Invest in an Onboarding Experience

Don't Just Wing It
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Mark Complete

Onboarding for Success

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You’ve examined the resumes, conducted the interviews, and selected the most talented individuals to add to your team. When their first day arrives, how can you ensure an onboarding process that will be supportive, engaging, and reflective of your organization’s culture and values is in place?

Think back to your first days at a new organization. What was your impression? Was the person at the front desk expecting you? Was your workspace prepared? Was there anything memorable about the experience? Organizations often miss the chance to live their culture and create a memorable first impression on their new employees. It’s not uncommon for an employee’s first day to be spent alone reading company policies or manuals, or watching dated training videos.

Create a Memorable Experience

In the book, The Power of Moments, authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath explain that when humans recall their experiences, we ignore most of what happened and tend to remember the flagship moments: the highs, the lows, and the transitions. These moments are referred to in the book as “defining moments.” A defining moment is a short experience that is both memorable and meaningful. These moments often spark positive emotion and are what humans remember and cherish.

While some defining moments happen more organically such as a 16th birthday, a marriage, or the birth of your first child, the authors emphasize the importance of designing more defining moments into the way organizations interact with their employees and customers. Chip and Dan Heath have recognized what some employers have missed, “The lack of attention paid to an employee’s first day is mind-boggling. What a wasted opportunity to make a new team member feel included and appreciated.” (Heath, 2017)

When people start a new job they are experiencing a transition; they’re introduced to a new role, coworkers, and environment. By intentionally designing a memorable onboarding experience during this transition period, we are more likely to engage and retain new hires in our organizations. In his book Trailblazer, Salesforce founder and co-CEO, Marc Benioff describes his organization’s approach to a new hire’s first day and onboarding experience.

A new employee’s first day at salesforce may sound familiar at first glance. Employees will receive their computer and badge, and spend the morning in an orientation which provides an overview of the organization, it’s mission, and how to login to corporate systems. Saleforce isn’t shy about admitting giving back is core to the company’s culture. Rather than just talking about their commitment to giving back, Salesforce proves the organization is committed to living it’s values on an employees first day.

After the orientation, the new hire’s manager takes the employee out for lunch away from the office. When they return, all new hires are sent to spend the afternoon engaging in a community service activity. “We do this to create a memorable experience with their new colleagues and to show our employees that our values aren’t just some abstract aspirational notion, we want to give them an idea about how our values are living values and how giving back is the heart of our culture.” Marc explains. (Benioff, 2019)

One month later, new employees attend a one day bootcamp, becoming Salesforce, where they learn more about the company culture, hear executives share their experiences and tips for how to thrive in the organization, and a deeper overview of the organization’s products. The bootcamp features a campground with information about employee resources groups and ethics training.

Although this an abbreviated example of how Salesforce approaches onboarding, it’s clear that their onboarding is intentionally designed to be an ongoing, memorable experience for their new hires.

Time spent recruiting, interviewing, and hiring on employees can be costly. To ensure the top talent we have worked so hard to recruit remain engaged and grow with our organization, it’s critical organizations design a memorable onboarding experience that makes new hires feel like they are welcome and they belong.

3 Steps to Onboard New Employees for Success

Design an Onboarding Plan

Don’t just wing it every time a new employee joins your organization. Design a standard onboarding plan that includes an overview of the organization, what it values, and access to systems and tools the employee will need. Involve a variety of team members in the onboarding plan and coordinate schedules ahead of the employee’s arrival. Consider that while it is important to provide information about the organization and its culture, onboarding will be more engaging if there are opportunities to be social, connect people, and let the new hire speak. Think about how like Salesforce, your organization can design a memorable experience that will bring your company’s culture to life.

Personalize Plan for New Hire

Consider each individual and the role they have been hired for and customize the standard onboarding plan to be a more personal experience for that individual. Incorporate specific systems and processes that are necessary to their role, even if they’re not usually included in the standard onboarding. Schedule a few off campus lunches with various team members the new hire will be working with, and provide opportunities for new employees to build relationships.

Continuously Onboard

Onboarding shouldn’t be treated as one and done. It’s unreasonable to expect employees to grasp all of the company values, products, processes, and information in a one day or one week session. Make a goal to onboard employees for at least their first 90 days and up to their entire first year. Consider designating a support partner for the employee to reach out to during throughout their onboarding. Conduct 30- and 90-day conversations with new hires to gather feedback about their experience and provide additional support.

Heath, C., Heath, D. (2017) The Power of Moments (pp. 8-18). New York, NY: Simon & Schuster
Benioff, M., Langley, M. (2019) Trailblazer (Chapter 7: Ohana). San Fransico, CA: INC.

Establish an Employee Onboarding Team

An employee onboarding team compromised of individuals who model the organization’s culture and values can be created to own the onboarding process for incoming new hires. The onboarding team can then work with each new hire’s leader to personalize an onboarding plan in which a variety of team members may be included. Including a variety of team members in the onboarding process facilitates relationship building for the new hire. When onboarding responsibilities are shared, a group of individuals is now invested in that employee’s success with the organization.

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