hen I was a new associate attorney at a law firm, one of the partners signed me up to play in a scramble golf tournament. I was playing with two partners from a different office whom I’d never met. I arrived at the registration desk and asked the person signing me in to point out my new colleagues to me. I went over to the two men and introduced myself as the new associate in their Harrisburg office. They were all smiles and happy to see me.Then one of them asked, “So, are you here for the spa?” I replied, “No. I’m playing golf on your team today!” And there it was in an instant – the sheer look of dread washing over their faces. “Um, do you know how to play golf, Claudia?” I thought about it and said, “Guys – I understand the rules and can make my way around the course. I promise I won’t hold you up at all.” Off we went. On the third tee, one of the guys looked at me and said, “Claudia, how long have you been playing golf?” “About 20 years,” I said. “Why didn’t you tell us that you could play golf?” Without missing a beat, I said, “Why weren’t you open to the possibility that I could?” That happened over 10 years ago and within my first 45 days working with a new law firm. I remember it like it was yesterday. Why? Because of how it made me feel. That was, by definition, part of my onboarding experience with that law firm. How do you think they did?
At some point or another, we all have experienced both inclusion and exclusion. Think back in your life, because I’m sure it happened. Maybe it started with being seated at the “kids’ table” at the family function. Of course, then came middle school – enough said. Were you ever the “new kid” at school? You know what it feels like to be part of the “in” crowd, and you know what it feels like to be on the outside looking in on the fun. Draw upon those experiences, learn from them and use them to shape your approach to onboarding new employees. The new-employee journey starts with a solid plan to welcome and integrate him/her. Companies without a plan are behind the 8-ball, and their business results will reflect as much. If your company is an employment revolving door, it’s time to take a hard look at your onboarding process.
“Onboarding” is the first true introduction to the company (because – let’s face it – a candidate is rarely going to see the big picture during the interview process, and that might be purposeful). It’s how you welcome a new person into the work family – and it is a family. I once spoke with a woman who told me that her first day on a new job was at a conference attended by 1,000 people. No one from her new company was set to meet her or take her to meet members of her team. She was alone. Failure – that’s the only word to describe the coordination and planning that went into that person’s first day with a new company. That’s what it feels like when you aren’t included. That’s what it feels like when you are not welcomed properly into your new work family.
Don’t miss this huge opportunity. Keep these points in mind when it comes to onboarding:
- Ensure all new-hire paperwork is completed. This is compliance 101.
- Review the employee handbook and behavioral expectations.
- Schedule any required compliance-related training (harassment, discrimination, code of ethics, etc.).
- Schedule any necessary technology or systems-related training.
- Explain the company’s culture.
- Explain the company’s history, mission and vision. This is WHY you all chose to work there in the first place, right? Reinforce it! Commit to it!
- Review the job duties and explain what is expected of the employee. What are the priorities? When and how will you measure progress/success?
- Make a list of the individuals the employee should meet within the first 2 weeks on the job. Focus on the people with whom the employee will be interacting routinely as part of his/her job duties as well as the members of the team to which the employee is assigned.
- Assign mentors (plural on purpose). Connect the employee to a handful of people within different departments who can grab coffee for 30 minutes and explain what the particular department does and how it impacts the company’s performance. Even better? Explain how and when and why the department works with the new employee’s department to achieve business goals. [Long-winded way of saying – minimize the silo effect.] Let the employee decide from there with whom he/she is most comfortable building a close, mentor relationship.
- Don’t forget what might seem like the little things, such as a welcome lunch, walking him/her around the office, making sure the employee has whatever he/she needs to do the job on DAY ONE (computer, telephone, stapler, uniform, ID badge – whatever it is…).
This is just a sampling of how to do it right. The one thing each of these steps has in common is the MANAGER. The manager of the new employee is 100% responsible for ensuring the newbie is successfully onboarded into the company and into new job. The human resources team should be there to provide the tools and resources the manager needs, but the hard work has to be done by the manager. It boils down to leader accountability. Yes – it’s time-consuming to properly onboard a new employee. But it is just as time-consuming (if not more), and definitely more costly ($$$), to deal with turnover. Make the first impression a good one. Otherwise, the story just might be the introduction to the former employee’s next blog post…