In the 7 Phases of Engagement, I proposed that each phase ties directly to the employee lifecycle and has the potential to impact the success of a company in terms of its ability to engage employees.
Today, we’ll look at the third phase of engagement: Onboarding.
Onboarding is the most crucial of the 7 Phases of Engagement. While the hiring process phase is the beginning of the employee relationship, the onboarding phase sets the stage for the rest of the employee’s time at the company. It is crucial that there be a formal and well thought-out process for to help new employees assimilate.
What is onboarding?
Onboarding is the way companies induct new employees into their organizations. The goal is to get these new employees up to speed as quickly as possible so that they can begin to make a contribution to their companies.
The onboarding phase begins with the acceptance of a job offer by the new employee. Keep in mind that the job offer can impact the engagement level of the new employee. In his article, “Exploding job offers: It’s time to eliminate exploding job offers,” Adam Grant challenges the thinking of employeers who draw out the interviewing process only to give candidates a short amount of time to accept an offer before it expires. In it, he explains how this type of job offer is “… counterproductive for employers: they don’t succeed in landing, motivating, or retaining high performers.”1
Employment Status and Engagement
In a perfect situation, the employee is given time to consider the offer and is hired in a non-probationary role. This role is the most beneficial in terms of employee engagement because the company and the employee make a mutual and equal commitment to each other’s success.
However, there are two other employment statuses in which companies hold the upper hand: temp to hire and probationary periods. Companies use these options as a way to hedge against their hiring decisions when they are not sure that the employee will be able to perform the role and/or fit into the culture of the company.
In temp to hire roles, temporary employees cannot be treated as a regular employee which often means that they will not go through the standard onboarding process. Onboarding will probably be a one-off process IF there is even a process. Temporary employees will also be at a disadvantage since they won’t have access many of the resources to which company employees have. However, the company will hold temporary workers accountable to the same standards as all other employees. If the goal is eventually hire these employees, then how can a temp to hire role not serve to disengage the temporary hire?
When companies use probationary periods, they are again demonstrating a lack of faith in their hiring process. While not as severe as a temp-to hire, the new employee is under pressure to fit in during the probationary period. By not wanting to rock the boat, these employees may hold back ideas and effort as a way to make it through the period.
There are many companies that use a “sink or swim” approach. Employees are thrown into a role and whatever happens happens. To begin to engage employees, however, companies must put thought and effort into their onboarding process. Consider orientation feedback surveys, talk employees that have recently gone through the process, look at new hire retention statistics, etc. to better perfect the process.
Orientation/ First days
New employees are eager to understand their role, to learn more about the company and its culture, and most of all, to make positive impact. Their first day can either excite them or overwhelm them.
Typically, companies welcome new employees through an orientation program on their first (or first few) days. In my experience, employees receive mountains of paperwork, endure endless lectures on core values, receive their laptops, hear from a company executive and then are set-free to start their work. That can be overwhelming.
Mountains of paperwork
From a paperwork perspective, why not get that out of the way before their first day? Last year, I attended the Workforce Live-NYC program where I met Todd Owens, President and COO of TalentWise, a technology company that automates the hiring process including the associated paperwork. By doing so, the paperwork can be completed prior to the first day allowing a better use of time during orientation and relieving the new hire from the stress of having to focus on paperwork.
Orientation gives companies the opportunity to discuss important topics including their company’s core values. One of my previous companies had 6 core values and an hour was devoted to discussing each one in orientation. I agree that employees need to be familiar with and understand the company’s core values. In orientation, I think they should be woven into the normal discussion and tied to actual examples of how they’ve been applied. Given the amount of information provided in orientation, consider how much of it will be remembered afterwards.
I enjoyed volunteering to teach the core value modules. I would spend 30 minutes on the specific core value I was teaching. Yes, I rushed the canned presentation and went off-script by adding specific examples of how it applied in my experience. I used the remaining 30 minutes to connect with the group by answering any questions the new hires had. Based on the feedback, those 30 minutes were the most valuable of the entire day. While some of the questions would have been addressed in other parts of orientation, many were just basic “how does it really work?” questions. Again, find out what works best during your orientation program and tailor it to the needs of your new hires.
New hires always eagerly await the time they will receive their new computers, phones, etc. It is important that companies have all needed technologies ready and available for new employees. When a company is not prepared, it sends a message that the employee is not a top priority. Don’t disengage new hires from day one.
Give People An Out
When I was reading Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passions, and Purpose2, by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, I came across “The Offer.” Zappos is the leading destination in online apparel and footwear sales and is known for its outstanding customer service. In Why Zappos Pays New Employees to Quit–And You Should Too, Bill Taylor, in a Harvard Business Review blog post, discusses how “The Offer” helps Zappos maintain its culture by allowing new hires to take a cash bonus to leave the company. Those taking “The Offer”“…obviously don’t have the sense of commitment they are looking for.” 3
After Orientation – Manager Role
Once orientation is over, it is the direct manager’s responsibility to create a personal onboarding plan with new employees. It simply can’t be left to the company alone since most companies assume the onboarding process ends when orientation is completed
It will be the little things that make the most impact on the engagement of new hires. Below is a checklist of items that should be considered:
Computer – The employee should have their computer but may not understand the sites that will be the most used/beneficial for their role. Help employees tailor their laptops to be the most effective.
Workspace – Hopefully, the new employee will have a clean, stocked workspace so that they can focus on the role. Help the employee understand the phone system, make sure they have keys to lock their desks, etc.
Team members – Do coworkers know the employee is starting? Devise a plan to introduce the new hire to the rest of the team. Polaroid, in a commercial, showed how using Polaroid photo’s of coworkers helped the new employee feel more welcomed while helping him put faces with names. Giving coworkers as much information as you can about the new hire will help them better connect once the person starts. Doing the same for the employee will help everyone build stronger connections. Lunches, coffees, and cocktails are other opportunities to connect
Coworkers – There will be people outside of the team with which the new employee will be working. Arrange introductions for key coworkers.
Expectations – Set expectations and schedule follow-up meetings with the new employee. This will keep everyone on the same page and shows that the manager is actively involved in helping the employee be successful. New employees crave feedback. They want to know what they are doing well and understand where they have opportunity to improve.
Onboading is essential to employee engagement since it set the foundation of all that is to follow was the employee progresses within the company. I challenge you to review your onboarding program and see how engaging it is.
1 Grant, Adam. “Exploding job offers: It’s time to eliminate exploding job offers.” LinkedIn. 13 Jan. 2014. Web. 1 Apr. 2014.
2 Hsieh, Tony. (2010) Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passions, and Purpose. New York: Business Plus.
3 Taylor, Bill. “Why Zappos Pays New Employees to Quit–And You Should Too.” HBR Blog. 19 May 2008. Web. 1 Apr. 2014
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