Onboarding New Employees: Having a Process Is Essential

Onboarding-Welcome-new-colleagues

You only get one chance to make a first impression. Getting new employees off to a good start is equally important for both the employee and the company. To ensure long-term retention of new employees right from the start, you need to take a strategic approach to onboarding. The following checklist provides HR and other managers with guidance for ensuring that the first few days run smoothly and that nothing critical is overlooked.

Before the Employee Starts – Organizational Tasks

As an HR manager, you can help new colleagues to quickly settle in and feel comfortable. In this video, Martina, Personio’s head of HR, shares a few practical tips:

Formalities:

Have all contractual formalities been taken care of? Have access rights been clarified? Does the new employee have the necessary work attire? These types of questions should be addressed a minimum of one to two weeks before a new colleague’s start date.

Information:

Does the new employee know when and where to arrive? Does he or she know the essentials of what to expect? This all should be communicated in advance by email.

Colleague Involvement:

All colleagues involved in the onboarding process should be provided in advance with all necessary information and be aware of their respective ‘to-do-lists’. This would typically include secretarial, office management, and IT personnel, possibly also including mentors who will provide support during the employee’s first few days on the job.

Workplace:

Ideally, the new employee will arrive on the very first day to a fully functional workplace. Ensuring that everything is in place will require a certain degree of lead time, so preparations must be made well in advance.

  • Access to the building should be functional from day one. This frequently requires procuring a new entry code or having a new key made.
  • Each employee should be provided with their own computer, which will have to be newly set up when staff members change or when new equipment is purchased. Please remember to take the delivery time into consideration when purchasing new equipment.
  • The same is optional for a company mobile phone and a company car.
  • Workplace/seating in general: Does the new colleague have an assigned place? And, do they also have a monitor, a chair, a keyboard and mouse, and something to write with and on?
  • The information needed for data access must be generated at an early stage – passwords, access rights, invitations to use certain tools – so that the new colleague can set up his or her virtual workspace on the first day of work. This will save a lot of time in the onboarding process.
  • Do additional licenses for certain programs need to be purchased for the new employee?

Deadlines:

Invite the new colleague to upcoming meetings and, if possible, arrange appointments with the most important people they will be interacting with (in both their own and in other departments).

Best Practice: How Onboarding Works at Mailchimp

Every year, around 200 new employees go through onboarding at Mailchimp. So-called ‘Employee Integrations Associates’ are assigned to ensure that every new person feels welcome – and is provided with all of the resources they need.

Some of the highlights of the program include: a tour through all of the most important offices/locations, a chat with two of the co-founders, and complimentary lunches. And, speaking of lunch – no one should have to eat alone. That’s why, in the first week, individual people are assigned to go to lunch with new colleagues.

Before new employees start, they fill out a list of their favourite snacks, colours, hobbies, etc. The team then uses this information to set up their workspace.
Managers also send greetings on postcards and take new colleagues to informal meetings that help them integrate more quickly.

Onboarding lasts for one week. Before the start of their first work day, new colleagues are sent an email letting them know what will take place during this time. At the end of the week, they review their experience with the Employee Integrations Associate and share their opinion of how things went.

 

Employee Training:

Does the new colleague need additional training in a specific area, e.g. how to use specific programs or devices? This training should be booked before the start of employment so that the training period for particular topics is not delayed.

Responsibilities:

If a new employee is coming into a position that did not previously exist, responsibilities will often be redistributed. The team leader is responsible for communicating this in detail to the current employees. As part of the onboarding process, the HR manager in charge should double-check on this to be sure that any potential resentment toward the new colleague can be avoided.

Welcome Gift:

The day before the new employee starts, you or one of your colleagues can purchase a little gift to celebrate their start in their new working environment. It could be chocolates, a small bunch of flowers, or something along those lines. You can read below about why this particular point belongs to a successful onboarding experience.

The First Day on the New Job – It’s the Little Things That Count

Punctuality:

Right at the very start of the work day, you should show your appreciation for your new colleague by also arriving promptly. It often happens that a new colleague will arrive punctually at the office, but the person assigned to help them is still in a meeting for another couple of hours. To spare your new colleagues the typical Monday morning chaos and to carve out sufficient preparation time for yourself, simply allow them to begin work that day an hour later than usual.

Welcoming Culture:

The little welcoming gift has, hopefully, promptly been taken care of before the new employee’s first day of work (see above), and its effect can now be allowed to unfold. From the very first second they arrive, little niceties like this enhance your new team member’s sense of belonging, and they will long remain a pleasant memory. Small gestures can have a strong impact.

Introductions:

To get off to a good start, we recommend that you arrange a small introductory get-together. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the entire company has to be waiting in the new person’s office on the first day. However, at the least, the colleagues they will be directly working with in the same department and the mentor should introduce themselves and clarify their areas of responsibility. This will make it easier for the new colleague to establish contact and will reduce any inhibition they may feel in asking someone directly for help.

Team Strengthening:

Having lunch together with colleagues from the same department on the first day of work strengthens the sense of community and creates a basis of trust for working together in the future.

The First Week at Work – Team and Tasks

Onboarding Preview:

To make it clear how things will run over the coming days or weeks, the onboarding process should be fully explained to the new employee.
When helping new colleagues to get oriented, be sure not to overwhelm them by only providing information verbally. Give them as much written documentation as possible. If your HR software has an onboarding feature, then set up tasks and reminders.

Mutual Expectations:

Supervisors should review the new job responsibilities with the employee and communicate their expectations. On the other hand, however, it is important that employees also be allowed to again clearly express their expectations for the next few weeks. This way, misunderstandings can be avoided before they occur and an enjoyable working atmosphere can be created.

Initial Activities:

Right from the start, the new colleague should be integrated into existing projects. Having exciting initial activities also helps, right from the start, to inspire the employee’s enthusiasm for the company.

Legal Matters:

If there are SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) associated with the new employee’s work, these must be carefully read and signed before certain activities can be performed.

Company Tour:

To give the new employee a clear picture of what happens where and who is responsible for each department, a tour to all of the other departments should now be conducted. Tip: For companies with more than 30 employees, a photo gallery on the intranet or a photo wall in the office where new employees can see it is a great help.

Product Introduction:

A detailed product presentation is an essential element of onboarding. Especially for colleagues from non-product-related areas, such as accounting, it is important that they know which products/services the company offers. If several new colleagues are starting work on the same day, this type of a presentation also offers a great opportunity to get to know people from other departments.

Corporate Goals:

What are the corporate goals and what strategies are being followed to pursue them? Be sure that your goals are clear to your new employee: for example, share what you want to achieve in the next quarter and let them know precisely why their contribution will make a difference. These goals should then also be reflected in the employee’s target agreement.

Corporate Culture:

Knowing which values are important to the company is crucial to helping new employees identify with their employer. This is especially true if the new colleague is coming from a different corporate environment: For example, if they have moved from a start-up to a large corporation, the new environment can be quite different from their previous experience. Here, too, it will be important to pay attention to the little things, such as: Do we sometimes go for lunch together? Are smoking breaks permitted? What about working from home? Explain the values that apply to all employees equally.

Team Spirit:

It can often be difficult for new colleagues to integrate themselves into existing ‘employee groups’. Nothing is worse than having to eat lunch alone during the first week of work because, once the first day is over, no one takes responsibility for the new employee. Make sure your team includes the new colleague at lunch time and that a sense of togetherness away from the desk is developed.

After the First Week of Work – Solicit Feedback

Gather First Impressions:

Solicit input from your new employee. What positive or negative observations did they make during the first week? The longer you work in a company, the more you get used to the way things work there, potentially also including the negatives.

Follow-up Information:

During the first week, your new employee will have to process a multitude of impressions. Give information a little at a time rather than all at once. By the end of the first week at the latest, the new employee should know/have everything they need. This would include such things as vacation guidelines, working hours, lists of abbreviations, etc.

After Four to Eight Weeks – Establish Processes

Ongoing Feedback:

If, after the first few weeks on the job, there is no review of the employee’s experience, then even the best onboarding process is of little value. It is crucial that, after a pre-determined period of time, a feedback session is held with new colleagues, and that this process is repeated regularly. This is not just so that you can evaluate your new employee’s conduct and work, but also so that they can openly give you feedback about their first impressions of the company.

Networking:

If several colleagues from different departments all start work on the same day, you can promote interdepartmental networking by organizing a joint lunch date a few weeks after they have started. The awareness of a common start date makes it easier for colleagues to stay in touch and creates a positive working atmosphere.