All on-board: are you missing a critical opportunity for employee engagement?

First impressions really are lasting impressions when it comes to an employee’s first experiences with your organisation. The best companies know that having a thoughtful on-boarding program is what will give them the best chance of having an engaged and connected employee from day one.

Too often we see organisations confuse ‘on-boarding’ with ‘training’. Understanding that company culture is central to why so many of us choose to join, or leave an organisation, the most successful on-boarding programs we see focus on vision, values and culture first, followed by the practicalities of working in a new environment.

…the most successful on-boarding programs we see focus on vision, values and culture first…

It’s important to remember that when someone is looking for a new job there are often two or three other opportunities in the pipeline when they accept a role.  So if you don’t take the time to ensure they are settled in and excited to be a part of your organisation, you could find yourself in the unfortunate situation of your new employee being tempted to explore another offer. 

When you’re about to make that next hire, here are five factors to consider when preparing the on-boarding program:

Get involved

Responsibility for an on-boarding program is often one that falls to an Executive Assistant, but is best led by an employee’s immediate manager. With the first days, weeks and months critical in an employee’s journey with your organisation, outsourcing the on-boarding process is a wasted opportunity to build the groundwork for a good relationship. 

Lead with vision, values and culture

Organisations tend to focus on the practical aspects of a new role and workplace, such as an explanation of the company structure and where the coffee machine is, rather than on an introduction to a company’s vision, values and culture, which are fundamental to a new employee’s relationship with both an organisation and its people. While the practical side is necessary, our clients tell us that taking a culture-first approach pays dividends over the long-term.

Move out of the boardroom

Booking the boardroom for three days and having different people give presentations may be the most convenient and time efficient option, but consider how much more engaged your new employee would be if you introduced them to stakeholders quite literally across the organisation.  Once set, it’s important for stakeholders to stick to the agenda. Moving it around says to the employee that they are not nearly as important as something or someone else.

Be social

Incorporate a social gathering during the employee’s first week – even if it’s just for a sandwich in the coffee shop.  It helps them understand the motivations of the team, and its culture, so they can start to find where they fit and what ideas they can bring. 

Check in, often

Regularly checking in is important to keeping on track with employee on-boarding.  An employee’s manager should make a point of checking in at the end of the first day, week, month and so on. Most programs continue for between 3 and 6 months. 

At the end of the first week in particular, be sure to ask them how they are feeling, what they have learnt, what else they need to know and if they are coming back next week. If they are, it won’t be because they were shown where the coffee machine is, but because they have made strong connections. 

What are the missed opportunities you see in company on-boarding programs?

Emily Wilson is Managing Partner at FutureYou Executive Recruitment and can be contacted at emilywilson@future-you.com.au https://au.linkedin.com/in/emilywilsonholman or 0474 848 675. 

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