Onboarding is a process where an employee learns about your company – the culture, the industry, the position fitting into the larger picture, the tools needed to do their work, and the expectations for performance. While the Human Resources (HR) department leads the onboarding process, others in the company including the manager, co-workers, and a designated buddy help make it a positive experience for the new employee.
Why should everyone onboard versus having the traditional employee orientation? Let’s face it, most of us have been bored out of our minds at new employee orientation. Leaving the meeting quite overwhelmed only to go to our desk with the expectation that we just needed to get started on our work. Questions were left unanswered and unless someone reached out, we just fumbled around trying to make sense of what we were supposed to be doing. In our opinion, that is a major failure on part of the company. Onboarding, on the other hand, allows the employee to feel welcomed, supported, and empowered. To onboard correctly, the process should start well before the employee’s first day at the interview.
To successfully onboard an employee, one must provide them with all the information they will need about the job and the company. It is important to explain the position and possibly provide a job description, so the candidate knows the scope of work. The process continues as you introduce the candidate to others in the organization, typically, in the second or third interview. Then, Human Resources will reach out to let them know that you are in considering them for employment and to find out if they are still interested. These dialogues are important in the onboarding process and, if HR and the hiring manager work in tandem, it is typically a smooth process.
References and Background Checks
Communication is a key component in onboarding. Without communication, the potential new employee may feel worried that something has gone wrong. In terms of a reference or background check that needs to be done, it is important to communicate this to the candidate and reassure them that these are done on all employees. We always encourage hiring managers to suggest that if there are any concerns about the background check, you would like to know before so that there are no surprises.
Then, if all goes well through the interview process and the background check, HR will make the verbal offer which is then followed by one in writing, if the candidate gives an affirmative. Once they accept and sign the letter, it is time to start communicating more frequently with the candidate. We suggest starting with a welcome letter.
The Welcome Letter
Going back to communication, one way to facilitate this is through a welcome letter. The tone of the letter should mirror the culture of the. In the welcome letter, we recommend that you include information about the company culture, FAQs, important names and contact information that the employee may need during their first week, information about the first date (start time, any identification or information that they may need to complete forms, etc.), and information about the new employee’s buddy.
What’s a buddy? A buddy is a team player who partners with a new employee during his/her first 12-18 months of employment. A buddy is primarily responsible for providing guidance, sharing his/her knowledge of resources, and offering advice and encouragement to introduce a new employee to the company culture.
A buddy is NOT a mentor or a manager. Mentors are typically individuals who are more experienced and are typically involved in the development of an individual professionally. A manager is an employee with additional responsibility and authority who is responsible for the employee’s job performance and development. A buddy is a peer and is not in a position of authority.
While HR and the managing supervisor can certainly make a new employee feel welcome, it really takes more than that to properly integrate a new employee into an organization. It takes a village so to speak – HR, the managing supervisor, the department/team, and a buddy. A buddy will provide the employee with someone they can go to with any questions or concerns. A buddy will make the employee feel much more welcome and will allow the new employee to integrate easier into the company.
The Onboarding Timetable
An onboarding program should start during the interview process and run 12-18 months after the employee starts with a company. HR drives this effort while working in tandem with the manager and team members. We recommend using a checklist for each participant in the onboarding process – the new employee, HR, the hiring manager, and the buddy. Each participant can use the checklist as they follow up with the employee after the employee’s first day, the first week, the first month, and so on.
This onboarding effort typically helps decrease turnover and increases retention in a company. When it does not work out for a new employee, the onboarding process allows you to look back and figure out what might need to be adjusted in the process – even if it was as far back as the initial interview! A strong onboarding program helps develop better employees which makes companies better. The team – new employees, the manager, HR, and the buddy – need to be engaged for it to be successful and to make a difference.