August 1, 2016 | By Leslie Deutsch
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New hires enter your door on their first day with shining faces and anxious demeanors. They’re eager and excited—and they’re all looking to you to help in their success. But do you know what it’s going to take to make that happen?
Having managed development teams for over a decade, I’ve experienced first-hand the overwhelming task of getting new employees up to speed.
It’s the ongoing dilemma of needing help but not having enough time to train the help you need. That’s why formal onboarding programs are so important—they’re a key factor not only in hiring great talent, but ramping them up to be productive more quickly.
Let me share with you lessons learned, best practices, research and metrics for developing the ideal new hire onboarding program. We'll start with a broad approach to conceptualizing your program, and you can skip ahead to any part of our onboarding best practices series:
Part 2: Pre-onboarding engages new hires before Day 1
Part 3: How orientation differs from onboarding and why it matters
Part 4: Onboarding activities that improve job performance
Part 5: Onboarding metrics that inspire action
First, let’s look at three key tenets for designing the ideal program:
Onboarding can be as overwhelming to you as it is to the new hire. One approach is to divide the program into manageable pieces. Start with the basic components that apply to everyone (for example, overall company culture) and move into more specific areas.
For this successive approach, ask yourself:
Start by defining the knowledge and training every employee needs, regardless of role or department. This initial approach, generally handled by Human Resources, starts with fundamentals, such as your company’s mission, vision, values and goals as well as company policies, continuity and compliance. Every employee also wants to know about time and expense, healthcare and corporate benefits, as well as logistics such as how many buildings are on campus or where to find the cafeteria.
Next, as the employee transitions to their LOB, clarify what they need to know about that particular department. Map out things such as where they’ll sit, setting up equipment (phone, computer, etc.), establishing lunch and break times, and meeting their colleagues. In IT this could also include which systems development life cycle processes need to be followed? Which departments or customers do you support? Are you an Agile or DevOps shop? What systems training is needed?
Break the program down further and assess what is needed for the employee to successfully do their job each day and become productive as quickly as possible. For instance, what training is needed for the specific project they’re assigned to? What software program is being used for development? What milestones need to be reached in the next 30-60-90 days? How will individual success be measured?
In some departments or job roles you can narrow this even further by looking at what’s needed for a specific expertise such as a team lead or scrum master.
Whether your employees are co-located or distributed, each new hire needs to have the same positive, uniform experience. You can create consistency by engaging key leaders and stakeholders in each department—here are a few ideas:
Then regularly review the program and the processes to ensure consistency and adherence. Make corrections where needed and get buy-in so everyone is onboarding new employees the same way.
The best way to gauge the success of your program is to establish expected, measurable outcomes. I’ve found that these metrics are not only based on best practices, but also need to be unique to your business drivers.
Stay tuned for the next blog where I will discuss preboarding, or the initial steps to take after a candidate accepts your job offer. Preboarding gets a candidate engaged and productive as soon as possible, and is a surprisingly critical tool for employee retention.
Until then share your thoughts, ideas and challenges. Leave a comment or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.