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5 Key Steps to Developing an Employee Onboarding Program

A new employee shaking hands at an onboarding session

For those in an HR department, hiring the right employee for a position often feels like a huge relief — but extending a job offer is only the beginning of an important transitional period for the new employee. A new hire’s first few months determine his or her trajectory at work. He or she is likely to feel nervous using unfamiliar computer programs, a building that feels like maze, or even coworker names.

In addition to work responsibilities, new employees must adapt to a company’s culture. It’s easy to overlook the value of relationship building in a work environment, yet it’s just as important for employees to feel like they’re part of the team as it is for them to contribute to it.

There is always room for improvement when it comes to employee onboarding. If you want to do everything you can to bring out a new hire’s full potential, consider the following tips for developing an employee onboarding program.

1. Start Early

The best time to begin preparing for a new employee’s role is immediately after they’re hired. A strong first impression on day one is important for both an employee and the business they work for. Without the tools to succeed, you can’t blame a new employee for struggling early.

Provide new hires with a small and simple assignment before their first day so they can get a feel for how the company manages tasks. If the employee will use any type of software or online program, provide access to it before his or her first day. A little bit of familiarity goes a long way in a new workplace.

2. Test the Waters

It’s a misconception that taking a “sink or swim” approach to a new hire’s responsibilities is a surefire way to weed out incompetence for a position. Once the hiring phase is over, it’s the company’s responsibility — and in its best interest — to trust new employees’ capabilities and give them the training and tools to help them succeed. Even a qualified worker will burn out quickly if managers throw them to the wolves with an impossible amount of work to complete.

That’s not to say a new hire should have minimal responsibilities. In fact, most employees are excited to prove their worth and crave opportunities to shine. Start by assigning manageable tasks. Mix assignments that have explicit instructions with others that allow for more creative freedom. Completing these tasks demonstrates an ability to follow instructions as well as form independent solutions.

3. Build Bonds

Some people are social butterflies and have no problem starting conversations with strangers, helping them adapt to a new workplace quickly. Others faced with unfamiliar environments find it difficult to socialize. It’s essential that new employees feel comfortable with the people around them. It’s the only way to truly become a contributing member of the team.  

Before an employee starts, assign a mentor to show them the ropes. Ideally, this team member should be experienced and sociable — someone who can field questions related to workplace tasks and culture. Give this person at least a few days notice, so they can prepare for onboarding.

4. Encourage Questions

For new hires, there are no stupid questions. Some people are afraid of asking questions because they believe it will make them appear unqualified or easily confused. Dispelling this attitude is important, because asking questions is the only way for a person to build upon their existing skillset and understand how a company operates.

If you’re assigning a mentor to your new hire, make sure they have time to give a tour and make introductions. This way, the new hire can meet with team members individually and feel more comfortable coming to them with questions later. The team should make it clear they don’t mind being interrupted occasionally for even the simplest questions.

5. Get a New Perspective

Onboarding new hires should serve as a learning experience for the leadership at your business. A workplace sometimes becomes an echo chamber of similar opinions, and a fresh set of eyes and ears could be just what it needs to improve. If you’ve hired someone, you are putting a certain amount of trust in his or her opinion. Ask for an honest take on how things work around the office to see if there are areas that may need improvement.

Valuing an employee’s opinion helps them find their own voice within an organization. You don’t have to make sweeping changes based on their viewpoint; simply listening to what they have to say is enough. It takes a while to build confidence in an unfamiliar environment, and there is no better way to help someone believe in him or herself than to show you trust them.

Get Set for Success

Every company has unique considerations for their employee onboarding strategy. In some professions, a new employee can jump right into their responsibilities, while others require an extended training period. The team at Darke & Associates is here to help you develop and implement an employee onboarding plan that fits your specific needs. Contact us today to see how we can help you give new hires the means to thrive.

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