The Employee Onboarding Process and Why It Matters

By May 4, 2022Leadership
welcome sticky note to signify onboarding

What’s the Employee Onboarding Process About?

Hiring and recruiting are at the top of almost every priority list for all of our clients right now.  Many of them are small to medium-sized organizations that are growing quickly. They need to recruit the right individuals who can jump in and start plugging away.  With so much attention being placed on recruiting and filling productivity gaps, almost all of the senior leaders we work with acknowledge that the onboarding phase is inconsistent and perhaps even non-existent

When we hear leaders say they wish they could do more to help new people (especially those in senior roles), we start with the basics. We ask them to step away from assumptions about who is responsible for onboarding.  After all, onboarding is basically about two things: 1. Feeling connected and 2. Getting productive in their roles as fast as possible.  

So, in absence of the latest HR technology, structured processes, and teams of org. Development professionals, we suggest giving everyone in an organization an understanding of what matters most in onboarding. When leaders and employees have this view, they can be proactive, empathetic, and show care to a new person coming into the organization. 

Four Important Focus Areas for Onboarding: What are the Desired Employee Outcomes?

1. Feeling Like They Belong

We all want to feel like we are an important part of our team, and like our team is important to us. This doesn’t just apply to the direct team the new person will spend most of the time with. It’s also about connecting across teams and with leaders throughout. One thing leaders and employees can do is to take initiative to reach out and introduce themselves. They can demonstrate a genuine interest in getting to know the person. A great way to do this is to try and understand more about the unique strengths, perspectives, interests, and experiences the employee is bringing to the table.  By setting up informal zoom conversations, having coffee, stopping by the workspace, etc. people can engage in conversations. It’s important to ask questions that help them learn more and perhaps even connect further. 

  • “Which parts of your work are you most looking forward to?” 
  • “What kinds of work have you enjoyed the most in your past experiences?” 
  • “Why were you drawn to this organization?” 
  • “What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?” 

Questions like this open up possibilities to make additional connections with other people and answer some questions the employee might have. It will help you better understand the unique strengths that the individual is bringing to the table. This increases the likelihood that the new person will feel like they belong.

2. Understanding the Culture

We broadly define culture as “what it’s like to work here.” The culture of the organization becomes evident to the new person as they experience the rituals, behaviors, and decisions being made throughout the organization. The faster a new employee understands “how things work here,” the better.  Leaders and employees should realize that this will be something any new person is wondering when they start working. Oftentimes, they’ve heard a lot of stories about how great the culture is during the interviewing process. But now that she/him/they are part of the team, they’ll need all of the help they can get. Leaders and peers can offer insights in areas such as: 

  • How do the vision mission and values get discussed
  • Explaining how meetings go and why
  • Sharing how decisions are typically made at all levels in the organization
  • Expectations for the way employees voice ideas, concerns, or questions
  • How are matters of well-being handled on the team
  • How learning typically happens (do we talk about failure?)

3. Getting Up to Speed on the Job

The people who will work most directly with the new employee will be best positioned to help him/her learn the “ropes” to start getting to work.  It’s a habit to just throw a new person into the job and let them figure it out. Sure, people are on standby to answer questions, but this often creates the risk of mixed expectations on behalf of the new person and team. If leaders and employees can keep in mind some general principles about learning and performance, it will help them be proactive in finding ways to support the new person.

  • Anyone new to a role needs to understand what is expected.
  • They then need to have and know how to use the tools, technology, information, and resources to perform their work.
  • Any new employee will need to learn something that they didn’t know before to do the work. This applies to seasoned people as well.
  • As they start to do the work, give them a chance to reflect on how it went, get feedback, and make adjustments.
  • For all of the above, a new person will need a way to ask questions about expectations, tools, unknowns, new elements, and improvements to the work.

With these 5 areas in mind, leaders and employees can better anticipate and sense when someone needs help. Just because someone was hired as an expert to come in and fix everything, doesn’t mean they won’t need help getting up to speed on their work.

4. Understanding the Rules

Finally, there’s compliance. Someone needs to make sure the new employee has exposure to the policies, rules, handbooks, industry guidelines, certifications, etc. They’ll need all the materials required to work in the organization and in the role. Typically, this is a combination of HR, the new person’s manager, and/or someone with technical knowledge to make sure all of the compliance matters are handled.

Onboarding Benefits Everyone

There are so many ways to go about doing these four things to onboard someone. Some organizations have nifty apps that manage everything in an automated way. Some have specific roles already designated to help perform some of the things listed above. But, as a growing team or organization without this luxury, there’s power in helping all employees and leaders know what matters most in someone’s first 6 months of work. Everyone plays a role at some level of the employee onboarding process, and everyone will benefit. Understanding basic principles of learning and culture will help all employees feel confident, connected, and optimistic.

Want to Talk About the Employee Onboarding Process?

At Thrive at Work, we’re fortunate to be working in all of these areas. We’d be happy to chat further with you about your own ideas, or new ones that you’d like to pursue.

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Evan Ishida

About Evan Ishida

The work I love is designing solutions and experiences that help people learn, collaborate, create, and innovate together. As a proud Ohio University Bobcat, I began my career as an internal consultant, and team leader in large global Fortune 200 corporations where I focused on learning and development, instructional design, communities of practice, and learning technologies.