August 22, 2016 | By Leslie Deutsch
Overwhelmed. We’ve all been there—that feeling you get when you start a new job and feel woefully uncertain of what the next few months will bring, no matter how much experience you have. The time it takes for a new hire to acclimatize to their role and corporate culture is risky for everyone involved. Ramping new hires up to productivity quickly helps them gain confidence and makes a big difference in improving individual and team morale, increasing retention and fostering a high-performance culture.
Successful onboarding is the culmination of the work you’ve done in other phases plus a customized productivity plan:
For a new hire, trying to remember everything learned in a traditional onboarding bootcamp is a lot like being a thirsty person trying to drink from a waterfall, but unable to retain enough water to quench their thirst. That’s not to say formal training isn’t needed; it’s an important component of a more comprehensive learning roadmap that also provides real-world context.
The most successful onboarding programs share a common link: they provide clear expectations for what “good enough” looks like at 30-60-90-180-day milestones, and a support plan for how to get there. There are many studies that show that companies with six-month-plus onboarding programs achieve vastly superior business results to shorter ones.
After 30 days we tend to let the bird leave the nest and fly solo. In reality, the time it takes for employees to mature in the job will differ for each individual. For new hires, the pressure to get it right the first time is high and can lead to fear of stretching themselves to take risks. To round out the more formal aspects of training, I strongly recommend coaching and lots of “safe” practice opportunities to get the most out of those new on-the-job experiences, as well as assigning a peer mentor to model internal best practices.
I like to incorporate planned activities throughout the role-based ramp-up process to give new hires a dry run with experienced colleagues before going live with customers or other stakeholders (Agile practitioners refer to this as a “kata”). Failing in a safe environment teaches new hires what to do—and what not to do. In turn, this gives them the chance to master critical skills before they face complex on-the-job situations.
Networking to build relationships within a team and across cross-functional departments has been proven to improve a new hire’s productivity and engagement. Managers can easily incorporate networking opportunities into a new hire’s ramp-up plan, and encouraging more senior team members to become peer mentors helps develop their leadership abilities.
Consider incorporating these steps:
Solicit positive and negative feedback from all involved in onboarding, and use that to improve the onboarding experience for the new hire and their manager. At a macro level, your onboarding program needs to be flexible to shift as business priorities change. At a micro, or employee, level, ongoing communication and collaboration creates more meaningful work by encouraging reflection, personal growth and advancing career opportunities.
Check out my upcoming about blog about onboarding metrics, because what you measure matters—but not everything that matters can be measured!
As always, leave a comment or for more information reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.