues as they arise and prevent any unpleasant surprise, such as a resignation.
- For line managers, ensure that you plan weekly meetings to track the set goals and expectations. These meetings are also useful for providing guidance, where you see that the employee is struggling.
In some organizations, there is a disconnect between HR managers and employees, where both parties solely rely on emails and phone calls for contact. While in other situations, the line managers get so preoccupied with meeting deadlines or traveling for business meetings that they ignore the need to check-in with their employees. Both cases are recipes for disaster. Be available to your employees so that they can feel empowered to perform well.
Joining a new company, stepping into a new role, working with new people, figuring out new technologies (or, the lack thereof), and adjusting to a company’s culture are all challenging processes. As an employer, you can make the transition easier by creating a thoughtful onboarding plan for the new hire. An onboarding plan allows you to make a good and lasting impression on your employees. So give it your best shot!
What is the onboarding process like at your organization?