Create an onboarding program that’s both meaningful and memorable
Congratulations; you’ve just hired a terrific new employee. But unfortunately there’s a good chance that your new employee might not work out; in fact, according to a study by the training company Leadership IQ, 46% of newly-hired employees will fail within 18 months and only 19% achieve unequivocal success.
What can you do to increase your odds? Build an effective orientation process and program. Traditionally, HR managers focus on the orientation session, the formal event that employees attend (either in person or virtually) to learn about the company.
But, while that program is vitally important, it’s not enough to ensure that new employees are set up for success. For that, you need to develop a more holistic orientation process that is well understood by managers and employees. (Some companies call this process “onboarding,” as in “getting the new hire on board.”)
This process is critical because orientation isn’t a one-day experience; it occurs over time, beginning when a person is hired and ending when the person is completely performing the job he or she was hired to do:
For some positions, the process of orientation may be take less than a day because the new hire can begin to perform his or her job duties successfully right from the start.
For more senior-level employees with specific expertise or experience, the process can take much longer and will take a bit more effort (more than worth the effort).
I’ve spent a lot of time listening to employees over the years–both those who just started at their companies, and those who have been around a while. So I know that new employees want answers to a universal set of questions. If you keep these questions in mind when designing your orientation process, you’ll give employees the answers they seek:
One way to answer these essential questions is to create segments in your orientation meetings that allow employees to experience the topics. That means busting open the traditional boring agenda. If new employees have to sit still in their seats all day, listening to people lecture and watching PowerPoint, they’re not going to be jazzed up about your organization. You’ve made a big investment in hiring these new employees and bringing them together. An orientation session shouldn’t be a passive activity; it should be a motivating, participative experience.
Begin with the premise that you are there to engage employees in learning about a few key topics, not to cram information into their heads the way you stuff a Thanksgiving turkey.
You can’t eliminate presentations; after all, they are a proven way to share information. But you can make the orientation program more interactive by designing sessions that involve participants and let them explore as well as listen. For example, here are three exercises designed to provide employees with essential information:
Q: What business is our company in and how do we stack up against the competition?
Do this to answer the question: Create a game with “valuable prizes” (such a company logo apparel or gift cards to local lunch joints). Two formats that work well: Jeopardy or a cyber scavenger hunt, where you pit teams against each other as they search for information on the intranet and Internet.
Q: Where is our company headed? What’s our current business structure and who are the people on our management team?
Do this to answer the question: Invite a senior manager to be a guest. Ask the manager not only to do a standard presentation, but also to share personal stories about “My first day at the company” and “5 lessons I’ve learned about succeeding here.” Challenge new employees to come up with the toughest question they can think of, and encourage the senior manager to give a prize for the ultimate question.
Q: How can I succeed here?
Do this to answer the question: This is another great opportunity to bring in current employees to share their stories. Schedule a web meeting/conference call with employees across the company, set up like a radio talk show with you as the host. (Make sure employees are prepared by having questions in advance.) Ask, “What are the characteristics that make people successful? What are the challenges you’ve faced and how have you dealt with those challenges?” Be sure to cover the ugly counterpart to this question, “What will get me fired?” so that new hires understand both success and failure at the company in clear, precise terms.
By considering what new employees need to know about your company, its products or services, its history and other essential topics, and creating an interesting way to share that information, you’ll create an engaging onboarding experience.