Make sure your new staff gets onboard effectively – before and after “takeoff”, until the optimum cruising altitude is reached. Successfully integrating new employees into the company is not merely something done on the side. Proper onboarding involves much more than simply handing out the key card and bouquet of flowers on the first day of work. To ensure a new staff member feels professionally and socially comfortable at your company and reaches the optimum cruising altitude as quickly as possible, you need to remember some things, and these apply to small and medium-sized businesses as well as large national or international corporate groups.
Effective onboarding – important for every new employee and profitable for your company. Recent studies show that newly-acquired staff who receive intensive, personalized orientation reach their full productivity about four times as fast. The amount of time they stay at the company also increases significantly. Conversely, a study conducted by RSVP GROUP in summer 2013 shows that many companies either do not properly recognize the potential of successful onboarding or fail to utilize it in practice:
- Upon joining, only about a quarter of new staff undergo an established onboarding process, lasting anywhere from two days to three months.
- Most of the technical equipment at the workplace is available from the outset but barely half the interviewees are promptly introduced to colleagues, staff and other important people.
- Many new staff members complain about a lack of organizational charts or lists of relevant contacts at the company as well as the lack of training in organizational structures and company processes.
- Most simply receive their orientation from divisional managers or colleagues. Only a very small number are offered support by a mentor or buddy during the initial phase and very few can name a direct contact person in HR.
- About a third of newcomers are given no opportunity to discuss mutual expectations with the boss during the orientation period.
- Many new employees have no regular exchanges with their supervisor. Absent/overloaded or passive supervisors, as well as unstructured or excessively rigid/schematic orientation plans, are particularly cited as difficulties. External coaching, which has been in effect in the USA for some time now, is clearly almost nonexistent.
- Only a fifth of interviewees rate their orientation as very good. Over a third are left completely on their own.
These sorts of experiences tend to be more of the rule than the exception so there is obviously a need for action. Of course, personalized, targeted onboarding requires lots of time and energy. But it is worth it – for every new staff member and for your company.
CAPTAIN, STEWARD AND CREW – DIFFERENT REQUIREMENTS, EXPECTATIONS AND GOALS.
Can you remember your last “first day” at a new company? How did you feel? You are joining a new company, and, as a captain or crew member, you are expected to be able to “fly” straight away. But every company is new territory with its own corporate culture, own language, own rules, new supervisors, colleagues and established structures and processes.
Whether it be after a new hiring or internal transfer, the onboarding of each new employee takes place at three levels: the professional, social and value-oriented level. The new staff member is also often faced with the challenge of filling three roles at once: as the new employee of his/her boss, as the new supervisor of his/her staff and as the new colleague of his/her peers. Coupled with this is the fact that three parties with different focuses are all working towards successful integration: the new staff member themselves, the supervisor and the relevant HR manager. They all have the same aim but different perspectives.
WHAT THE NEW STAFF MEMBER WANTS:
- Integration and further development of his/her skills
- A challenge without excessive demands
- Avoidance of unnecessary conflicts during the orientation phase
- A solid network
Onboarding begins for the new staff member once he/she starts dealing with the new task and the potential new employer. It has proven to be worthwhile for them to ask themselves the following questions beforehand:
- What exactly is my new task?
- What is expected of me in this role?
- How does the new task differ from what I previously did?
- What are my strengths and weaknesses in relation to the new position?
- What is the corporate culture like in my new environment?
- How do I fit into this culture?
- How did the new environment previously handle “new arrivals”?
- What team have I joined and what are its dynamics?
- How does my leadership style fit into this team?
It is extremely useful to answer these questions so the employee can get active in his/her new role. It also helps to communicate your own expectations and to find out the expectations of supervisors, colleagues and other staff. That is the only way to set up guardrails for the staff member to get his/her bearings and profitably apply or develop his/her skills.
The company can also get active before and directly after “takeoff”. There are many different ways and means of facilitating the new staff member’s integration into the company and his/her team:
- Administrative tasks or paperwork are completed before duties are commenced.
- An initial information meeting with the new employer and colleagues at company events (e.g., summer fair, Christmas party) before starting has a positive effect.
- A fully-equipped workstation or even the provision of a company car upon commencement of work should be a given, as is a briefing of all colleagues and staff by the supervisor.
- A “welcome pack” should contain a welcome letter as well as general information about the company, e.g., flow charts, abbreviations, etc., and a schedule to familiarize the new staff member with his/her new environment.
- A “mentor” from a higher level or a “buddy” on the same level is provided to the new staff member as a contact who intensively and personally supports him/her during the orientation phase.
- An external coach is available as a neutral contact that assists the new employee with (self-) reflection and sharpens his/her attention to detail.
WHAT THE SUPERVISOR WANTS:
- Shorter phase until visible productivity
- Effectiveness and efficiency
- Maximum performance
- Minimal unrest in his/her department
- Creation and preservation of know-how
The manager must generally fill a space in his/her team with someone who meets the vacancy’s requirements as far as possible. He/she describes the professional and social skills the new team member needs to possess and which can be further developed in the short term. The clearer these expectations are, the more successfully the new employee can be fully integrated into the team within a short period of time.
- It is helpful to establish a mutual understanding between the manager and the new employee right from the start and to include development fields in his/her integration plan.
- This removes any doubts the new employee may have about his/her weaknesses, and conversely, the supervisor can ensure the staff member is quickly capable of meeting the requirements of the new position.
- Providing a buddy or mentor saves a lot of time and energy, which the staff member needs to get his/her bearings in the new environment.
- The appreciation shown to the employee through careful onboarding in the initial phase and the commitment achieved through social integration increases the likelihood of the staff member staying at the company for a longer period of time.
WHAT THE HR MANAGER WANTS:
- Immunity to headhunting attempts
- Employer branding
The company’s HR department not only plays a key role in recruiting and staff development but also in onboarding. Its specific expertise means it can ensure consistently high standards across the company when it comes to integrating new staff. Ideally, a responsible staff member or team will be appointed to look after the strategic and operational side of the onboarding process. Thus, their tasks are very diverse:
- Helping new employees with relocation and tax issues.
- Providing a generic orientation plan amended by the hiring manager to include technical, department-specific and personal matters.
- Planning training measures to address individual development fields.
- Preparing general company information – from the list of company abbreviations to a description of the corporate culture.
- Organizing a “Welcome Day” or multi-day onboarding program as well as setting up a portal for newcomers (and others) on the Intranet.
- Networking beyond their own department and providing relevant facilities for exchanges between new staff members.
- Developing a buddy or mentor system.
- Hiring an external coach as a neutral point of contact.
- Establishing a nationally and internationally standard quality level for the onboarding phase (including feedback on the onboarding process).
- Establishing early measures to strengthen staff loyalty (internally) and the employer brand (externally).
Air traffic controllers in the “tower” – We accompany you through a tailored, controlled and structured onboarding process. Our long-time experience has shown that companies are often not familiar with the aforementioned aspects and measures associated with successful onboarding or have not paid enough attention to them. If this is the case for you, we will be glad to assist as external air traffic controllers in the “tower”, so to speak.
We will teach you how to combine skillful expectations management with a consistent communications strategy, take all participating parties’ needs into account and address them no matter in which stage of the process they may be. We will also help you with the organizational and content-based side of establishing an “onboarding team” consisting of the superior manager, relevant HR business partner, an internal mentor for the new staff member and an external coach. And if you want to get started on your staffing decisions even earlier, we will provide you with a business culture analysis containing important reference points for filtering out the most suitable (not just professionally) candidates for a position from the pool of applicants during the recruiting process and subsequent assessments.