Successful leaders build and lead teams well. CEOs often say that their company’s greatest assets are the people working for the company. It follows that investing time and resources in that greatest asset is important. During my research in writing Bold Leadership, I interviewed a young man who worked for Hobby Lobby as a night janitor in their corporate office. He shared with me that during his second or third night on the job, the Vice-President of the company paid him a visit, welcomed him to the company, and spoke about the family culture. Now, let me put that in context. At the time, 1,200 employees worked in the corporate headquarters and another 3,000 employees worked in the warehouse and distribution center behind the headquarters building. That left a lasting impression on this employee.
According to a 2014 survey by BambooHR, “…of those respondents who left within the first six months, 23 percent said ‘receiving clear guidelines to what my responsibilities were’ would have helped them stay on the job. Twenty-one percent said they wanted ‘more effective training,’ 17 percent said ‘a friendly smile or helpful co-worker would have made all the difference,’ 12 percent said they wanted to be ‘recognized for [their] unique contributions,’ and 9 percent said they wanted more attention from the ‘manager and co-workers,’” (Maurer, 2015).
Here are some onboarding points to keep in mind. On the first day, there are a number of things that need to happen to get the onboarding off to a great start. A key component is for the new employee to feel welcomed and valued. During the first day, it’s important to meet the team he/she will be assigned, understand the job responsibilities and how he/she fits with the team. As a team leader, carving time from your busy schedule to welcome a new team member and have that first 1:1 is a great way to make that new team member feel important.
Make no mistake, the onboarding process doesn’t end after Day 1 or after orientation. Onboarding really should be considered a longer process. Training for success and building relationships with others on the team is an ongoing process and should be a focus area of any onboarding program. One way to nurture this process is to set up a buddy system, where the new team member is matched with another employee who helps mentor and assists the new team member getting anchored to the job and company. Ensuring that a team member has the training and tools he/she needs to do the job helps avoid any negative feelings during these first few months.
It is also important to make sure that a new team member learns the culture of the company. This will help them when they encounter inevitable adjustments and workplace challenges. Establishing regular 1:1s between you and this new team member provides a regular opportunity for the team member to ask questions, discuss challenges, and establish work and growth goals. Research has found that supporting team members enhances job satisfaction. Moreover, don’t overlook the possibility that the new team member bringing a fresh set of eyes to the job may have ideas or see ways to improve things.
Lastly, a solid onboarding process will help with retention. The cost of replacing an employee can run as high as twice the annual salary. (Maurer, 2015) Beyond this replacement cost, there are other costs, such as loss of institutional knowledge, loss of relationships with clients and coworkers, and strain on other team members who must pick up the workload until a new team member is hired and fully functioning. When attrition occurs, other workers wonder if they should look for a new opportunity too.
The onboarding of an employee has evolved over the last 25 years of business and many new studies have shown how important this onboarding is for a person’s long-term future at a company. Whether or not your HR team has a full and detailed onboarding plan or not may depend on the size of your company and the size of your HR team, but you, as a manager, can do many of these things even if they don’t exist formally in your company. It really comes down to making the new team member feel valued as a person and part of the team. You can avoid a lot of wasted time and energy by retaining employees and it starts on Day 1.
For the Faith-based
The research and data that has come out over the last couple years emphasizing the value of onboarding is compelling but the concept of onboarding and engaging with new team members is not a new concept. Jesus’ calling of His disciples, and subsequent onboarding, is a great example of how to build trust and engagement with your team.
We can all admit that Jesus’ hiring/recruiting process was pretty unique in that this was a spiritual calling that the disciples had and not recruitments based on resumes and interviews. Jesus clarified the mission right up front, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (ESV, Matthew 4:19) Early on, he taught them values on the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5-7)
Once the team of apostles was assembled, it was Jesus as their leader that needed to onboard and develop this ragtag team of disciples. They were not experienced or ready to jump into the work Jesus needed them to do. Jesus kept His team of disciples close and interacted with them regularly. He provided them with the training and teaching of His message many times through parables along their journeys. He even took them aside and had 1:1s at times. And at the appropriate time, He gave them a specific objective so their role would be clear. “These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.” (Matthew 10:5-14)
Though onboarding is considered an important part of employee engagement in modern times, the example Jesus provided on how to engage your team still stands as a great example of successful onboarding.
Maurer, R. (2015, April 16). Onboarding Key to Retaining, Engaging Talent. Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/Pages/Onboarding-Key-Retaining-Engaging-Talent.aspx?_ga=2.196404460.1742018021.1591895817-1329300327.1591895817