Setting new employees up for success through effective on-boarding strategies

“On-boarding” is a process of helping new employees become productive and integrated members of an organization. The process is also sometimes described as organizational socialization that assimilates new staff members not only into formal, but also informal organizational networks.
Most of companies have new employee orientation policies in place and provide training to new hires. However, not many organizations go one step further to ensure that newcomers are integrated in organizational culture, socialization norms, and informal networks. Effective on-boarding is important not only from HR perspective; the process is critical to overall organizational success. First, on-boarding directly relates to employee retention – the more supported and satisfied an employee is, the more likely she will stay with the company beyond the initial employment phase (usually 3-6 months). Employees that are provided with much initial support from their supervisors are also more motivated to perform well, therefore are more productive. Both of these positive outcomes lead to decreased business cost and increased competitiveness. Last, but definitely not the least, satisfied newcomers can further reinforce positive organizational culture and promote good image of an organization among their family and friends, which ultimately turns into positive PR in a larger community.
An organization would need to start successful on-boarding practices by developing a written on-boarding plan and ensuring ownership of such a plan by management. Management would benefit from guidance and open discussions on how new on-boarding practices would benefit not only newcomers, but also an organization overall.
The first day on the job is very important in helping an employee feel welcomed. Many organizations that implemented successful on-boarding practices have an expectation that a direct supervisor (rather than HR personnel, a trainer or a hiring manager) meets with an employee and introduces him to organizational processes, structure, and job expectations. That way an employee connects better to a direct supervisor and feels acknowledged for joining a company. Also, “the devil is in the details” – it matters to successful on-boarding having a workplace preassigned and a badge, business cards, and office supplies ready for new staff member.
Many successful organizations also include employee’s family into on-boarding process. For instance, an employee’s spouse receives flowers from the company with a welcoming note. Handwritten notes from higher management to a new comer are also effective – they can be sent to an employee’s home as well.
It is important to have a formal training plan and carry it through. A newcomer also needs to know clear expectations and measurement system for his performance. Frequent supervision meetings with a manager that focus on employee’s development in a new position help an employee to bring up his skill set, and give him an understanding on “how I am doing”. Finally, setting up a mentor or peer support system, helps a newcomer not only to enforce new skills, but also to establish better relationships with coworkers and increase belonging to informal networks.
Thus, many employee on-boarding practices are not time consuming and are not costly. At the same time they are critical to employee retention, productivity, business costs, employee morale, and culture. Each organization, including very small enterprise, would benefit by establishing policies and delineating clear practices on how to support and assimilate new hires into an organization.