New employees need help when they join an organization, including understanding its culture and the tools and systems used in the organization.
This may also be true for contractors and temporary employees; possibly even for some customers or clients.
Certain principles apply to all employee onboarding
The objective of onboarding is two-fold in addition to helping the new person adjust to change: Integration of the new employee into the social and operational fabric of the organization, and reducing the time the employee needs in order to reach competency (also known as time to productivity or time to proficiency). The sooner a new employee achieves these goals, the greater the new employee’s engagement and satisfaction. Measure the progress and success of the onboarding by using (as appropriate to organization size and nature) interviews, surveys, and evaluation of KPI (key performance indicators).
Planning the onboarding process
The interviews and KPI evaluation are not afterthoughts. They are a key part of the onboarding process and should be formally defined and uniformly applied. They provide the basis for coaching and for feedback sessions. New employees should know the performance milestones (often at 30-, 60-, 90-, and 120-days from hire) and the expected performance measures. Each manager should track performance to create a baseline and provide an objective way to evaluate progress. There should also be a way to assess a new employee’s integration into the group culture. All of these items need to be related to the actual jobs and periodically adjusted as KPIs and details evolve. Ideally, after the 120-day point, the manager should continue periodic contact and performance discussions for the rest of the first year of the employment. Microlearning and experiential learning are important supports for onboarding training during the first year.
Tailor onboarding to job groups and organization levels, leverage social networking
The onboarding program will be different for employees in different job groups and different levels, such as sales, engineering, staff functions, and management and executive levels. In addition, onboarding in large organizations offers the possibility of different types of activities that leverage social networking in ways that will not be possible in smaller companies. However, in organizations of any size, even those that are very small, the social focus is important to develop and maintain a vibrant organizational culture. When possible, even monthly “virtual happy hours” using Zoom or other technology involving new hires and company leadership are a valuable part of the onboarding process, even when the number of participants is limited. “Buddy systems”, assigned mentors, and even “virtual scavenger hunt” activities can be devised and adapted to facilitate connections between employees in any organization.
Speaking of organizational culture, DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) are increasingly important to new hires. DEI initiatives are a recent and growing trend, and in many companies corporate leadership is only beginning to understand the positive impact of DEI inside an organization and in the marketplace. If possible, find ways to show the results of company DEI initiatives through thoughtful introductions and exposure to a range of employees during onboarding, rather than simply tell about the initiatives. No initiatives or no results yet? Talk to your HR department and to senior executives to stay informed and to adjust the onboarding as progress is made.
Tools (and software)
Another important element of onboarding is training on the use of software and equipment important to job functions, as well as the job functions themselves. Training, including statutory compliance requirements, should be scheduled appropriately. Part of the process needs to include identification of the new employee’s actual skills and any gaps to be addressed in training. L&D can do much of this and save the manager valuable time. Your LMS is an important part of onboarding training.
Government job competencies
For jobs in the US government, the Office of Personnel Management has identified the critical competencies and tasks employees need to perform successfully in nearly 200 federal occupations, as well as for leadership positions. There may be similar resources for government employees in other nations.