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The onboarding program, or the art of a royal welcome
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The onboarding program, or the art of a royal welcome

A false start for newcomers really can’t happen anymore!

Finding suitable new colleagues is not easy these days. But those who expect the red carpet to be rolled out for newcomers may be in for a disappointment.

For a newcomer, there’s nothing more frustrating than a ‘false start.’ I know this from personal experience. Once, at a new employer, I had to wait three months for an access card and printing privileges. And when I finally received the end result, my name was also misspelled on it… So, for the next two years, I went through life as ‘Harm Oorschot.

Missing the mark

My false start dates back several years now. With the current staff shortage, one would expect the situation to be different now. And that new employees, once inside, are optimally supported. However, that is often not the case. There are still plenty of examples of false starts for newcomers. Employers miss the mark with access passes, login names, or workstations. There may be a lack of adequate work instructions, explanations from colleagues, or guidance. Especially in small and medium-sized organizations, onboarding programs are limited or non-existent. The causes for this vary. It could be due to lack of time or poor processes and agreements. Or it could be an attitude of “let’s throw them into the deep end and see who stays afloat.”

Research shows that 60 percent of probationary leavers cite poor onboarding as a reason for leaving early.

Peter Geleen – iPM Partners

A reason for leaving

The consequences of poor onboarding are predictable. It takes a long time for new employees to truly make a contribution, or they may never reach the desired level. It becomes even more troublesome when they leave during the probationary period, and the organization is back to square one. Research shows that 60 percent of those who leave during the probationary period cite the poor onboarding program as the reason for their premature departure. This is actually a strange phenomenon. Organizations boast about themselves in job advertisements and demand a lot from people. But as soon as the talent is inside, they don’t handle it properly. How motivating is that for the new employee? What impression does it create?

Flying start

A good organization doesn’t give its staff a false start but a flying start. Ensure that practical matters such as access pass, laptop, phone, and workstation are promptly and properly arranged. This requires forward thinking. What does your new employee need? And what documents does the organization need from them? Think about identity papers, a certificate of good conduct (VOG), or specific forms. Arrange this with the new employee before their first day of work. It can be done, for example, during the final interview where the contract is signed. Also, ensure that departments like IT anticipate the needs, such as setting up computer accounts. It’s odd if the organization asks the new colleague, “What do you need?” The organization should know that, for instance, based on a handover list from the departing colleague.

The infamous introductory round. Don’t do it!

In certain organizations, it is customary to “take a tour” with newcomers. This involves meeting as many colleagues as possible. However, this leads to an overload of faces and names. As a result, by the end of the first day, the newcomer has forgotten all the names. They no longer remember whom they met or have any idea of what each person does. This results in the dreadful question on the second day: “Have you already met person X from department Y?” These awkward moments can be avoided with a smart (standard) onboarding program. This program should ensure that the newcomer meets all the individuals they will be working with. This should be done step by step, following the order of the customer chain/customer processes in which the new employee will participate. Limit the number of meetings and reserve time to “recover” and catch up on reading.

Not only what and how, but also why!

Onboarding programs often focus purely on practical matters and procedures: the what and the how. However, the why aspect remains underemphasized, even though it is equally important. It is crucial for the newcomer to understand their role within the team or department. What are the company’s goals? Is it clear to the new employee what results are expected of them? Do they know who our customers are and what they expect from us? By involving the employee in these aspects at the beginning of their career, you ensure that their focus is sharp, and they perform with greater purpose.

Initiation into the working method

A royal welcome also includes an initiation into how the newcomer should work. It is important for the organization or team to have an idea of the best way to work. Good process descriptions, manuals, or work instructions are helpful. If the onboarding process is limited to shadowing a available colleague, there is a risk that the newcomer will learn only one way of working. This may not be the best and smartest way. Therefore, let the newcomer experience the entire process from start to finish with multiple colleagues, including the top performer. Also, walk through the entire process with the team. Allow for questions and input. Who knows, the newcomer’s fresh perspective may reveal opportunities for improvement.

Impact on the team

When designing an onboarding program, don’t forget to consider team aspects. Ensure that a newcomer gains insight into the team’s culture and communication, as well as its goals and responsibilities. Take into account the emotions within the team. The departing colleague may have been well-liked and is missed. It could also be that the new member is taking on a role that another team member had anticipated. Address such matters openly because unspoken expectations, frustrations, and opinions can harm team spirit and performance. Discuss the impact of the new team member openly from the start and revisit it later if needed.

Sparring partner

The initial period is a bumpy and winding road for newcomers, filled with ups and downs. It can be challenging for them to ask for help in such a situation. A newcomer may feel intimidated by colleagues with more experience and knowledge, or they may not want to bother colleagues in their busy jobs. Prevent the new employee from getting lost along the way. This can be achieved by assigning them a buddy. This mentor can assist with practical matters, but more importantly, they serve as a listening ear for sharing impressions. Ideally, this connection is informal, such as during lunch breaks. Having a buddy helps the new colleague quickly find their place within the organization.

If all goes well, the newcomer gets the feeling that the red carpet has been laid out by the organization. And he or she makes a flying start ….

NB

Is onboarding well managed at your company? Answer the following questions:

1. How many days does it take us to provide all facilities for a new employee?

2. How many productive working hours do we lose because of this?

3. Does the employee talk to the right people in the first week? In the right order?

4. Are we introducing our new employees to the mission of our organization, who our customers are and what they value?

5. Do we regularly discuss the best way to work with the team? Do we all work this way? Can we explain it to a newcomer?

6. Do we discuss the impact of the new colleague on the team? Are we learning from the new colleague’s experience?

7. Is a new colleague properly supervised? Does he (in addition to team leader) have someone to fall back on?

iPM partners can help you make an onboarding program.

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