Onboarding is, as it sounds, the process of settling in a new employee and getting them to a peak of productivity as soon as possible.  But why make a fuss about it?  Well, taking on a new employee is a big step for most companies.  Even if your organisation is not that small any more, salaries are still likely to be the biggest cost, and any new person is a significant investment.  So it is important that the new hire is successful for the business.

The recruitment process requires careful planning and execution in order to find the best person for a job, but don’t stop there.  The process of onboarding is what you do to introduce that person to the company and get them to a point of being productive and happy as soon as possible.  Getting this right is important.  First impressions count both ways and if your wonderful new employee has a nightmarish first few days then it will be difficult to motivate them to be a great employee and it is possible they will just up and leave.

So what do you need to do in the onboarding process?  Well, when asked this, most people will think about training the employee to do the job: i.e. teaching them the functional processes necessary to make the job happen.  But if you want to make the employee feel comfortable in their new environment there is a lot more to cover than just the job requirements.  It is important to think about it in advance and a plan the onboarding process in order to help the employee settle in quickly and become productive.

Make them comfortable

Most of us, arriving nervously at a new job, want to feel people have thought about
our arrival – there’s nothing worse than turning up and nobody knows you’re coming.  But of course the manager is a busy person and will in all likelihood be busy doing her own job as well as covering the vacancy that the new starter is there to fill.  So it is going to take organisation and planning to make sure that something is ready for them when they arrive.  Make sure the process of onboarding starts the moment the employee walks through the door on day 1 and think about:

  • Who will go to reception and welcome them
  • Where they will sit
  • Desk, chair, phone, laptop and any extras like a mobile phone that they may need
  • Email address and logins to important systems.

Communicate the culture

If you value your company’s culture and have spent time developing it with your current staff, then it is important to communicate “the way we do things around here” to your new recruits. And it must be done within the first day or two or they will develop their own habits and resent changing.  So someone needs to take time to explain to the new employee what the company’s values are, and how these are expressed in everyday life in that environment.  This may cover things like:

  • How to behave in the office
  • How to treat customers and suppliers
  • What is important at times of crisis
  • Attendance and promptness at company or team meetings

… and any other cultural behaviours you have established

Acceptable behaviours

People in general will follow accepted behaviours if they are told what they are.  So a meeting with HR should cover details like:

  • Working hours
  • Rules for booking holidays
  • Lunch time cover
  • What to do when sick
  • Dress code
  • How and when they will be paid
  • Use of car for work
  • Email/web use policies
  • Smoking policies
  • Where to find tea and coffee and use of a kitchen
  • Rules for expenses
  • Rules on parking
… and whatever else is needed to function within your company.

The job environment

Before you get into the functional bit of how to do the job don’t forget that time with their manager may need to cover:

  • Their job description
  • What is required of the job
  • Key people in the company they need to communicate with
  • Key suppliers or customers
  • Expectations for their success
  • KPIs and targets
  • Reporting structure
  • Perhaps a tour of the company being introduced to as many people as possible.

The job itself

Then, when all the above is covered, you are ready to actually train them on the job itself.  This could be done by several different people each with particular specialisms, perhaps co-workers as well as the manager.  And it is often best done in several sessions over days or weeks because it can be impossible to take in a lot of new information in one go.

If you think this is all too much, put yourself into the newcomer’s shoes and feel how it might be to arrive to disorganisation, being ignored and not knowing what is expected of you.  You will have spent money on recruitment and that could be wasted if the onboarding process is done badly enough for the employee to leave a few days in.  A useful tip is to make a list of all the elements that need to be covered with a new member of staff and allocate a person to each different section.  Then pass the list round with the new recruit until all parts are ticked off.