Four Tips to Help New Hires Hit the Ground Running

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Best Onboarding PracticesIn today’s fast-paced work world, onboarding may seem like a quaint notion. Who has time to efficiently onboard employees? We need our new hires to jump in with both feet and begin making an impact now! Perhaps that’s why a recent Gallup poll found that only 12 percent of employees feel their company does an effective job when it comes to onboarding.

Still, smart employers know that in order to be successful, even the most promising new hire needs to be mindfully introduced to his, her, or their role, the company culture, fellow staff, and the most basic company processes and procedures.

How can you make sure your new employees feel welcome, hit the ground running, and are empowered to become effective team members? Here are four tips to create an onboarding program.

Tip #1. Don’t Forget the Obvious: Define the New Role
In reality, your onboarding should start before your new hire sets one toe in the door. Make sure you’ve crafted a tight, accurate job description that documents a clear reporting relationship. If there’s a lack of clarity around role responsibilities or reporting structure, it won’t take long for signs of trouble to appear. In addition, ensure those who’ll be interacting regularly with your new hire are clear on the role as well. You don’t want a new hire to show up and encounter a team that seems unclear about what they’re doing there, or even worse, suspicious and resentful of their presence.

Tip #2: Onboarding Is Everyone’s Business
A functional HR department can create a firm foundation for new employees by putting basic onboarding processes in place, while handling practical stuff like setting up information system (HRIS) profiles, email addresses, workspaces, and the like. But HR can’t, and shouldn’t, replace the critical roles of managers, supervisors, and peers in ensuring that new staff is brought into the fold. Additionally, new hires will benefit from a reliable and supportive contact person, some structure in terms of schedule, clear short-term goals, a basic idea of what the work entails, and how their day may unfold. HR can’t provide all that; teamwork is the answer here.

[More on this: Six Easy Steps to Onboard New Employes]

Tip #3: Make and Use Checklists
Some people like to make fun of HR and how we have forms for everything (as an HR professional, I certainly do!), but there are good reasons for all those forms. Paperwork and checklists help us remember details that are otherwise easily forgotten or lost. An onboarding checklist should be consistent regardless of the department or team the person is joining and outline who is responsible for setting up specific aspects of the new hire experience. For example, determining that an HR staffer is responsible for contacting IT about email addresses, computer logins, telephone extensions, and access to shared drives, while a manager or lateral team member will arrange for staff introductions, office tours, mandatory trainings, and work station set up.

You will also want to ensure your new hire learns about and acclimates to your company’s culture and values, how you prioritize work, systems for goal setting and reviews, conflict resolution models, and the factors that drive decision-making. Provide any written materials—the company’s origin story, annual reports, grant applications, testimonials from clients and/or staff—that can be instructive. Beyond routine introductions, consider providing a list of key staff for your new hire to meet with to hear their stories and perspectives.

Tip #4: Onboarding is Ongoing
Onboarding is an ongoing process that lasts well past week one. Ideally, your HR team will conduct a brief check-in with each new hire at the end of weeks one, three, and five to find out how things are going. Does your employee have everything they need to perform his, her, or their job? Do they have any questions about processes, procedures, or practices? Remember that many questions won’t come up during week one, but may emerge as they get deeper into their role and procedures. At the same time, HR should also be checking in with the new hire’s manager. How do they feel the new hire is doing? Are there any concerns? Does the manager need some support? Being proactive, listening to both parties, and responding appropriately is a great way for HR to head off potential problems in advance.

[More on this: 5 Employee Morale Killers ]

In our ongoing press for efficiency and quick results, it may be tempting to rush through the onboarding process—or to simply overlook how disorienting your workplace can feel for a brand-new employee, regardless of how “friendly” and “laid back” you perceive the place to be. As an employer, the time you spend developing and implementing a thoughtful, comprehensive onboarding process will have a positive impact on employee retention and engagement, while going a long way toward setting your new hires up for success.

Resource: Looking for more guidance around onboarding? The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has a great Checklist for Developing Onboarding/New Hire Practices.

Crystal Spraggins, SPHR (Senior Professional Human resources), SHRM-SCP is an HR professional and freelance writer born, bred, and living in Philadelphia, PA. Crystal has more than 20 years of experience as an HR leader helping small- to mid-sized for-profit and nonprofit companies develop policies, programs, and procedures that increase profits, maximize efficiency, and enhance positive employee relations.

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