November 27, 2012

Four Tips to Fix Your Employee Onboarding Process

There are a few pivotal times in every employee’s career.  Hands down, the most pivotal time is during the onboarding process.  The deal is done; compensation is agreed to, announcements are made and (ideally) preparations are made for the new contributor.  At this time, most new hires are more open than ever to what’s happening around them.  The employer is typically on “best behavior,” wanting to look good for making such a wise hire decision.  So, with all this “niceness” going on, why do some new hires go bad so quickly?

There are a lot of reasons why new hires don’t work out.  Here are four tips to consider in your onboarding process…

Give candidates an inside look before you hire them.  Choose your best employee in the position you’re hiring for, and have him/her give an informal orientation/ overview.  One reason that new hires don’t last is that they may not fully understand the opportunity until they start working.  If the opportunity is really not a fit, you and the candidate would be better off knowing before an offer is extended.  Using this process, you will get good insights from your staff tour guide and other employees.  Be careful to protect your confidential information; of course, this suggestion is only for candidates who have passed other screens (reference and background Employee Onboarding Processchecks, initial interviews, etc.).

Give new hires exclusive time with their supervisor.  Maybe you’ve heard the saying “people leave bosses, not companies.”  There is some truth to that statement.  Helping new hires to learn their supervisor’s style (and vice versa) can smooth out potential communications- based misperceptions.  Consider the venue (lunch, boss’ office, neutral space,…) and the agenda (work processes, non-work topics, Company history and strategy) carefully.

Explain key expectations and processes.  Most Companies have non-negotiable expectations and forbidden actions that apply to everyone; some are even written in the handbook.  Take time to explain what the new hire must do…and must not do.  Don’t leave them on their own to figure things out.  Be clear up front, and always.

Give feedback (positive and negative) as close to real-time as possible.  Scripted performance evaluations after the typical probationary period are dangerous practices.  Don’t rely on that; tell your new hires how they are doing early and often.  Emphasize the positive, and “catch them doing something right.”  Understand that mistakes will happen, and accept responsibility for making them teaching moments.

Few if any newly hired employees come in the door looking for something to break.  Most are eager to fit in, and to do a great job. 

To be clear, I think most causes for early separations are due to something the Company didn’t get right, not the candidate.  High performing employers take responsibility for all aspects of the new hire and onboarding processes, leaving nothing to chance.  That may mean chasing away some candidates in the middle of the process; better (and safer) to part ways before hiring than afterwards. 

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