With news of so many layoffs in the new year, it might seem odd to focus on onboarding. Here are the reasons why you should focus on it now.
Take a break first to make major improvements. I’m sure you’ve heard someone say something about “overtaking the plane in flight” or “building the car while it’s driving down the street”. If your company paused for a moment or slowed down when hiring employees, you have been presented with a great opportunity to work on the plane while it is in the hangar. Use this time to align with your stakeholders, ensure your programs align with the company’s vision, and take conscious time to prepare for when hiring picks up again.
Second, make remote onboarding a great experience for your employees. You may not experience a hiring break and your business is in full swing. Remote and hybrid work aren’t going away anytime soon, despite the desire to curb them. If you’re still in need of a great remote onboarding experience for your new hires, now is the time to move forward and prepare your employees for success.
A few years ago when I was leading HR/L&D for a high growth technology company, we were hiring an average of 30 people per month. It was 100% personal onboarding regardless of where new hires lived. We flew them in from across the country or even the world to meet leaders from across the organization and learn more about the company they had just joined. Although this was a personal experience, I wanted to analyze it to see what lessons we could adapt to a hybrid or fully remote environment.
Tip #1: Onboard cohorts to build a community.
One of the best parts of this onboarding experience was the community we created with each cohort. I remember seeing groups of people entering the building together after going out for lunch on a particular day and finding out which cohort they belonged to. I would say to myself, “Oh look, it’s June 2012!” What was fascinating and wonderful was that each month’s cohort bonded as part of the experience. Regardless of department and function, they maintained communication even after onboarding.
Some or most of your hiring managers might freak out if you say you want to push back a start date by a week or two so they start the job with other hires. They will claim that they need them to start work immediately. However, when you look at the long-term benefits of increasing the likelihood that your new hire will stay with the company longer, a week or two is marginal compared to the long-term payoff.
Once you’ve established this group of new hires, have them get together at least every other day to share what they’ve learned. This not only builds trust in the group, but also spreads the learning throughout the group. In addition, sharing helps deepen learning for participants by increasing retrieval of the information learned. It enables the sharing person to formulate new knowledge in a way that makes sense to others. Everything that happens in this seemingly simple sequence deepens the learning experience for that person.
“Research shows that a broad network is stronger than a deep network.” Building these cross-functional cohorts puts people on the right foot. If you have sales, tech, and operations in the same onboarding group and they build strong connections, they can later leverage each other’s networks.
Tip #2: Define culture explicitly.
How do you get your new employees to experience culture in their first days on the job? Culture doesn’t consist of ping-pong tables and free snacks. Culture is how we work; it is the often implicit ways of working. Go beyond sharing your list of values and find ways for your employees to live those values from the start.
In the first few weeks, find ways to experience the mission, vision, and values at work. Think of virtual meetings that new hires can join, or opportunities to participate as a silent observer. They don’t have to be live; You can record examples of successful internal and external meetings for them to review.
Tip #3: Set clear expectations from the start.
The group focused on the company and how we work for the first week, then split for the second week and delved into the specifics of their individual roles. This started with a one-on-one meeting with their boss to understand what was expected of them. They had set 30, 60, and 90 day expectations for what would be accomplished. In addition, they had created a vision for what the day-to-day responsibilities of the role would be beyond 90 days.
When we hire someone, especially if they have some experience, we may assume that we’re on the same page about what’s expected of them in their role. Make sure your hiring managers are clear Before hiring someone to do exactly what is expected of that person. Aperian Global says you should overprepare for your new hire. “When working in a virtual environment, it’s much easier to miss details. This problem quadruples when an employee is new and trying to absorb that much in a short amount of time. Creating detailed guides (even if some may find it too detailed) can pay off down the line.”
Tip #4: Make time for compliance.
Most organizations have mandatory training. As part of this first week, make sure you set aside time for employees to complete all of this compliance-related training. Completing it will never be a top priority for your people. It’s rarely fun, but it’s necessary. Make sure they get it out of the way that first week. Otherwise, it easily falls aside other priorities.
Tip #5: Remember to check in to ensure a successful onboarding experience.
Many organizations use 90-day check-ins on new hires to ensure they get off on the right foot. Use this as an opportunity to get feedback on their onboarding process and find areas for improvement for future hires. If you’ve built a good relationship up to this point, you should receive helpful feedback to further improve your onboarding program.