Think back to your first day at your current job.
- Who greeted you when you arrived?
- What resources were waiting for you at your workspace?
- Did you know who to ask if you had questions?
- How did you feel when you left for the day?
Now, picture the things about that first day that made you feel connected to the new-to-you organization, culture and people. I’m guessing it wasn’t the stack of new hire paperwork that you were required to fill out.
Likely, what made you feel connected were the conversations you had with your new coworkers on your tour of the office or the meeting you had with your supervisor who clued you in on the history and purpose of the organization along with the importance of your role.
That’s because effective onboarding that retains top talent requires more than that stack of paperwork (while necessary for compliance!). Effective onboarding requires a thoughtful, intention-based process that starts the moment you send the offer letter and does not stop after their first day.
Why does the onboarding process play such a critical role in retaining top talent? Without an established and engaging onboarding program, employees will feel:
- Loss of Confidence
- Disconnected from the culture, mission, goals
When employees feel alienated and disconnected from day one, high performers start looking for a new place to call their work home. Or, another likely scenario we see often is that an employee stays but only performs at 50-75% and requires their supervisor to spend twice the amount of time guiding them.
No one can actually “hit the ground running” at a new organization. And no one new actually “just knows” what to do. They won’t know your expectations until you communicate them. You must properly integrate them into your workforce.
This is especially true when onboarding a new employee virtually. They won’t get to experience your company culture by simply being in the office. A thoughtful, virtual onboarding process can bridge that gap.
Ensure that your new employees (and those returning to work after time away) feel confident and connected and can perform at 100% by building an effective onboarding program with these tips.
How to Build an Effective Onboarding Program
1.Recruit the Best
In order to build an effective onboarding program, you need to first reframe your definition of onboarding.
Textbook Definition: The action or process of integrating a new employee into an organization. It is a comprehensive, active approach.
Anne’s Definition: Hire the best person, then build an authentic bond with them through an intention-based process.
Note that my definition begins with hiring the best person. Effective onboarding actually starts (not stops) with recruiting. The higher value you place on recruiting, the better your whole process is going to go. The reason why comes down to taking time upfront to add the best employees to your company. When you hire the best from the start, you can avoid all the challenges that come from a messy recruiting process.
2. Make Them Feel Valued from the Start
Once you recruit the best person, building an authentic bond begins. Don’t wait until their first day! Call within 24 hours of them accepting your offer to welcome them to the team. Then, make touch points with that new hire at least once a week during their notice period. Mail a welcome card signed by the team. Send them company swag. If it’s a long notice period, schedule a coffee meet-up or invite them to a virtual company happy hour. The goal is to keep the new hire engaged even before they start working.
When their first day arrives, make them the priority. Clear your schedule. Be there to walk them through each component of their day – from their arrival to the tour of the building to learning about why you selected them for the team. They know you’re busy and will feel so valued knowing that you took the time to be with them every step of the way.
3. Set Them Up for Success
Don’t give them busy work the first week. Fill their agenda with information, meetings and tasks that will help them perform their job well. When an employee understands the purpose of an organization and the value of their role, their performance excels.
4. Establish Expectations from the Start
This is really what onboarding is all about. You hired this person because their experience matched your needs. Now in order for your new hire to perform well at your organization, you must communicate the expectations of work that is unique to your leadership style and team.
Naturally incorporate expectations into your welcome meeting with them on the first day. While you provide them with insight into the organization’s history and culture, go over your expectations for them in their role and what your organization expects of their performance.
Then as they progress recognize successes and provide direction for challenges immediately. Don’t wait until their 90 day review! High performers want to do well and appreciate immediate feedback so they can make the necessary corrections. The goal is for the employee to be successful, and they can only do that with information.
Translate Your Onboarding Program Virtually
Integrating your new hire into your company culture can feel limiting when they can’t physically be in your office space, but it doesn’t have to be! Technology is your friend in making your virtual onboarding experience a fun, engaging process.
Trade your typical greeting in the lobby when they arrive on their first day with a Zoom call first thing in the morning (add a fun decorated welcome sign to your at-home office to communicate your excitement!). Create a schedule that alternates between live events like video conferences with the team, recorded events like webinars and learning time like reading the employee handbook on their own.
When planning out your new hire’s virtual first week of onboarding, the most important thing to do is make sure that each item you add to the agenda underscores your work culture and leadership style. Articulate both up front and then ensure that every interaction backs that up. For example, if you say your organization really values employees, but you show up late to every meeting, you’re actually communicating that you don’t value or respect them. Pay attention to what you say and do. Make sure it aligns.
Optimize Your Return to the Office with Re-Onboarding All Your Employees
In our current times, you may have had to move your workforce to remote, furlough or lay off workers. When we return to our workspaces, this is a huge opportunity that I do not want you to miss.
I hear so often from leaders that it is difficult to find the right opportunity to re-establish expectations with employees. This is your moment! Everything has shifted. You can set everything up the way you always dreamed of as a leader.
Start planning today to re-onboard your employees when they return to the office. Write out an agenda for the first week that includes a “Return to Work” event for the entire team to reconnect and have some fun to start the first day back, one-on-one meetings with every team member where you re-establish your expectations, and a team meeting to go over logistics.
Some of your workforce may be excited to return, others may feel uncertain and anxious. Each of these meetings will provide you with a natural opportunity to re-establish your work culture, values and expectations in a way that will help your people feel confident and connected once again.
Resist the urge to go back to “the way we’ve always done it” and plan now to reopen positively changed.
Whether you’re building an onboarding program for the first time, translating yours virtually or welcoming employees back, take the time to create those moments where your people will feel connected to your organization. The investment upfront in planning a meaningful program is the key to building a successful team.