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Effective Onboarding is essential for retaining quality talent

For many employers, the sometimes excruciating process of finding the right person for a position exhausts them so they forget that the hiring process doesn’t end when the offer is accepted. It is as though we can finally fully exhale after the candidate accepts our offer so we forget our job isn’t done yet. Although finding the right match for your company is critical, onboarding or introducing that person to your organization is as critical as the hiring.

The period of time after the offer is accepted through the employee’s first few days with a company has three critical objectives to establish a firm foundation for the new employee.

First, the goal is too establish a good emotional bond with the company. The offer and acceptance stage of the hiring process is much like a wedding. There is much preparation, hype and anticipation. Once the event is over, however, the couple is left maneuvering new territory with no “next” big bash in sight. It can be quite a letdown. Similarly, after the job offer is accepted there is often little contact between the employer and employee before the employee’s first day. This can also be scary and leave the new employee open to second thoughts and counteroffers. It is that space between the offer to the start date that can be the first chance to build an emotional connection. Periodically send onboarding information to the person. Consider including them in employee development and/or celebration events during that period. It is a nice touch to forward organizational announcements, such as promotions, to the new employee with simple notes indicating you thought they would like to know. Also, if the period of time is more than two weeks, invite them to the firm for lunch to get reconnected and talk about their transition. This is a great opportunity to build the relationship and identify any potential concerns or counteroffers. Then have someone call the employee a few days before the start date to confirm everything is in order and you are looking forward to his/her arrival.

The next step to build that emotional bond is to make sure the first day is smooth and welcoming. Have an onboarding checklist that includes technology setup, business card ordering (where applicable), desk setup, and security access and key creation. Make sure that list is thoroughly reviewed and all the items completed before the start date. This is a good time to include the new employee’s new coworkers in the onboarding process to gain their support. Also, have a written agenda for the first day and make sure to share it with the new employee before the first day so they know what to expect. The schedule should be relatively full as you don’t want the employee to have a lot of downtime during the first day where they struggle to keep busy. Sharing it with the employee before they arrive allows them to plan their departure time and lunch arrangements.

Finally, make sure the employee feels welcome. Have a member of leadership send out an organization-wide email welcoming the new employee, sharing some details of their past, identifying their role, and listing their contact information. Also, have several colleagues or supervisors identified to visit the new employee throughout the day and, ideally, take him/her to lunch.

The second objective for an effective onboarding process is to get the person oriented so they can more quickly begin being productive. Explain operational procedures, where things are, and important events and times for the company. With the fundamentals established early, the person will be productive earlier.

The final objective of onboarding is to establish the company’s expectations for the person in a nonthreatening, constructive manner. Clearly addressing communication, deadline, and production expectations early when there are no negative experiences to muddy the waters will lessen the chances of problems later.

It is easy to get distracted by our day-to-day responsibilities and not make time to focus on a smooth onboarding experience for a new employee. That distraction is a big mistake when our intention is to keep that employee happy, productive AND employed with us. First impressions are essential!


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