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You can spend all the time in the world hiring the best person for a job, but your effort might be wasted if you don’t properly welcome that new hire onto your staff. Called “onboarding” in the human resources world, this process of integrating new employees into a business is crucial.
Do it right and your new hire hits the ground running, tackling much-needed projects and feeling empowered to contribute hard work and fresh ideas. But onboard a new employee lackadaisically, and that person you carefully vetted and wooed often feels disenfranchised and powerless from the start. That indispensable new staffer might underperform, or even get disgusted and pick up his job search right where he left off.
And that’s an expensive proposition: Staff turnover costs from 25 percent to 250 percent of employees’ annual compensation, depending on their position, according to the American Management Association.
“By delaying that engagement process you also are delaying the return on investment you have made in that employee,” says Karen Melby, managing director in Minneapolis for Steven Douglas Associates, a national executive recruiting and project-based professional services firm. “It’s very important to embrace people and help them understand what they need to do to contribute in order to be successful.”
So how do you productively onboard new hires and help them get a quick start? Read on for five tips.
Focus on the basics
Make sure your new employee feels welcome from the minute they walk in the door. Nothing says “You’re an afterthought” like a sitting at a messy desk left behind by a former staffer or lacking your phone number and email address right away. Instead, give new employees a card or flowers to brighten their first day at work, suggests Melby. And at a minimum, provide them with a key or security badge so they can access the building—and sense they belong.
“You want them to feel part of the organization and that they are welcome,” Melby says. “It’s how you get them oriented into the business so they can help you be successful and thrive. If you don’t provide the guidance and leadership, you won’t keep that employee.”
Set them up
Line up new employees with one co-worker who can answer all of their questions, from where to turn in their expense report to how to order business cards. It’s common in a small company for one person to be the “mother lode” of information; he or she can become the resource so new employees don’t need to bother their bosses about the small stuff, notes Liesl Hyde, regional director for Challenger Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based outplacement firm.
Match a mentor
Pairing new employees with mentors helps them navigate the often murky waters of a company’s organization. A mentor serves as a tour guide through the company’s structure, explaining who handles which duties and introducing new employees to key people. “When businesses bring in a new hire, they often go deeply into the technical aspects of what’s involved in the job instead of embedding them in the culture of the company,” Hyde says. “There is a flurry of training, but there is not an ongoing check-in to make sure things are operating smoothly.”
Spell it out
It’s hard for new employees to succeed when they don’t know and understand your expectations. To that end, create a checklist of accomplishments for them to complete in the first couple weeks, the first 30 days, the first three months, and so on, says Melby. Also include check-in meetings during those windows to discuss progress. “That way you also can make sure they are getting what they need from you, that they are meeting your expectations, and that you are meeting theirs,” she adds.
While it’s important to make sure new employees are well-trained in company processes and computer systems, it’s also vital to instill in them the broader company culture and mission. Hold regular “lunch and learns” for top leaders to explain their area of the business or plan open-door meetings to connect the dots on how employees’ work benefits the company. “You can never do enough ongoing education about an organization,” Melby says. “The more people know the more engaged they are, and the more apt they are to stay with an organization for a longer period of time.”
Save yourself time, money and headaches by helping your new hires start strong so they can do a good job—and stick around for a long time.
Suzy Frisch is a freelance writer based in Apple Valley, Minn. She’s covered business, politics, law and many other topics for a range of publications, including Twin Cities Business magazine, the Star Tribune and the Chicago Tribune.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FedEx.
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