When your company is growing like a weed, it is difficult to think about anything besides keeping your head above water. Although many young, smart entrepreneurs will join a company because of its startup cred, this is not a sustainable way to keep new employees engaged and productive.
While training and onboarding are not only the pieces that prepare an employee for their job, without them, chances are new hires will not make it past the first few months. The first 90 days are the right time to introduce hires to new colleagues, share with them your expectations and help them to understand the specific values your company espouses. Do you value work ethic above all else? Now is the time to drive that point home. Does excuse-making set your teeth on edge? If so, tell them. It will create more transparency around how they (and you) work.
At Red Branch Media, we created a narrative that runs from the job advertisement all the way through to the new hire’s first day. We give them a reason to believe (we are a family business and bootstrapped so the founders work as hard as the interns) and a map to what their future could be (we tell stories of our successful employees and the highs and lows that got them there). There is no one-size-fits-all approach to onboarding, but there are a few things we have learned that can help:
1. Onboarding is not the same as training.
A study of 264 new employees published in the Academy of Management Journal found that the first 90 days of employment (often called the probationary period) is pivotal to building rapport with the company, management and coworkers. When support levels were high from the team and leaders, new hires often had more positive attitudes about their job and worked harder. When support and direction were not offered, the inverse occurred, leading to unhappy and unproductive employees who did not make it much further than 4 months.
While companies are aware of the importance of onboarding and training, not many are aware of how important it is to have both. In fact, the 2 terms are often used interchangeably, leaving room for the misconception of what is really wrong with a new hire’s first 90 days on the job. But in the words of Michel Falcon, founder of Experience Academy: “Employee onboarding is the design of what your employees feel, see and hear after they have been hired. Often, companies confuse onboarding with training. While training does have a role within the onboarding it does not represent the entire scope of the process.”
2. Structured onboarding impacts retention
Creating a structured onboarding program is key. According to a 2007 study by the Wynhurst Group, when employees go through structured onboarding, they are 58 percent more likely to remain with the organization after 3 years.
From our perspective, these numbers hold true. When someone has been with Red Branch Media for more than a year or 2, we often work with them to find new and interesting ways to use their skills to keep the “engagement train” running.
Personally, I find that a standardized onboarding program shows your new employees just how happy you are that they are there. Gratitude, check-ins and making people feel as if their contributions matter are all great — and free — ways to ensure your new hires feel seen, heard and accountable.
3. Training must encompass how and why.
Because recruitment is often seen as candidate-driven, many companies fear the loss of new hires. A focus on benefits and perks is leaving core training needs behind, but compensation packages alone do not lead to productive and engaged employees. Real training is a learning process that must encompass both the how and the why.
Our why centers completely on sales and ease of use. It is very common to hear me say, “Our customers do not want us to make their lives harder,” when discussing scheduling calls and proofing brochures or “How does this sell the product?” when looking at everything from social updates to email marketing. When you train your new employees in the ethos of the company while simultaneously showing them how to do their job, everyone wins.
According to a CareerBuilder report, 60 percent of employees feel that skills will be learned on the job, but 49 percent of employers feel that training is an equal responsibility of employees and employers. Try bringing people from all levels into the training of a new employee, no matter where he or she sits in the organizational hierarchy. A mentorship-style program can assist and reinforce the training and policies as well as encourage office relationships. During every step of the process, new employees should know who to turn to and feel comfortable providing feedback.
This is a mutually beneficial system, so take the opportunity to learn from these individuals what is working and what is not. Take care, though, that your current employees are not overly burdened with training new hires, and guide the process to maximize everyone’s time.
4. Have a Balanced Approach
Training is fuel for the onboarding engine, and lacking one will cause the other to suffer. Approach your new-hire program with care, taking the time to consider all the little things that an employee will need to succeed at their job. Training should cover programs, best practices, technology and equipment and have goals clearly stated; onboarding does not stop at company policies, facility tours and department introductions.
Each year, technology advances and a new generation of applicants is joining the workforce. With it, the methods of attracting, guiding and retaining workers are transforming. Do not get tied up in the details of a training program only to leave the new hires’ progress and comfort out of mind. A new-hire program that gives as much value to how employees are feeling throughout the process as it does the process itself is one that will succeed.
BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.
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