Assigning a manager/mentor to track employee’s initial months on the job helps to understand their comfort level on the job
In any organization, the culture is built over years. So how can one expect a new employee to embrace the culture in a few weeks?
It is said that any new recruit, irrespective of the level, decides to stay or move on within the first seven days. I have personally experienced this several times in my professional life. The first few days are like the seasoning period when either the new joinee gets accustomed to the new environment and smoothly fits into the groove or might just reject it outright. The reasons could be many and they usually go beyond the pay and the perks.
This makes it imperative for any organization to have an impactful onboarding program in place. I am not an advocate of having something that is too methodical; instead it should focus on creativity and genuineness while giving him the relevant information. For instance, if someone comes to our home, do we always go as per the plan – 7’o clock tea, 9’o clock breakfast, 12.30 lunch and so on? No, we don’t. Instead, we let our guest feel at ease and make the person comfortable. As a good host, we would try and accommodate our guest’s preference. Similarly, I believe that there can’t be a fixed routine to the onboarding program. Having said that, it’s equally important to have a plan in place so that there is no chaos and the new member feels excited to join.
It’s not that only an entry-level executive would feel lost in her new job, but even senior employees could feel the same way if her onboarding is not done the right way. For instance, if a senior executive joins from a competitor, then it is likely that he would have several apprehensions. So now how do you welcome this new person? Should you start with how the competitor has had all wrong practices in place and your company has got it all right? Or should you make him feel so important on the first day that you show him how you were just waiting for him to come and change the fortune of your company? I have seen many of my industry colleagues being either very humble or too regimented and cold. In my opinion, the new person should be given some time to settle down in the organization. Meanwhile, you can also take time to evaluate him better.
Here are some of the steps that I propose for an effective onboarding program, which should be beneficial in retaining employees and achieving business goals.
Soak in the company culture
Every company has two aspects of the culture. One is a set of rules framed by the company that every employee is expected to follow and the other is a set of unwritten rules. It’s important for the new employee to understand both and at times it may take a year to get things in place. I know of a large IT company which deputes a co-worker to take the new employee through the established guidelines and also the unwritten rules. It’s like you have moved into a new city or a country and how a friend would take you through the brighter and darker sides of the city. This is a great idea for making people feel comfortable in your organization. In such a scenario, it will be much easier for the new employee to adapt the new culture.
I strongly recommend fostering social relationships with co-workers in making employees feel comfortable from the initial day at work. Winning organizations consider these relationships as enriching as they make new hires feel invested in their work and the company. As part of the onboarding, companies may organize a team lunch or an evening outing on the first day, which will allow the new hire to mingle with her team, acclimatise with the company culture, work ethics and build positive working relationships. PepsiCo is one such company that I can recall that has developed an online portal called “Pre-start”. Here the new hires can find useful information on company values, culture, organizational structure etc. In addition, it has also assimilated social media to make them feel like a coherent group.
Try gamifying the process
A new trend gaining momentum across industries is using gamification for the onboarding process as it keeps the new hires engaged through challenges, competitions and contests. The passing and sharing of knowledge between the company and the new recruit becomes much easier with this. Onboarding becomes a fun-filled activity and the experience tends to linger on. Like everyone remembers the first day at college, people also keep the memory of first day at work afresh for long. This whole engaging exercise has a positive end goal. At DBS bank, for instance, to engage the new hire’s interest level as well as create curiosity around the induction program, the organization has built Stereoscopic 3D effects on select screens along with engaging videos, personalized welcome messages from department heads help in personalizing the onboarding program as well as boost performance and retention.
Treat it like a never-ending process
One common folly that most organizations tend to commit is that they assume that an onboarding process ends after the new hire’s first week on the job. Rather, successful onboarding programs can even span over several months to reap its benefits. The duration of onboarding programs vary in terms of the organization. While for some, it may last for a week, for others it may stretch to four months. In any organization, the culture is built over years. So how can one expect a new employee to embrace the culture in a few weeks? Every person has his own traits and would need a personalized approach to this.
Assigning a manager/mentor to track employee’s initial months on the job helps to understand their comfort level on the job as well as how things are done at their workplace is also an effective way. At different stages, the assigned manager/mentor can ask the new hire about his experiences with the hiring process if the induction met his expectations or if he is facing any challenges or issues. This will help the organization in understanding the level of engagement of the new hire has developed. Every onboarding program has to be continually fine-tuned at different stages to keep enhancing its impact and benefits and most importantly, a successful onboarding process is never really over. L’Oreal is one such organization that supports an extended onboarding program. It has a two-year, six-part integration program called “L’Oreal Fit” which builds lasting relationships as well as develops employees for bigger challenges.
There are no set onboarding designs or approaches that will work radically for any organization. However, from a business standpoint, it makes no sense to invest on hiring a talent, pay an exorbitant remuneration, lose productivity and then finally lose the employee because the relationship fails to take off on the right foot right at the beginning. To avoid such pitfalls, invest on your people who will help you reap the rewards of a stellar onboarding program.