There are close to 32 million small businesses in the US. There are thousands more large businesses. All of these businesses have something in common.
They must integrate newly hired employees into their organizations. There are serious consequences to getting this process wrong, as around 28 percent of new employees call it quits within 90 days. While a bit of turnover is normal, a number that high suggests that a lot of companies drop the ball with employee integration.
If you want to hang on to more of those new employees, keep reading for key tips on integrating new hires.
Distinguish between Orientation and Onboarding
Many businesses adopt an attitude that orientation and onboarding provide the same functional results. That is not the case.
For one thing, orientation rarely lasts more than a day or two. For another, most orientations focus on walking new employees through a pile of paperwork. While you do need those employees to read and sign off on business policies and fill out financial paperwork, it’s not a substitute for a structured employee onboarding process.
Orientation is largely about jumping through legal hoops for both the employee and the employer.
Onboarding is where you actually start the process of bringing new employees into the fold in terms of their job duties and the company culture.
Make a Plan
Good employee onboarding doesn’t develop organically. Frankly, everyone is too busy with their own jobs to worry about creating an organized method for getting new hires up to speed. You must make it a priority.
That typically means putting someone in charge of it so it becomes part of their job that they can’t ignore. If you run an HR department or even just have an HR person, a lot of the load will fall there.
If you don’t run a formal HR department because you run a small business, the task will likely fall onto your shoulders or your general manager. Here are a few things that can help you get in front of building an onboarding process.
Establish a Timeline
Every business is a little different, which means the learning curve to get someone making productive contributions will vary a bit. When in doubt, 90 days is a fairly standard timeline for onboarding. That length of time gives people time to understand their job, get competent with it, and get a handle on company culture.
Set Action Steps
Parts of your onboarding process will apply to every employee. Make sure you set actions steps to ensure that every employee actually goes through those universal aspects of the onboarding process.
Formalize these steps with a mandatory form or report that the person in charge of onboarding must submit. You can keep it basic. The point is simply to encourage the completion of the steps.
Like so many other business processes, technology can make your onboarding process easier for everyone. You can leverage onboarding-specific software to help you set up and automate action steps, consolidate paperwork, and even deploy a mobile app. You can learn more about onboarding software at this site.
Review and Revise
Onboarding is not a science. Some approaches work better than others depending on your industry and company culture. You should review the results of your onboarding process periodically.
One metric you can check is, of course, your total turnover. If you see major improvement, you know that process is working well. If you only minimal improvement over your pre-onboarding process numbers, it means you need to revise the process.
You can also get feedback from new employees about the onboarding process. You can ask them straight out what worked for them, what didn’t work for them, and what areas they thought could use more coverage.
Now that you have a basic framework in place, let’s look at specific pieces of the onboarding process.
Remember the bit about orientation above. These days, there’s really no good reason why new employees should spend their entire first day or two filling out paperwork and reading company policies. It’s a poor use of their time and your other employees’ time since someone must babysit new employees while they go through all that paperwork.
You can put the vast majority of that paperwork into a digital format and make it accessible to new employees ahead of time. Signable PDFs take care of most of the forms people must fill out. This is one of those tasks where onboarding software is truly your friend.
By letting employees get that paperwork out of the way before their first day, they can spend their first day focused on learning about their job.
You should also make sure that someone is responsible for assembling all the things a new employee needs to start. That includes things like:
- Employee badge or ID card
- Email address
- Office, desk, or cubicle
- Computer and basic office supplies, if applicable
- Employee locker
- Uniform, if applicable
Again, this means that your employees don’t waste that first day just trying to get someone set up with basics.
The first week on the job matters a lot. It will set the tone and your newly hired employee’s expectations for their job moving forward. This is the time that you should focus on introducing new employees to your company culture, which means company values, goals, and mission. Don’t sugarcoat what your business is about for new employees.
If your business is all about sales, say that. Then explain how the new employee’s role supports the goal of increasing sales. If new employees understand where your true focus is, they can gear their mindsets in that direction.
This is also the time when you should get very clear on the employee’s roles and duties. That includes things like how you measure performance and success.
If possible, this is also the time to partner new hires with an informal mentor. The role of an informal mentor isn’t about fielding job-specific questions. That’s a job for a direct supervisor.
The informal mentor is there to help the new employee understand the quirks, culture, and politics of the business. As such, you should look for someone with at least a few years of experience in the business.
The first month is all about training. Yes, new employees will do some productive work, but they won’t deliver like experienced employees. There is simply too much to learn.
Use that first month to help the employee understand the structure of the company. If you routinely use cross-functional teams, give the new employee some information about how and why those teams are chosen and used. It’s another way to help them understand the business culture.
Assigned work should largely consist of low-hanging fruit, so to speak. That typically means work that the new employee can finish quickly and doesn’t impact major projects. This is a good time for them to get a handle on your procedures and reporting methods.
This is also the time when you should offer up some role-specific training. Too many companies take a pass on this kind of training and it’s a major cause of turnover.
Employees who don’t get role-specific training often feel like the company or their manager has left them to fail. While a certain percentage of people thrive under those conditions, most people don’t.
Role-specific training is also an opportunity to help different kinds of learners get up to speed. You can offer up hands-on training or direct mentorship from a supervisor.
This is your standard case of a supervisor working through a task or small project hand-in-hand with a new employee. You can also deploy video learning that addresses role-specific tasks or challenges. You can also use some text-based learning with manuals and basic quizzes if it makes sense to use quizzes.
The second-month functions as a kind of middle ground. You should still offer regular support and check-ins with new employees to make sure they understand their tasks and are keeping pace.
This is also the time when you start to add more responsibility to their workload. You can assign them lesser parts of major tasks or projects.
That helps them integrate with their coworkers in a more meaningful way. It also lets them contribute in a more substantial way to the more productive and profitable day-to-day work of the business. While they still likely aren’t earning their pay, yet, this gets them much closer.
This is also the stage where, if applicable, you should encourage the employee to hang back a little less. Ask them questions in meetings or encourage them to offer ideas.
This lets other employees see that you expect the new employee to bring something to the table. That, in turn, encourages them to include the new employee in brainstorming sessions or just run an idea by them.
Feedback in Months One and Two
New employees should get a lot of feedback in the first two months. Those two months are your best opportunity to break bad habits or prevent them entirely.
You shouldn’t just focus on the negative, though. Provide positive feedback at every opportunity. Positive feedback goes a long way toward encouraging engagement.
Good employee engagement is a key factor in avoiding unnecessary turnover.
By the time your new employee rolls into their third month, they should ideally be approaching a level of productivity closer to long-term employees. You should find them ready to take on larger parts in major tasks or projects.
While you should still closely review the employee’s work, they should need minimal direct supervision or assistance to complete their assigned work. That doesn’t mean you should simply treat them like you would any other long-term employee. Most new employees will still feel less than confident about their position at this stage of the game.
Make a point to check in with them at least once or twice a week to ask how they’re managing with the workload. It also gives you an excuse to offer assistance if they’re clearly struggling with something. Letting new employees know that they can ask for help even after being there a while can help you nasty problems, such as:
- Missed deadlines
- Interpersonal conflicts on teams
- Employees quitting
If practical, use that third month to put the new employee with other key employees for tasks, projects, or teams. It’s a learning opportunity for the new employee and helps them make connections beyond their immediate supervisor and team.
At the 90 day mark, you should give strong consideration to performing an informal assessment with the employee. Make it clear that the assessment is unofficial unless you’re in the unfortunate position of letting them go.
An assessment gives you a chance to praise their strengths. It also lets you offer some guidance on shoring up any weaknesses, such as resources to look at or which other employees can help.
An informal assessment is a golden opportunity for you to get feedback on your onboarding process. New employees may feel shy about offering criticism. You can help alleviate those fears by opening with something like this:
“Our onboarding process is a work in progress. We’re always looking for ways to improve it. If there’s something we’re doing really well or if we fell short somewhere, I’d really like to hear your thoughts.”
That can help give new employees the confidence to speak openly.
Integrating Newly Hired Employees at Your Business
Integrating newly hired employees at your business takes some time, effort, and planning on your part. If you don’t currently use an onboarding process, start building one.
Do keep in mind that a good onboarding process doesn’t happen overnight, particularly if you’re starting from scratch. The good news is that you can add onboarding steps as they’re ready. It might take some time to develop role-specific training, but you can integrate informal mentorship tomorrow.
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