I hear you. You want to know how long onboarding should take.
Up to this point in this series, we have discussed why analysis is important in the development of an onboarding program, how to get buy-in from leaders, how a variety of activities engages learners, the value of mentors, and the imperativeness of collecting metrics.
In this piece, we are going to discuss how long an onboarding experience should last or better yet: When does it transition from onboarding to everboarding?
Did you know that 3 out of 4 HR departments that intend to hire in 2023 anticipate growth within HR and are focusing on the employment “experiences” that keep employees happy, healthy, and engaged? (Aberdeen Research, 2023)
This, coupled with all the data out there about new hire retention, makes onboarding a key aspect of that focus.
So, how long?
Well. It depends. Everyone’s favorite answer, I know. If it was one-size-fits-all, I would not be writing this, we would all apply the formula, and move on to the next thing on our lists. The best way to determine how long onboarding should be and when it should transition to something else is, well, analysis. You might think you know, but you should verify and confirm things you think you know. Instead of making educated guesses—make educated decisions.
I am going to throw a little wrench in here. Is everyone you hire for a new position from outside your organization? Are they all full-time? Are some part-time? Are they remote? Designing a standardized onboarding program that can meet the needs of all these potential audiences is possible. But you have to ask the questions to meet the needs.
The new hire experience does not start on the first day of work. I am not talking about work tasks or benefits or computers or badges. I am talking about the hype.
This actually should be part of recruiting and hiring—but that is a different article. So here, after the offer has been accepted, what are you doing to make that new person feel welcome? Excited they chose your company? Less anxious about the “first day”?
First, create a hype video about your company and send it out after job acceptance. When my son was accepted to university, they sent him a congratulations card that played the fight song. As an alum it made me very happy, but it also was a great hype piece. Do you have any swag? Metal water bottles with your logo?
Have the managers of different departments create welcome videos. While it would be great for each person to get a personal video, I know logistically that could be difficult. This doesn’t have to be a high-end video like your hype video (spend your money there). Make this something completely informal. Think TikTok. Something that just says, “Hey, we are super excited to have you.” Have a remote team? Get everyone on a video meeting and record a quick group welcome.
The new hire’s direct supervisor and/or manager should reach out in advance as well, just to say “hi” and “welcome.” If you have onboarding mentors, coordinators, etc., they should be included as well.
Time the release of these things so it is not a one-and-done thing. Send the welcome videos a week before they start.
A couple of days before they start, send an itinerary for their first day. Include:
- Where they report: Address, parking lot info, links for remote people
- When do they report: Date, time, time zone
- Who they report to: Name, title
- What they can expect: Fill Day 1 with lots of things, but not too many (see below)
- What they need to bring: If there are any items they are expected to have on Day 1, include it here as well
Make sure there is someone from HR and the new hire’s work group available to greet them on their first day. Assign an onboarding buddy/coordinator/mentor and make that person the one who accompanies HR. It would be a bonus if either one of these people were someone they had met during the hiring process or saw on their welcome video—nothing is more welcoming than a familiar face!
Now. Think about learner needs–what does this person need to know and do on the first day? We are not talking about what would be convenient for HR or anyone else. What MUST be done Day 1? Put those things on the itinerary but break them up with other things like tours, 1:1s, a team lunch, coffee talk, and even a little down time to just explore a bit.
Before that newbie leaves the first day, they should have an itinerary for the rest of the week.
This is where you sprinkle in all the other stuff that newbies need to do, but don’t have to be completed when they walk in the door Day 1. Again, spread them out. Add in some training items. Are there safety or compliance items that your newbie needs before they access certain information or areas? Get those taken care of.
Job shadowing and observations are an excellent use of time the first week. Let them observe more experienced people and even have them interact with some of the most recent hires so they can learn from one another. If you have the capacity to use cohorts, they are a great chance for new people to make social connections and feel connected.
Before the first week is done, your newbie should have a clear picture of what the next month, two months, or three months look like. There should be training plans, work plans, performance metrics and expectations, and immersion in company culture.
If your company touts “people first,” onboarding is a great opportunity to make that real. Managers and supervisors should be major players in the onboarding experience. They should share how the culture of the organization drives their decision-making and let the new hire watch it happen.
They should also have a clear picture of where they can go and what they can accomplish in a career with your company. I know what you are thinking: “But they just got here! We haven’t even trained them for this job, much less advancement.” That is 100 percent true.
Did you know that employees who strongly agree they have a clear plan for their professional development are 3.5 times more likely to strongly agree that their onboarding process was exceptional. (Gallup, 2019)
However, if you are not hiring with the intent to retain and grow your people, you are not going to retain them.
Look for the transitions
Professional development doesn’t end after a week or a month. Once the “new” is gone, the goal then becomes support and advancement. The transition from new employee to advancing employee may be very subtle, but not so hard to spot. Once an employee starts to complete training that allows them to upskill to the next step in a career progression, they have entered the realm of everboarding.
Another transition is when those advancing employees start a new, more advanced position. They should then be reboarding. Does this mean rolling them all the way back to company history and culture info? Not necessarily. Is that information different for someone in a more advanced position? Has it been a minute since they started fresh with the company? Has something changed? Your decision.
If employees are transitioning to a leadership position from an individual contributor position, there will be leadership topics and training, etc., that will serve as the reboarding experience.
If an employee and their manager have worked well together planning career progressions, it will create a continuous learning environment and will drive retention.