A blueprint for successful employee onboarding

John Ha

Are you familiar with the term "assimilation"? If you've never heard it used in business, maybe you heard it while watching an episode of Star Trek. The "Borgs" used this as a way to describe the integration of other species into their own. Assimilation was a forced process which transformed individuals and technology into Borg. And, of course, "resistance was futile". That doesn't sound too friendly. Yet, I feel the Borgs were onto something and give you a model to follow when dealing with new hires.

Think about the last time you hired someone into your group. What was that process like after he or she reported for duty? Did someone make sure that all the paperwork was handled? Did someone take that new employee on a tour and introduce him or her to co-workers, show where the bathrooms are located, and where to find the coffee. Did someone take that new employee to lunch?

Many companies struggle with the most basic things when it comes to ensuring they are the employer of choice. The initial onboarding and orientation process (a.k.a. assimilation) can play a key role in getting a new employee engaged. This is critical as statistics say that employees who are engaged are much more likely to become productive quicker, be more productive as an employee, and stay with the company longer. The financial implications alone are significant.

So, here is a quick blueprint to a successful assimilation process. This process should be applied to all positions, not just "important" positions.

Onboarding: This is the process that includes all of the initial paperwork to become an official employee and to sign up for any and all company programs. In most cases, a human resources person will walk the employee through these steps. This may also include a review of company policies and procedures to ensure the new employee knows all the rules. Most companies do this step well, but make sure you are informed about how this process is handled. Also, make sure this process is thorough.

Orientation (company): This is the step that most companies don't do well. A complete orientation plan for new employees should include the following:

An introduction to the company's mission and values. It's vital to make sure that the new employee understands the purpose of the company's existence and how it strives to operate with employees, customers and other stakeholders. If you want your new employee to really buy into the culture, spend significant time on this.

An introduction to the company's business activities. Employers often assume that everyone understands what the company does and how it makes money. If you want to fully engage your employees in their job, make sure they know the business and how their department interacts with other departments.

A complete tour of all facilities.

A description of employee activities beyond work (i.e. how to join the company softball team, company parties or outings, community involvement, and corporate-sponsored charities).

This process works best when completed by the hiring supervisor. It's really a time for the supervisor to continually "sell" the new employee on the company and ensure that the new hire doesn't look at this job as just another job, but a place to find purpose and meaning.

Orientation (job): This step should be a plan and include training on job responsibilities and associated processes. Often, new employees are thrown into the fire and expected to figure it out, especially if they are an experienced hire. But, each company has its own little nuances and particular ways it likes things done. It's important to ensure the employee clearly understands the "way it works". This process works best when completed by the hiring supervisor or a senior staff member. The best companies have a formal training plan.

Other: I'm a big fan of companies that create "welcome packets" for new employees with small gifts such as a shirt and a coffee mug with the company logo. I'm also a believer that someone (or a group) should always take that new employee to lunch on the first day and make him or her feel welcome.

None of this is rocket science. It does take planning and preparation, but the rewards far exceed the required effort to put these processes in place. Nothing is absolute. Even the Borgs found out that their process is not permanent. But, it's just another area where you can differentiate yourself from your competitors.

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