Is there something wrong with your approach to onboarding? Onboarding, or getting an employee up to speed quickly in his or her new role, is the most widely delivered learning program. It includes training both for new hires and for employees transitioning to different roles.
Unfortunately, it’s something many companies struggle with providing effectively. Now, how to solve most common mistakes companies make when orienting new hires?
Here are some typical missteps and advice on how to avoid them.
Many businesses approach onboarding from an operational and HR perspective: How can we take care of all the paperwork and teach this employee everything they need to know quickly, so he or she can get to work?
While someone does need to welcome the employee and get him or her set up with the basics (computer, email address, ID, etc.), that is not the crux of onboarding. Employees need to begin by fully understanding what their job entails, who they will be working with, and, most importantly, how their job impacts the business
“We tend to want to teach people how to do their job when we probably should be focusing on why,” says Liz Wiseman, president and founder of The Wiseman Group, author of Multipliers, How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, and former learning professional at Oracle Corp.
“Obviously, you need to provide context and some operational things, but in general, managers need to focus more on what the business is trying to accomplish and leave room for employees to figure out the ‘how.’”
See: Onboarding is not just for employees anymore
Because most people change employers several times (or more) over the course of a career, it is unlikely that you are preparing your recruit for a lifetime of employment at your company. Your focus is more likely to be on enabling people to contribute quickly.
“When a new employee joins you may have a whole pile of work waiting for this person, but it is worth taking a step back,” says Josh Bersin, Principal and Founder of Bersin & Associates (now known as Bersin by Deloitte), a leader in learning research.
“Make sure the onboarding process doesn’t disappear after two weeks. If someone starts a new job and doesn’t feel supported, they might leave, or they might stay but later reflect less favourably on the company than you’d like. It’s important to do it right, and it pays for itself many times over when the person becomes productive.”
In a research study conducted for her book Rookie Smarts, Wiseman found that if you work in technology and science industries, about 85 percent of what you know today is likely to be irrelevant in five years. So when it comes to investing time and money on learning, she suggests creating an environment where people are empowered to discover new things and to learn as they work.
“We used to think of onboarding as an enculturation-an inculcation or stuffing of knowledge and culture into new employees. That has changed. Onboarding needs to be oriented around how we enable people to come up to speed as fast as possible and how you can keep your organisation learning faster than the world around you is changing,” she says.
Believe it or not, inexperience can actually be an advantage. New employees come free of preconceived notions and cynicism and chock-full of energy and fresh perspective. Wiseman’s research found that new employees’ greatest value is actually delivered during their first six months. She suggests harnessing this potential by quickly giving them a problem to solve and then getting out of their way.
“We found that ‘micro-challenges’-tasks that take about two weeks to complete-are incredibly effective. They get fast feedback and some early success, and their colleagues take notice,” she says.
This belief that new employees have intrinsic value may need to be instilled in managers who are often trained to think that new hires need more handholding than they actually do. Of course, new employees still need to feel supported, so it is a question of finding the sweet spot.
An onboarding program should present new hires with an opportunity to meet senior leadership, colleagues, and an extensive network of resources. Sometimes, too much of the training burden is placed on the hire’s direct manager. Bersin suggests designing a program with input from various team members, including someone who can take a big-picture view of the employee’s potential career path.
“The manager should be part of the onboarding program and be given a formal role and guidelines, but if you simply turn the process over to him or her, they probably won’t take enough time to do it well because they are too busy,” he says.
Involving others in the process provides an important social aspect and also gives the employee the opportunity to ask questions of someone other than his or her boss. Consider how you might take advantage of exemplary performance as coaches for the new hire, and this may perhaps challenge your exemplary performers to take on more leadership within your organisation.
See also: How Technology Can Save Onboarding