In hot economy, onboarding takes on vital role

Employees have options these days, and they’re more willing to leave a job that doesn’t seem like a perfect fit—even if it’s during the first few months. That means your onboarding process is more important than ever.

The problem: When people find themselves in unfamiliar territory during those first days and weeks, they’re much more likely to jump to conclusions—“premature cognitive commitments”—and see bad or simply awkward onboarding as indicative of a poorly run organization that just doesn’t care about its people.

On the flip side, one study says employees are 69% more likely to stay with a company after three years if brought up to speed through a structured onboarding program.

These days, you have less time to make a good impression. So how are you going to do it? Ask yourself: Who are new hires meeting on day one—the go-to people they should be? Are relationships being built right away, or are new hires screened off from the allies they’ll need? And does it seem like the company cares?

The 5 C’s of onboarding

Comprehensive onboarding yields the best results when covering these areas:

1. Clarification. Tell workers ahead of time what to expect on Day One. Ensure new hires understand the job and expectations. Pair each with a mentor (or two) who can offer advice.

2. Connection. If you send an introductory email to all staff, include a photo so people can instantly put a face to the new name. Don’t skip the face-to-face introductions. Schedule lunches and team building beyond the first day. Set up a quarterly CEO reception with new employees to cover strategy and company goals. Encourage current staff to connect with their new colleague on LinkedIn.

3. Culture. Provide materials, videos and a discussion on the company’s history, values and culture. Have new staff sit in on meetings they normally wouldn’t to learn the big picture.

4. Compliance. Don’t just slide a handbook and say “read this.” Explain your key policies on harassment, security, IT issues and at-will employment.

5. Check back. Follow up regularly to see how they’re adapting and ask them questions (see box below). Get feedback on the onboarding program.

Make onboarding fun

Some real-life examples of ways to help new hires make connections and have a few laughs:

Scavenger hunt. A California company sets new hires off on a scavenger hunt to find certain places and people that they’ll need in their jobs.

Swag and a ‘pre-cation.’ Send new hires logoed shirts, cups and pens before their first day. Some tech companies even give new hires money for a pre-start vacation.

Personalized workspace. Let new hires choose what kind of computer and workstation they want, and whether they want a standing desk. Then, when they arrive, have it set up.

Fill in the blanks. Prior to orientation presentations, hand out a list of incomplete sentences. Ask new hires to fill in the blanks as they hear the information during the day. Discuss the answers afterwards.

15 questions in first 60 days

Don’t wait until performance or behavior issues crop up (or for an official performance review). Instead, HR and supervisors should initiate a dialogue with new workers to uncover problems before they cause turnover. For a list of 15 good questions to ask workers during their first 60 days, go to www.theHRSpecialist.com/15questions.