There have been some very good posts written on the subject of onboarding. You can check them out here, here, here, and here. Some people think of orientation and onboarding as the same thing. I view onboarding as a longer process which includes orientation.
Unfortunately, in many companies, orientation has become that half-day event where employees sign paperwork and review the employee handbook. That’s sad, because employees need and deserve more. (Note to self – write a post about orientation someday.)
But onboarding to me is really about the pre- and post- hire process that helps an employee become acclimated to their new working environment. This is the period in time when organizations have the opportunity to make a great first impression or leave employees totally frustrated.
It’s about setting the employee up for success.
Remember, your organization hired this person because they’re smart, productive and have experience. That doesn’t mean you should take advantage by making them learn everything by osmosis. Even if you don’t want to create a formal onboarding program, there are a few small things you can do to make learning about your company easier:
Prior to an employee’s first day, reach out to them. They are excited about starting work with you. Let them know little details like what time to be there, where to park, what to wear, how lunch will be handled, etc. I know you might be saying to yourself…this is basic stuff. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen new employees arrive with no clue what would happen on their very first day. Because their manager didn’t tell them. It’s even better when you can tell them what the first week will look like.
If orientation doesn’t happen on the first day, let employees know when it will take place and what information is covered. Again, if that’s when they get the payroll forms and benefit info…they’re waiting for it…tell them when to expect it. That puts their mind at ease to focus on other stuff. Let me repeat that . . they can focus on other stuff (like job responsibilities) if they aren’t busy wondering when they get paid. Get the picture?
Make sure you have some kind of plan for employees to learn their jobs. Whether it’s via classroom training or on-the-job, employees want to hear that they are going to learn what they need to know. Even if it’s in phases. People just want to know there’s a plan.
Lastly, be sure to follow-up with employees to see how things are going. Even the best plans have hiccups, so make sure the employee feels comfortable with the pace and doesn’t have any questions that have been left unanswered.
Let’s face it, the easier you make it for employees to learn the ropes…the faster they can get to work. That’s why having an onboarding plan is important.