Creating an Effective Onboarding Strategy

An Important Tool for Attracting and Retaining Talent

I was reading on the internet that 80% of all new hires decide within the first 6 months whether they are going to stay with their current employers or begin looking for ‘new opportunities’. Whether this is figure is the result of research or not (or simply overblown), it does point out the importance of quickly incorporating new hires into the workplace. Onboarding, or the formalized process of incorporating talent into the organization, is the hot topic right now in human resources. From a strategic view, it makes a lot of sense. You go through a long formalized hiring process that takes months (far too long in my opinion – but that is the subject of another column). You have now hired the person whom you think is the best fit for the organization. It only makes sense to ensure that you can fit them into the organization and “ramp them up” as quickly as possible. We also know the other reasons why “onboarding” them into the organization is important – the person becomes quickly become engaged and productive and the time for return on investment in that individual is greatly enhanced. Hey, you hired them for a reason. An effective onboarding strategy allows you to utilize their skills quickly so that you the reason you hired them provides a positive return on investment.

The question is then, what do you need to create an effective onboarding strategy?

1. Understand your culture

There are 2 types of programs that no organization should ever purchase ‘off-the-shelf’. One is leadership. What makes a leader in one organization may not work in another. Leadership is a unique combination of organizational values/ethics and deliverables. The other is onboarding.

What is it that makes a person succeed in an organization? What are the norms the can blindside a new hire and isolate them from their colleagues? What processes are necessary for them to know? Who do they go to for what? Who are the ‘real leaders’ in the organization?

Here is where tools such as stay interviews become so important. By understanding what the strengths are of your organization and why people are motivated to stay and what works for them, you can build an onboarding program that incorporates those attributes for new hires so that their success is ensured.

In addition, this is a very powerful tool in the selection process. Hard skills may land a person the job, but it is the soft skills that will make them successful. In addition, a person can easily learn new hard skills. What you can’t teach them is the attitude and “softer” skills that are really essential to succeed within the organization. When you know what those skills are, you understand what type of person will be successful within your organization.

2. Blended Learning Strategy

In addition to a Welcome to the Company half day session that provides the new hire a general introduction to the organization and a chance to understand more about the company (i.e. organizational goals, important processes, general hire information, etc.), each person should be assigned a mentor to help them with their transition. The mentor should not be the new hire’s direct supervisor but a peer who is not in competition from the new hire.

The role of the mentor should be to introduce the new hire to people in the organization, perhaps even setting up lunches and meetings, as well as helping to coach him/her through the political terrain of the organization.

3. Clear Expectations with 100 Day Plan

Remember, the new hire has really no idea what you expect from them unless you tell them. For the first 2 weeks or so, the mentor should be setting up lunches and meetings with various clients, staff, etc. so the new hire can get to know both the business/projects and people that they will be working with.

Here is the where the role of the manager becomes very important. On the first day on the job, the manager should sit down with the new hire and spend time with them going over what they see their role as being within the team, what are their deliverables/measurements, and then work with them to create a 100 day plan. This plan should include description of roles and responsibilities as well as deliverables.

4. Set Up for Success

Success breeds success. A person who is successful will be engaged and feel bonded to the organization. Pick a project or task for the new hire that clearly works at their strength (and is supposedly the reason you hired them). This will allow them to feel a part of the organization and build their internal self-confidence. In addition, it will have significant impact on their engagement. After all, most people want to feel like they are important and have an impact on the organization and by setting them up for success right away, they will want to utilize their skills to the fullest extent possible to create more successes for both themselves, their team and the organization.

5. Celebrate

There is no nicer way to welcome somebody to the organization than to celebrate his or her arrival. It can mean just providing a reception in the boardroom with snacks and drinks to welcome the new hire and give people in the organization an opportunity to get to know them. It also says very clearly that you are glad that they are now part of the organization and an important part of the team.