Onboarding Lessons and Advice

man and woman shaking hands

Acumen’s clients often ask for help regarding onboarding and implementing a plan for their newest employee/s. The most effective plans we have seen are those from progressive organizations that offer their leaders/executives a 3-month schedule that allows them to work a week within each group in the organization. This strategy allows them to gather insights into how the organization works: understanding the workflows between departments, learning and understanding the management team and how they manage, discovering pain points, etc.

I recently read an article by Michael D. Walkins: “7 Ways to Set Up a New Hire for Success.” He outlines many good ideas to keep in mind when setting up your onboarding plan. He reminds everyone that a good employee needs skills, resources, and connections for them to become fully effective in the position. For new employees he also states:

Onboarding is among the toughest types of job transitions. Why? Because new hires, even if they are experienced professionals, are unfamiliar with the business, don’t understand how things really work, lack established relationships, and have to adapt to a new culture.

Here are some additional concepts that he shared and good ideas when setting up your onboarding plan:

  • Accelerate the new employee’s learnings:
    • Technical learning – products, customers, technologies, and systems
    • Cultural learning – attitudes, behavior norms, and values
    • Political learning – how decisions are made, how power and influence work, and figuring out whose support they will need most
  • Connect them with key Stakeholders
  • Give them direction
  • Help them achieve early wins
  • Coach them for success

In addition, Acumen has found that providing a mentor/regular point of contact (if possible) is incredibly helpful for onboarding a new employee, especially when working virtually.

A new employee’s success within the first 3 months of hire is critical for their happiness and satisfaction and is an indicator of how long they are likely to remain with the organization. Retention is important – effective onboarding is the key.

During these challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, onboarding can still be effective in helping set new employees up for success. Some employers have moved to virtual onboarding. Others are conducting onboarding in-person with proper precautions. Others are using a combination of in-person and virtual meetings. Others are sending documentation or leveraging online training. Any of these approaches can work when you thoughtfully plan and strategize as to how you can present the information most effectively (and safely).

If your onboarding is being conducted virtually, laptops can be shipped to the new employee with their new technology preloaded with the programs they will need to use. Virtual calls can be set up with key Stakeholders. Critical documents can be emailed or sent securely by other means. Most everything that would have been done in-person before the pandemic can be moved to the virtual world with some forethought and preplanning.