Mike Armstrong, a blogger for the software company Urbanbound, once wrote about a particularly bad onboarding experience he had his first day with an employer he called "Company X."
“It was like a kid’s first day of school,”Armstrong wrote. “Scratch that; it was like an inmate’s first day at a new correctional facility.” (Sounds more like a Wes Craven movie to me.)
Specifically, Armstrong wrote how his worry spiked when he sat down at his new workspace and noticed not only computer software dating back to the mid-1990s but also indicators of just how many people had sat at that same desk within the previous six months.
There were three documents in the desk which his predecessors hadn't even touched, for example. That seemed like evidence of "a fairly high rate of turnover,” he wrote.
Like Armstrong, many of us have onboarding horror stories to tell: When Human Capital Manager Practices interviewed 390 professionals in the fall of 2016, 50 percent reported that it took at least five months for the average new hire to reach full productivity. Adding a poor onboarding process to that statistic means a new employee might not last that long.
Yet, with that said, there are still ways to ease the load for a new hire. Here are five tactics to get your own next new employee to hit the ground running:
1. Hire For culture.
Hiring an employee who already fits into the culture makes it easier to reinforce the company’s culture, mission and vision for success. Gallup’s 2016 Few Employees Believe in Their Company’s Values study of U.S. employees found that many companies have gaps between “the desired culture and the culture employees experience.”
And that's not good, because it’s important that new employees feel a part of the company’s culture. Managers can show new hires how they are valued by explaining why these employees were picked for the job and talk with them about how their roles will have an effect on the business.
Of course, there’s always a chance a new employee might not fit the company culture. In that case, managers should provide guidance and get new employees up to speed. They should share the company's mission statement, goals and expected conduct so the new employee can make any necessary adjustments.
2. Empower new employees.
New hires should be given the resources necessary to improve their productivity from the get-go. For example, seeing that their work stations have been stocked with time-saving tools, like messages with hyperlinks to onboarding materials, makes it easier to get started. They should also be provided administration forms regarding direct deposit, benefits and taxes as early as day one.
Next, HR should help new hires manage their time so they can quickly adjust. Provide new hires with a schedule, for instance, that explicitly lays out what they will be doing over the first few weeks. The schedule can show what goals the company is working toward and how the new hire's work will make an impact.
3. Define onboarding goals.
A joint study by Ultimate Software and The Center for Generational Kinetics discovered that 33 percent of employees surveyed knew within their first week whether they would be staying with a company. Combine this rather alarming statistic with the substantial amount of money companies spend when looking for new hires, as opposed to keeping and training people already on staff.
Easing the transition for a new hire, then, doesn’t just affect the company culture from having a revolving door of new employees -- it negatively affects the bottom line.
Another way to ease the onboarding process is by pairing new employees up with a "buddy," or mentor, to help them stay accountable. For example, the new employee and buddy can meet once a week to discuss the progress the new hire is making. Then, they can work together to set a few goals for the next meeting, to increase the new hire’s productivity between meetings.
4. Establish a solid relationship.
One thing that can impact a new employee’s comfort level is the degree of struggle he or she has getting to know new co-workers. Being unable to fully acclimate to a new position and role -- including the ability to build a solid foundation for productive workplace relationships -- may give new hires a poor view of the company overall.
It’s important that new employees feel comfortable reaching out to co-workers for help, especially in those first few weeks on the job. If they don’t know whom to get help from or, worse, whom to talk to when conflicts arise at work, they may feel isolated, which can lead to bigger problems down the road.
To help new hires form valuable workplace relationships, get them acquainted with their co-workers through “ice-breaker” activities during a morning meeting or over lunch. The key here is to introduce new hires to whom they’ll be working with and to establish a relationship built on trust.
5. Conduct outcome-based performance reviews.
A new study by Adobe found that 80 percent of 1,500 U.S. office workers surveyed reported going through structured performance reviews, which included written reviews (often with rankings and ratings), on a mandated frequency.
Those same respondents said this kind of performance review creates a sense of competition among co-workers, increases personal stress and can even result in unpleasant reactions, from crying to quitting.
When it comes to new hires, use goals and outcomes as the standard for performance reviews. Outcome-based reviews conducted regularly throughout the new employee’s transition can help keep him or her on track and focused on developing skills needed for the position -- without any tears or stress.
Traditional performance reviews can lead to gaps in specificity, and to role drift, which may discourage new hires from staying on the job. Outcome-based reviews, on the other hand, ensure the new employee has a clearly defined role within the company and is being reviewed based on the job he or she signed up for.