3 Steps For Properly On-Boarding Employees

Do You Have An Onboarding Problem?

Time and again, I've noticed that companies of varying sizes are having issues getting their new hires up and running in effective manners.  The reasons stem from managers not properly setting their new hires up for success. The time commitment, the lack of desire, or the misunderstandings of what is needed for an employee to be on-boarded effectively are the common excuses.  There are reasons why, in addition to the importance of not only to hiring the right people, you must also train those people to be in the best position to meet the needs of the team they are joining is critical. 

As organizations move to streamline their staff and cut out redundant roles, we often leave managers with little time to actually manage their team. Managers bring in new hires and because they want to get off on a good foot, they say all the polite things, instead of the right things. 

I do a lot of interviews with staff members who say they never get clear direction, guidelines, or expectations for what they need to do. This is so much more important now with the millennial generation (which is over 80 million people strong) taking the lead as the largest population in the nation's workforce.  Although, all staff members, not matter which generation they fall under, will benefit from (and enjoy) clear roles, guidelines, and expectations, the millennial generation demands it. I often refer the millennial generation as the syllabus generation. Most of them have always had a roadmap to success in their lives due to outlines are given to them by their parents and educators. It is almost unfair to throw them into the deep in and expect them to perform the in the same way as Baby Boomers or Generations X. 

This is not about coddling a generation; in fact, I disagree with a lot of the stereotypes about the millennial generation. Given the right tools and leadership, this generation could be some of the best employees you could have in your organization. 

Here are three steps to make sure you are onboarding your staff properly:

1. Be Honest. After you have chosen to hire someone, it is easy to build him or her up and have a "wait and see" mentality in regards to his or her work/process. Waiting to find additional problems before addressing issues is troublesome because no employee is perfect and, although you may want to encourage creativity and personal flair, it is important for every staff member to understand the mission and the ultimate goal.

Once a PR staff member at a marketing firm who wanted to stand out from the crowd. She sent two press releases out in a comic sans font with orange print (the companies letterhead color).  Her manager was obviously annoyed at this employee.  However, they had also spent two years praising her for her risky creativity and say how much they loved the bold approach she took to marketing. This conflict, which hurt the trust she had in leadership and herself, could have been addressed by clear roles. For example: We do all our press releases in a uniformed way because that is the expectation of the personal receiving the information. Where we need your creativity is who to phrase the press release so that the outlet that reads it uses it in the manner that we would desire. 

2. Give a Road Map.  One of the important roles of a leader is to show your staff how to progress through the company. When I hire someone, I always ask what do you want for me. I understand that I am using you for your time, effort and talent. What are you using me for? I want to let them know how they get there. 

An example of this comes from a front office hire I witnessed. The candidate was asked, "I know that we are hiring you to be at the front desk, but where do you want to end up?" The interviewee said she hoped to end up in marketing. We talked briefly about her skill sets in marketing and what that might look within. When we brought that person on, we had a two-year plan for her to be in the best position to be ready to end up as a web design marketing professional.  You want to hire from within whenever possible, show people that you care about their happiness and help them achieve their goals, which, in turn, will keep them more productive in the roles that they are currently occupying. 

3. Be A Mentor. It is important to be a mentor for your team. Note that this does not mean micromanaging them, but an offering them a guiding hand. This can often turn into enabling the staff member to run to you for everything.  Which is not effective time management to either party. The best way to handle this issue is to listen to your employees and ask, "What do you think?" then "why do you think that?" and other similar questions. It is easy for managers to like the feeling of being relied on, but as most managers realize, it quickly gets old and you begin to resent the employee. If your train your staff to think of the solutions on their own, then they will rely on you less and less, giving you the time your need to lead and actually manage your team productivity. 

As I travel around consulting with teams in disarray, improper onboarding is a pretty common cause for the miscommunication issues. I understand that it may seem like a lot of effort for a new hire, who may or may not work out. However, taking a little bit of time out of your schedule, in the beginning, will pay huge dividends in the long term success of your team.