Onboarding…why it’s worth it

“Every time I see my Onboarding reminder pop up on my computer, I get anxiety.”

Those were the exact words a leader with an upcoming hire said to me last week.

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon response from leaders I speak to about Onboarding.

Managers usually figure it out as they go along.  That produces results, but comes at a risk.

They risk productivity, engagement, and ultimately retention.

Not only does it not have to be this way, creating an Onboarding plan is simpler than you think.

Simple, not easy.

Let’s start with a definition for Onboarding.

Onboarding is a 2-4 month plan that guides, enables, and empowers a new hire and their direct manager to navigate critical elements from “big picture” to “exactly how”, in service of the employee reaching full productivity as quickly as possible.

Now, this is where I could begin to share statistics produced by the Society for HR Management or Gallup to prove my point.

Instead, I’m going to share a few things that explain why this is true, based on my experience creating Onboarding plans and leading others through it over the last five years:

  1. When a new hire starts, they’ve just left the comfort of their old company and if they receive a roadmap that outlines key elements needed in order for them to be successful in their new role they FEEL excited. Why does that matter? Because we’re emotional human beings and believing your company cares about your success goes a long way.
  2. Managers are equally set up for success when they have a roadmap that helps THEM understand (and think through) what they need to manage their employees to, (Jedi tip: if they commit to regular 1:1 meetings they are able to proactively address concerns versus reactively).
  3. An Onboarding plan helps new hires understand not just the fundamentals of the business, but their role and how they can impact the bigger picture.  When people see how they can do that, they tend to work harder and when they work harder, they grow with the company. Over time, what does that lead to? Retention.

When you consider that the cost of starting over with a hire is 1.5 their salary, it only takes simple math to see how the effort to create and manage an Onboarding plan impacts your bottom line as a business owner, and directly impacts the energy and productivity of both manager and new hire.

It’s a pretty awesome win/win when you look at it like that!

Now, let’s discuss the five key elements of building a successful Onboarding plan.

  1. The direct manager MUST be enrolled in the creation and management of the plan. They will manage/lead this individual and are an integral part of the work.
  2. Depending on level, the plan needs to cover the first 2-4 months.
  3. It needs to capture from “big picture” to “exactly how”. Think fundamentals of the company: industry, competitors, key clients/relationships, systems/processes. If you have a 50 page employee handbook or you send new hires 10 emails about the various systems, know they won’t read it all (or at all).
  4. It must capture regular milestones, and those milestones must be measured.
  5. It must also contain agreements/expectations that need to be managed via regular 1:1 meetings with the direct manager (in-person whenever possible).

Onboarding is not drinking from a firehose, a DIY website or only an HR checklist.

Remember: you can put the best race car driver in the world in a car, but if you blindfold them don’t be surprised when they eventually crash.

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