Onboarding 101

Mark Livingston
Posted: 07/28/2010

If we examine the traditional recruiting and retention strategies of most businesses (throughout recent history), and their outcomes, we will see that the long term benefits to the business and to the employee may not be congruent. Does my HR Policy cause this division in a relationship that had such a great beginning and unlimited potential? How did that starry eyed young person turn into such an unmanageable staff member, or another problem child? What is the culture inside my business?

In a traditional business model, it will take six months or more for a recruit to become comfortable in their new environment. How can we accelerate that time period so that alongside their technical skill development, we also integrate cultural acceptance, by the team and by the new recruit?

If I take the time to recruit properly, provide a logical progression to skill development through defined objectives, provide a suitable mentor, monitor the mentoring, ensure that there is sequential OJT and extra-curricular training, regular performance reviews and realistic expectations over a predetermined period of time; then I have an excellent chance of developing a culturally integrated employee.



If I go further and implement meaningful performance reviews and subsequently reward for improvements, while also managing less than desired performance through a performance management system (in a positive and achievable manner), then I have successfully onboarded my staff members and provided my business with appropriate personnel. Sound complicated? Not at all.

Staffing for the 21st Century

There are as many different business models within Industry as there are businesses today; but the consistent development over the past 10 years has been the erosion of the traditional business model, and the transition into a PCE (Process Centered Environment) model.

This evolution is proving unsuitable to the difficult-to-manage HR model that surrounds some of the traditional business models within Industry. Our future staff will certainly arrive at the interview with totally different expectations concerning their employment and the future of their career path. A few of their expectations include; what can the business provide for me with respect to learning, predictability, social outlets, financial rewards and future growth?

Onboarding for Industry

Onboarding should not be confused with Orientation. Although they may appear to be similar, those similarities disappear after the completion of forms, introductions and the ultimate delivery of the new staff member to the work floor or office space. In many instances, good recruits can be turned into mediocre performers with their only intention to make as much money as possible without any loyalty or future consideration to the business. This attitude can develop from being lost in the "sink or swim" mentality of some traditional Industry recruitment intentions and the often non-existent employee workplace strategies.

Onboarding a New Recruit

The experience for the business, the new staff member and the team should begin in a positive spirit. A new recruit has many expectations, including the fact that they believe that they have signed on with a "best in class" business. When we look at the business through their eyes, we can see that their interpretation may be a mix of excitement and confusion that will be tempered by their level of experience within the work environment. They may be recent graduates from a technical institution, or transitioning from another industry. The pace may appear chaotic to the uninitiated! Your business culture is your own. How will you integrate a new recruit into your culture?

Investment for Long-Term Goals

We must recognize that there will be a significant investment of time and financial resources in the advertisement, the interviewing, the pre-hiring, the hiring, and the lengthy training phase of an employee’s growth from new recruit to productive and valued member of the team. These costs are mitigated through the development and the provision of a coaching plan that identifies a systematic increase in expectations concerning work quality, task completion efficiency, overall productivity and cultural growth for the new team member, and their teammates.

What is realistic for the new recruit within 30 days, 60 days and 90 days and beyond? It is entirely dependent upon the position we are filling.

A new recruit may be totally competent within six months on the job with the careful guidance of a mentor. What other coaching opportunities do they need to be exposed to? Our mentoring program must foster that development and articulate the new recruit through various requirements so that they become a committed and engaged staff member.

Our responsibility as managers is to provide a consistent measurement against that coaching plan. The responsibility of the business is to link employee performance to a compensation plan that is realistic, achievable and sustainable to the new team member and to the business.

Build a Solid Plan

Don’t make false or misleading promises. Be realistic about the development of key staff members within your organization. Where do you want your business to be in the next year, two years, and the next five years? What staff mix will you require? Does your business plan include training, replacement, exit strategies and a reward system that allows the right people to remain loyal to your mutual aspirations? Does your business model provide challenges and opportunities for your staff every day? Do you have an Employee Manual and other Training Documents and do you Record Improvements for future Reviews.

Mentoring

Has your mentor attended train-the-trainer courses? Not everyone is a natural trainer. They may be superstars within their specific skill area, but that does not mean that they can transfer the innate knowledge, cultural idioms, company history, acceptable practices and the plethora of company policies, requirements and expectations to your new recruit. There are only a few natural born teachers, but most people can learn the skills necessary to coach a new recruit.

Keep It Simple... and Fun

A simple checklist is the way to start! Think of the recruit you have brought on. What aspirations do they have for themselves? How can you facilitate that growth for them? A simple checklist can assist tremendously. Determine what you want them to be able to achieve in a graduated timeline, put it to work, revise it, finesse it, work closely with your staff and make notes.

Within three months you will have a reasonably competent employee. Within six months, culture, skill and attitude will all be closer to the expected results. Develop a checklist for all positions. Some may complete the requirements quicker than others as a result of previous experience.

Interaction and Feedback

The increase in experience keeps it interesting, every day. Every day is an opportunity to review what is happening with the new recruit and their interaction with the team and the business environment. Genshi Genbutsu or MBWA is a great way to observe, interact and make recommendations to the mentor and to the recruit.

Keep it fun, always. Do not allow yourself to "unload" all of your knowledge onto your recruit! They are impressionable but the entire history of your company within the first 30 days of employment will be overwhelming to say the least! Have fun. Social interaction is large component within the productivity environment today!

Refine, Refine, Refine

If you need to make changes, make them. Keep the development of your new recruit in mind always. As they mature into their position, what will the next year of their experience with your company involve?

The influence onboarding will have on your company is significant. It imparts value into your existing team as they are involved in the cultural development of the new recruit and they will evolve into better leaders and company supporters because of it. They will become involved in the hiring for vacancies within the company and ultimately, 360 evaluations will be the norm! Enjoy the journey.

Mark Livingston
Posted: 07/28/2010

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