For homicide detectives, the first 48 hours post-crime are the most crucial for gathering evidence. In sketch comedy, the premise for the scene is set within the first three lines of dialogue. When the line between success and failure is drawn early, processes need to be in place to ensure that everyone hits the ground running.
The same could be said any time you hire a new employee. So why do so many companies struggle with onboarding?
Integrating a new employee into the fold, especially at a growing company, can be more difficult than a business may anticipate. After all, early stage companies likely don't have a full-fledged HR department to handle the process. Or, in the rush to put the newbie to work as soon as possible, a half-day of document signing is all the welcoming a company is willing to provide.
No matter how impressive a candidate is during the interview process, it can take between eight and twelve months for a new hire to become fully ingrained in a company's culture and work style. That's if they make it that far - 31% quit within the first six months, with many citing a bad first impression as a major contributor.
There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to onboarding. The best advice I can give is to draw upon the three-step system used at my company. We give our new employees time to get their feet wet, not forcing a deep dive right off the bat. We also subscribe to the idea that people work is more important than paperwork.
An HR professional's study revealed that 76% of new hires believe socialization in a new work environment is most valuable to a smooth transition. We take that to heart with our approach.
Our First 48: Meet the Head Honchos
During first two days of orientation our newest employees meet with the most senior members of the organization - right away. Establishing a rapport with the leaders of the company and getting the opportunity to hear their stories both professional and personal breaks down power-related barriers and demonstrates that all opinions are valued within the company.
We encourage our meetings to happen in very informal environments, at Starbucks, in the company courtyard, or over lunch. We also encourage our team to talk about their family and personal lives. As much as we are setting a tone for work, we're also setting a tone for relationships. In the end, everyone wants to feel valued as an individual.
Day Three: Peer to Peer
Didn't you always feel better in elementary school when the teacher assigned you a buddy for those walks to the cafeteria and playground? It's the same concept in an environment that's unfamiliar to exactly one person. New hires want peers who act as mentors at the beginning of their tenure. Someone to show them the ropes, where the snack drawer is, the best spots for post-work happy hour. Again, people over paper.
That's why, at our company, each member of our team sits down with a new employee for thirty minutes within the first two days of employment. Again, the conversations don't even have to touch on work. We think of it as a form of speed dating without any judgments.
Two Weeks Later: The First Check-in
We don't believe in the 90-day review. With the rate at which employees resign early into their stints, we can't wait that long to see how things are going. Our process is simple: we sit the new hire down with a leader and a peer (in separate meetings) to see how they're getting along. We also invite feedback on our process so we know how to streamline it even more for the next hire.
At this moment, we also start setting both qualitative and quantitative goals for the employee. Qualitatively, our key focus is employee understanding and cultural fit. We use tools like officevibe and regular weekly check-ins to monitor these metrics. Quantitatively, we agree on formal 90-day goals with each new hire.
We utilize a system very similar to Kenneth Blanchard's One Minute Manager - setting clear, simple and easy to measure goals that encourage autonomy and critical thinking more than anything else. We find it's more important that our employees mold to their environment than crank out projects in that first quarter.
Our onboarding process is not complicated. But it is structured, and that goes a long way towards keeping employees happy in the long-term. The same HR study showed employees onboarded with a proper program are nearly 70% more likely to stay with that company for three years. Investing in an onboarding process is worth not having to constantly hire new personnel.
But note: this is just one company's idea of onboarding. You might find success with a more drawn out program, or your new hires might respond to having their feet held to the fire on day one. The key is to be consistent, structured, and to never take onboarding for granted.