Do’s and Don’ts for Successful Employee Onboarding

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Employee onboarding is an important process that sets the tone for a new hire’s tenure at your company. The onboarding process not only clarifies employees’ responsibilities and expectations, it also helps them understand the company culture and way they fit into it. If you get the onboarding process wrong, you will undercut employee morale and risk instilling bad habits that will be difficult or impossible to change later. If you get the process right, you can inspire employees and motivate them to do their best and help your company thrive. Here are a few simple do’s and don’ts you can follow to ensure that you get your onboarding process right.

DO Create and Share Your Plan, and DO Put It in Writing

Having a plan for your employee onboarding process will ensure that everyone involved stays focused, that you work toward meeting goals for the employee and the company, and that you make the most efficient use of everyone’s time. Having a plan also shows your employees that you have a vision and know what you’re doing. A plan inspires confidence. It helps employees to know that they are in the care of a true leader. Share your plan in writing at the beginning of the onboarding process. Employees will know exactly what to expect, and they will better understand the goals that have been established for them from the process.

DON’T Limit Onboarding to a Single Day

Employee orientation is not the same as employee onboarding, through an orientation might be included in the onboarding process. Orientation is more about giving employees practical information about the workplace, such as where they can park or what time they take their lunch break. Onboarding is about acclimating them to the job itself, helping them to understand their role in the company, and motivating them to share the company vision. Because onboarding is such an extensive and important process, you need to give it the appropriate amount of time — and that’s not a single day or even a single week. Ideally, you would think of onboarding almost like an apprenticeship or a mentoring phase that goes on for several months and maybe even through the first year or more. The process should have benchmarks in which you check in to see how the employee is doing, such as a three- or six-month review to go over how the employee is feeling about the job and how he or she is performing. The exact timeline will depend upon the structure of your onboarding program and the goals you have for it. Just be sure that you aren’t rushing through it.

DO Provide Mentors or Buddies for Each New Employee

Starting a new job can be nerve-racking, no matter how seasoned or skilled an employee is. Every new job comes with unknowns, and one of the most intimidating unknowns is whether the employee will fit in and make friends. Having a buddy can help the employee feel more at ease and like they already have a friend, or at least someone that they know. You should assign buddies to each of your new employees to ask questions, look to for support, or just have some friendly camaraderie. The buddy system should be in place for at least a week, but you could consider having it formally in place for a month or more. A mentor system is more formal, and its goal would be to help employees develop professionally. Mentors can be there for support, like buddies, but their larger goal would be to help employees work through professional problems, to develop their skills, and to navigate the company terrain. A mentor system would not have an end date. The relationship would be left to develop or dissolve as the two people saw fit for their needs. Consider adding both a buddy system and a mentor program to your employee onboarding process.

DON’T Make the Process Too Rigid or Finite

Employee onboarding may happen at the start of the new hire process, but it shouldn’t be considered a checkoff item that’s taken care of once the employee moves out of the orientation phase. Truly becoming acclimated to the company and learning the job can take some time. And ensuring that employees reach their full potential is an ongoing process. You should recognize that onboarding is an ongoing process, and find ways to incorporate development into the job. You should also know that the scope of your onboarding can change. You may have goals at the outset that you realize you need to evolve based on the employee or the circumstances. Your program should be flexible enough to be adapted as is needed. Build flexibility into the process, and recognize that it will be ongoing if it is to be truly successful.

DO Have Regular Check-Ins and Ask for Employee Feedback

How will you know if your employee onboarding program is going well or meeting its goals if you aren’t checking in with your employees? You need to schedule regular check-ins during the first year, such as after the first month, the first three months, the first six months, and at the year. You might want to schedule more informal check-ins during the first few weeks also. The purpose of these check-ins should be to let employees know how they are doing and discuss whether they are meeting the goals that were identified for them when they were hired. You should also ask employees if they need anything else to help them meet those goals, including more training or more support. You should also use these check-ins as opportunities to get employee feedback about the onboarding process and other systems within the company. Ask for suggestions on how the program can improve. To get more honest feedback, you might consider asking employees to fill out an anonymous survey. Otherwise, they might be hesitant to let you know their real thoughts, or they might just say that “everything is great” rather than give you their honest opinion.

DON’T Forget to Use a Change Management Software Platform to Help You Monitor It All

Hiring new employees is always part of a change process, even if you are filling established positions. Having a new person will always bring some level of change to your organization, and you should have a process in place for managing those changes. A good change management platform like WalkMe can help you manage both small and large change processes, from hiring one new employee to adding a whole new team. The platform works with all kinds of companies for all kinds of change processes. WalkMe is an industry-leading platform that is adaptable to your needs, and you can use it to oversee every aspect of a change plan. Use it as part of your employee onboarding to ensure that you are meeting all your goals and sticking to your timeline.
Jason is the Lead Author & Editor of TrainingStation Blog. Jason established the Training Station blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to training, learning and development.