Starting a new job can be nerve-wracking at the best of times and downright difficult at the worst, but a smooth transition via the company’s onboarding process can help even the most nervous new employee settle in quicker. Of course, those involved in the hiring process have a good idea of where the new employee stands in terms of product knowledge, industry familiarity, etc., but in most cases, it’s probably prudent to start with the basics. After all, even if the new hire has 10 years of industry experience under their belt, it’s possible that the different terms and nomenclature at your company will throw them for a loop for the first few days or weeks as they adjust.
While designing onboarding experiences, don’t confuse “onboarding” with “orientation.” Orientation is typically the process of filling out paperwork, meeting with HR, and completing the initial administrative tasks. Onboarding should be viewed as a more comprehensive, long-term process that could take place over the course of a few months or longer, rather than a one-time objective to be completed.
Below we take a look at five of the biggest factors to keep in mind while designing onboarding experiences for your new hires.
Start before the beginning
Yep, you read that right. When designing onboarding experiences, consider implementing elements that can be started before the new hire sets foot in the door on their first day. This might mean that they’ll be sent a packet (via email or snail mail, dealer’s choice) containing background information on the company, some interesting facts about the company culture, and other pieces of information that they might find useful on their first day. Doing this will also help to keep their enthusiasm for the job up - after all, there can sometimes be a few weeks between the date an offer is extended and the first day on the job, and if it’s possible to use that time to integrate a new hire into the team they’ll be able to hit the ground running.
Focus on the outcome
One of the most important aspects of a strong onboarding program is that it will have a set purpose. Teaching your employees how to use company systems and software is part of the training process, and in many organizations having an overarching view of the entire organization is important, but you’ll also want to highlight the most fundamental aspects of their new role. If there are certain tasks that your employee should be able to handle by the end of their onboarding experience, make sure that your experience is designed to appropriately and explicitly teach those skills.
One way to go about this efficiently would be to lay out achievement markers for 30, 60, and 90 days into a new hire’s tenure and examine what key tasks they should be able to complete by each of these milestones. If by the end of the first month, for example, they would ideally be able to handle speaking with a client about their accounting status and overdue balances, create some training simulations - whether they’re in-person script reads or digital sessions - where they’ve got to practice asking the right questions, accessing the appropriate information in the system, and getting the right information properly compiled and submitted. After all, practice makes perfect!
Make it flexible
It’s also important to make your company’s onboarding experience this an engaging, interactive, and flexible. In today’s digital world most new employees will have some form of technology, whether it’s a smart phone, laptop, or tablet, at their fingertips at any given time, so consider making their training modules accessible anywhere, anytime. It can be difficult to complete onboarding sessions while the new hire is also getting their feet wet in their new role, so by creating a flexible learning environment your employees will be able to maximize their time and increase their productivity.
Additionally, by creating an experience that is engaging and interactive your new hire will be more likely to retain the information being presented. Working through a simulation or problem set is much more likely to spur memory recall at a later date than just flipping through some slides or watching a video.
Work on forming good habits
Now is the time to get your new employee forming good habits. If there are specific ways that they should handle certain work-related tasks or issues, the onboarding period is exactly when this training should take place. As you’re designing onboarding experiences, consider different scenarios that your employees may come across and how you’d like them to handle them, and create activities that will reinforce those behaviors. For example, if your employee is in a client-facing role it may be worthwhile to have them work through some scenarios where they must deal with a complex situation or an irate client. This would be the time when they should learn where their decision making authority begins and ends, when their manager should and shouldn’t be looped in, and what forms of recourse and/or remediation they - or the company - have available. Of course, some of these issues may change on a case by case basis, but if a new employee knows up front that they’re able to offer a 10% discount to a dissatisfied customer, or that all matters regarding specific accounts should be immediately escalated up the command chain, it will help create a smooth transition and could also help your employee to feel supported as they go about their daily tasks.
Finally, at the end of the onboarding process solicit honest feedback from your new employee. If they felt that something was lacking, or that there was too much emphasis placed on an aspect that bore no relation to their experience at the company, that’s information you’ll want to be able to carry forward as you continue to tweak and improve your onboarding experiences and processes.
We’ve created a free guide chock-full of onboarding best practices - get your copy here!