Professional Primer: How to successfully onboard new employees

Written on Sep 28, 2017

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA content manager

After a tough interview process you’ve found the perfect hire. But now isn’t the time to relax. Onboarding for a new employee is a crucial part of their introduction to the organization, and can heavily influence their success in the long-term.

“Every company is different, so you’ll need to prioritize what is most important to share right away,” said Shelly Marks, HR consultant and executive coach.

The history and culture of the organization are good places to start at the beginning, she said. Remember, this person is coming into an entirely unknown culture and way of doing things, so encourage questions.

“It’s important to teach them the unspoken, unwritten rules of the organization,” Marks said.

This could be anything from how people dress on casual Fridays, the tone of emails among staff or where people usually eat lunch. Making sure a new person feels like they’re in the culture loop can make a big difference in how welcome they feel.

“I’ve seen companies focus on bringing senior leaders in to have casual conversations with entry-level employees,” Marks said. “They take this seriously and know the importance of welcoming a new person.”

How to successfully onboard new employeesThis also ties into retention, she said, because a lackluster onboarding process can make a new person think this new role might not be the best fit for them long-term.

Marks said one of the biggest mistakes companies can make is to do virtually no onboarding at all, like situations where the new employee is only asked to fill out paperwork and then left to figure everything else out on their own.

Don’t stress over explaining every aspect of the job right away, she said. She suggested mapping out phases for the new hire, and know, with all this new information, they will probably need to hear things multiple times before remembering it all.

The onboarding process also should be different for the person depending on their seniority, Marks advised. Senior leaders will have different priorities than entry-level hires, and that should be reflected in their process from the beginning.

“Consider putting a formal team together to focus on onboarding so it’s more consistent,” she said. This is a helpful way to ensure the information that all new hires should know gets to them.

She also encouraged companies to make the onboarding process as interactive as possible with scheduled meet and greets, as opposed to isolating the new employee.

“First impressions matter and companies have come to understand that with onboarding,” Marks said. “It really sets the tone.”

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