Employee On-boarding – A Key to Employee Engagement
“YES! They are on board! We have secured a great candidate for the organization.” Success in the recruitment process can be such an accomplishment. Now we get to work on onboarding. Or do we? Just recently I heard of an experience where an employee started a new role without a plan, a welcome or even the courtesy of a clean desk. I often see HR as the internal customer experience manager and facilitator. Impressing a candidate not only stops at the offer. It extends right until they retire or exit. The working world is becoming less one dimensional and candidates are becoming more active in the decision on where they work and why they choose to work at an employer. It is my belief that the onboarding process is an extension of the employee experience and directly impacts the employee’s engagement from the first day they show up for work.
Onboarding is not a new concept. HR professionals and companies have been doing it for years. Is your onboarding strategy aligned with your employee engagement strategy? Do you create and or use tools that help new employees minimize their learning curve and assimilation time when they start? How long does it take on average for employees to become positive contributors to their teams, departments and the organization? Answering these questions forces us to think of the onboarding process far beyond just a welcome and initiation. Every touch point of the onboarding process needs to align with company strategy and utilize resources and tools to move an individual from an eager candidate to strong contributing employee.
How can we utilize employee onboarding in increase employee engagement?
1. Initiate and Communicate
From the moment you engage a candidate through your job ad to the first meeting you arrange, your company is making an impression. Now fast forward to the offer and acceptance. They have given you their notice of arrival. Many companies start preparing internally for the candidate and the next interaction is their first day of work. I believe companies need to initiate engagement and communicate in advance of any employee start date to help prepare the employee for what will be the next chapter in the their career.
Providing clear, accurate and timely communication about what to expect on their first day, who they will meet, what they need to bring, a reminder of the dress code and special requirements, even where to park are critical pieces of information that new employees should have up front. Not only does this set the tone for starting in their new role, it also says a lot about the company and their efforts in ensuring that the new employee has all the necessary tools to be successful from day one. Employee success and positive engagement is not a one way street. I believe HR professionals should lead the charge in initiating and communicating with employees prior to arrival to increase the effectiveness of their preparation prior to starting in a new role. This proactive communication should continue throughout their employee experience.
2. Set and Communicate Clear Expectations
We hired a new employee. Obviously we have a need. However, regardless of the obvious need for the human resource, I believe new employees need to understand early in the process what the expectations and goals are for them. When you hire a Sales professional, common sense says they are there to sell. How much? What products? Are they expected to do that on the first day? Is there a training period? Is training done by shadowing or sitting in a training room? Is there a training plan? There are so many things to consider when bringing on a new employee. One thing I have seen that works every time is having a clear training plan for the new employee. From an onboarding agenda to a formal training plan, it is imperative that new employees know what is expected, receive clear communication and have an opportunity to discuss the goals and expectations.
Open communication provides an opportunity to understand what is required, what is realistic and provide insights into how the new hire is performing. Some companies shy away from talking about goals and expectations early in the process because they are assessing fit and performance. I have always challenged that performance can only be measured when there are clearly communicated behaviors, expectations and success criteria. There is always room for innovation and creativity to be displayed as the employee gets more familiar with the company and culture. Defined success criteria for new employees help reduce stress and performance ambiguity, create an opportunity for open dialogue and set the tone for ongoing performance management.
Setting and communicating clear expectations helps new employees connect themselves immediately with the big picture and understand how their role contributes to the overall growth and development of the organization. People are fueled by purpose. Giving new employees a sense of belonging and purpose from day one pays dividends in employee engagement in the medium and short term and can reduce employee turn-over and recruitment costs.
3. Evaluate, Review and Adjust
No process is perfect. Don’t wait until you have a process perfectly tailored and laid out before you get started. Whether you have a formal onboarding process or not, use what you already have and evaluate, review and adjust it as required. I have personally found that every batch of new employees get a slightly improved version of onboarding than the last. I routinely ask for feedback at the end of each session to understand what people liked, disliked and areas that could be improved. That information provides great insights for me in continuing to improve employee onboarding and engagement. The aim of onboarding process innovation and evolution should not be for the pursuit of perfection, but to ensure that every employee that is on boarded is equipped with the information and resources to be successful.
Feedback from all avenues can be great tools for providing resources to adjust and improve. From industry best practices, mentorship, sharing and trial and error, feedback gathered should lead us to continually evaluate, review and adjust onboarding to drive employee engagement and retention.
Employee engagement should be part of the overall human resource business strategy. Like any successful strategy, no section is isolated from the other. Each part of the strategy lays the foundation for the success of the other and eventually the whole. Employee on-boarding provides a great opportunity for the company to engage an employee and help them assimilate successfully into the culture, their department and support organizational success. Is your employee on-boarding process supporting your overall HR strategy? Start today and on-board and engage.