Onboarding Employee Engagement Programs are Key to Helping Employees Transition from New Hires to Solid Contributors

It’s time to Celebrate the New Year, New Beginnings, New Hires and Avoid the Beginner Blahs

Over the past 18 months, we’ve seen a trend. Job openings are at a 13-year-high. Unemployment is down. Because the labor market is more competitive, companies are taking a hard look at their onboarding processes. Last November we began our onboarding series (also called organizational socialization) – discussing these exciting trends and employee engagement strategies to be set in place from the very first contact a potential hire has with an organization.

To celebrate a new year and changes in the marketplace, we’re going to continue our onboarding series, focusing on the critical first four months of a new hire in an organization and how to actively strategize the Four C’s: Compliance, Clarification, Connection and Culture.

According to SHRM Foundation’s research, employees have a window of 90 days to prove themselves in an organization. These 90 days are, in so many words, boot camp for new hires. Within this timeframe, new employees have to understand their job position and expectations, create vital professional relationships within the workplace to get their jobs done, all the while embracing the organization’s culture.

Onboarding shouldn’t be passive – a checklist of things a company does to get the new hire going. It’s more than just filling out forms and showing the new hire her work space. Unfortunately, approximately 30% of organizations practice passive onboarding. Though functional, it’s not effective. In fact, an effective socialization strategy for an organization requires an organization to have a systematic approach in place, creating a proactive onboarding system that is deliberate, well-planned, and doesn’t leave things to chance. The more proactive management and other employees are in helping a new hire, the quicker the new hire will adapt and start to produce. Employee turnover costs the workforce millions of dollars a year. Investing time in new hires from the get-go will, effectively, help an organization’s bottom line.

So what should these first 90 days look like? Every organization is different; however, there are tried and true practices that successful companies – big, medium, and small – have incorporated that work. Here are some employee engagement programs that have Velcro-value – our term for getting employees to feel like they’re an integral part of an organization, in turn creating a culture of engagement from the get-go:

  1. Provide early career support: This employee engagement program begins pre-hiring, during interview processes and from the time the job offer is made. Employees need to feel there is room for goal setting, learn how to create SMART goals, and review those SMART goals. (SMART: Specific & Simple, Manageable & Measureable, Attainable & Achievable, Relevant & Risk-Oriented, Time-Based) Click here for more details on SMART goal setting. Self-efficacy is a key factor in employee engagement. Begin before your employee arrives, having her set goals and adjust according to performance.
  2. Assign a Mentor/Coach: Make it clear that the employee has someone in the company who she can go to in case she needs to ask for clarification about work, look for resources, get advice, support, or even something as simple as where’s the best place to get good coffee in the neighborhood. This is the new employee’s gateway to the organization’s culture and connections.
  3. Communicate the Organization’s Goals and ... how the new hire will help the organization meet these needs. What is the new hire’s place in the organization? New hires need to be on board, right away, knowing an organization’s expectations and where it hopes to go, grow, and the direction it’s moving and how they’re helping it get there. Well-planned programs to direct new hires and get them involved in this growth will help new hires click in and produce, feeling part of an organization’s success. (As they should!) Role clarity (or, the opposite, role ambiguity), is a critical factor to measure how adjusted a new employee is. Remember, overnight success takes years of work!
  4. Encourage, inspire, and praise: Communicate with new hires – everyone from the mentor and coach to management should be involved, in some way, in a new employee’s progress and on-going assessment. Appreciate their talents and hard work while helping them grow with feedback and critical information they need to adjust and perform better. Assessment is an ongoing, daily process. Don’t wait until the 90 day mark to let a new hire know she’s appreciated.

Creating effective onboarding employee engagement programs increases your company’s Velcro-value, decreasing turnover, effecting your bottom line, and paving the road to success. Indeed, everybody wants to be that organization the best talents are scrambling to join, as the most valuable asset any organization has are its people. More on onboarding and organizational socialization in the New Year.

Happy 2015 and here’s to onboarding success!

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