As organizations evolve to better support business and to adapt to new conditions that may include dealing with everything from the coronavirus to the shifts in the economy, new employees need help when they join with an organization, including understanding its culture, and the tools and systems used in the organization. The objective is to reduce the time it takes new employees to become productive team members. Companies that anticipate unfreezing hiring as the pandemic concerns resolve need to include fine-tuned onboarding in their planning.

What is onboarding today? For whom? When does it happen?

Integrating a new employee is a different process than it once was, when the process took place on the first day on the job and consisted mainly of showing the employee where he or she would be working and with whom, and explaining the basics such as working hours. Although just getting people started on the right foot is still important, there is more to onboarding today. Onboarding will be different in content, style, and duration, depending on the new employee's level in the organization, and on the industry: construction will be different from retail, for example. Onboarding details for experienced or more mature employees will be different than they will be for younger employees.

Onboarding goes beyond new employee “processing". The administrative items must still be done right away, along with some of the key social elements: completing I-9 forms , receiving an employee handbook, connecting to the payroll and benefits system and other paperwork, getting a tour of the workplace, meeting key co-workers, etc. Those are items that will probably still take up a full day.

Onboarding itself is not a one-day process: it can take several months, it may require providing the new employee with training in the use of new tools, systems, and software, and it definitely requires the manager's attention and planning.

As a concept, onboarding can also apply to contractors, temporary help, and sometimes even customers, although the details and the length of time required will be different.

Once the essentials are identified, HR professionals and managers can devise a plan of action to help new employees quickly assimilate company policies and workflow while getting fully acquainted with the organization's culture, and streamlining the process for more experienced employees. Some of the details include:

  • When will post-pandemic onboarding start?
  • How long will an employee's onboarding experience require?
  • What should new hires know about the company and when should they know it?
  • Are there elements of the culture and work environment that new hires must know?
  • What HR content must be included, and at what point? Will direct managers or co-workers play a role in onboarding new employees?
  • Are there goals for integration of new employees? How do you know if the onboarding program is working?
  • How should onboarding programs be evaluated as business continues to adapt to changing conditions?

Next week’s focus: Onboarding

Next week, Learning Solutions will address onboarding and the details that instructional designers and learning professionals must deal with as they work out the process. This includes identifying which of the hundreds of supporting software choices are relevant and which ones are more about orientation.