I had a terrible experience recently checking into a holiday resort. After arriving from our overnight flight, we were told that our room wasn’t ready – that’s fine, we’re used to that. However, when we went back at the allocated time we were again told that our room wasn’t ready. That resort staff member gave his personal assurance that he would update us within 10 minutes. We didn’t receive that update. 45 minutes later we trudged back to the check-in counter, lined up with the masses, and once again – no room ready. At this point I’d lost my patience which seemed to do the trick (unfortunately).

The check-in left such a bad taste in my mouth that, although we ended up having a good time, the first impression was indelible.

It occurred to me that companies can make a similar mistake with new staff through a sloppy on-boarding process.

Think of how much time it takes you to find job candidates, to go through the interview process and the negotiation of an offer. To drop the ball on the on-boarding experience will only diminish your new staff member’s perception of your brand. Their engagement drops, and that hurts business!

So What is On-boarding and what should be included in the process?

On-boarding is a structured approach intended to provide personal, professional and social support to make assimilation into the business easy for new hires, empower them, engage them, and so maximise their productivity. Depending on the size and scope of your business, you may want to include the following in your on-boarding procedure:

1. Basic orientation: dress code, logistics such as parking and location of supplies, a “Who’s who,” job description, and expectations. (This is where most employers stop and think they’ve on-boarded an employee).

2. Start the day off right: Make their first day positive by providing a smooth paperwork process; sharing your company’s culture, vision, mission and values; and getting them excited to be part of your brand. A memorable first day sets the tone for your working relationship!

3. Offer a welcome: Create a welcoming work space including ID badges, phone/email accounts already set up, a list of passwords and necessary contact information, and fully stocked workstations. Take the time to introduce the new hire to the team: not just a quick “hello” but guide the introduction and include things like personal interests (in other words, create connections). Promote social activities to make a new hire feel a welcoming team spirit. Anyone who feels like an outsider, will act like one. Don’t underestimate the importance of social onboarding. The new employee is dealing not only with an on-the-job learning curve, but with learning how they fit into your existing social structure. Instill a sense of teamwork through sharing your company’s vision, mission and values on Day 1.

4. Set clear expectations: Your new hire needs to know the details of what you expect from them, including daily responsibilities, measurable short-term and long-term goals, performance metrics and knowledge of all company policies and guidelines. But don’t stop there. Let your employees know what they can expect from you in terms of approachability, support, and guidance.

5. Consider the learning curve: Most new employees won’t become optimally productive and efficient for up to 6 months depending on the scope of their position. Look at the first three months as a critical training and trial period where you set the stage for the employee’s well-being, get to know each other, and establish a great working relationship from the beginning.

6. Empower them: ask what they want to get out of the job, how they feel they can best contribute, and explore ideas with them. You may be surprised at the great ideas people have when they are encouraged to share them. In other words, make them feel valued, and make them feel like this job can be something much more than a pay cheque. When people are given the opportunity to shine, they usually will! Inspire them with advancement or self-development opportunities within the company, and how they fit into the big picture.

7. Open the dialogue! Encourage frequent and open communication and feedback, and conduct an onboarding review within 90 days, before small problems become big ones.

Is all of this really worth the effort? Yes. You are more likely to retain new hires if they are inducted into the company via a structured onboarding program. New hires stay when properly on-boarded… give their best efforts… letting you focus on building the business instead of dealing with a constant revolving door of employees.

Ultimately, a solid onboarding program means success for the company. You will engage and retain the top performers: the ones who are dedicated, enthusiastic, happy, and who will support your brand.

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