Training Tract: Onboarding is a Two-Way Street

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By: Chris Schneider, Director of Employee Development

Onboarding is the most important kind of training one can do. While this truth is not universally held, training professionals are finding it to be more and more pertinent to their everyday situations. Onboarding, the process of acclimating a new hire to your organization, sets the tone for what type of relationship your new hire will have with the business; but in reality, it actually goes beyond that. Research by The Association for Talent Development has shown that the vast majority of hourly employees determine if they will stay with an organization longer than one month during their first week of work, with many actually making the choice to stay or leave on the first day!

In today’s world of transient workforces and social media job postings, the old adage of “Hire for Life” is getting harder and harder to find and believe in. Companies that want this to be their model for employees need to understand the role that onboarding training plays in having the new hire learn about their environment. This, in turn, helps the organization learn about its new resource as well. Onboarding training is indeed a two-way street and this is where many businesses fail to seize the opportunity. Onboarding presents the largest opportunity to learn about a new hire; their talents, ambitions, and dislikes. This immediate interest in them as a person helps build a sense of job security that encourages the new hire to buy in or bond with their role and the company.

Tasks like learning where the water cooler is or completing insurance paperwork are important, but we must remember that they truly do nothing to instill a sense of belonging and job security into a newly hired person. Activities that build relationships, increase work-related skills, and incorporate their unique skills into our jobs, culture, and routines are the training activities that make a difference to newly hired individuals. We often have new office staff members shadow someone in the field for a day or sit in on our monthly financial meeting to learn more about what drives our business. We also try to spend some time with new employees outside of work, whether it’s going out to lunch or making sure they feel welcome at the next employee appreciation event. It is as simple as spending time, teaching them a new job skill, taking an interest in their life outside of work, or understanding and helping them with personal and professional goals. These simple acts that traditionally cost next to nothing generate loyalty and commitment. You invested in them, they will invest in you. Businesses should plan to make time to make their new hire part of the organization.

Onboarding training should be progressive, interactive, employee focused, and teach job-relevant skills. Have a well thought out and structured plan for how to develop the skill set of your new resource and share that plan with them. Plan on educating the other members of the team about the personality, hobbies, history and personal background of the newly hired member. One way we do this is by sending out an email to all employees during a new hire’s first week to formally introduce them, briefly detailing their work history, hobbies, and family life. This gives other team members the opportunity to welcome them and initiate a conversation based on their shared knowledge of that person’s likes and interests.

Onboarding is a process of discovery and sharing for both the managers and employees. If your onboarding approach is a one-sided conversation or full of videos and paperwork, you may want to rethink your approach. When a business wants to “Hire for Life,” they need to invest time, energy, and emotion into growing that resource and bringing them into the fold. Onboarding training is that first impression with no second chance.