Charles Aris marketing associate Sydney Olszewski sat down with vice president Sarah Becker to discuss best practices and the most effective ways in which to welcome your organization's new team members.
Sydney: You've hired top talent for mission-critical roles in your organization. What should you and your team do to properly prepare for their arrival?
Sarah: As the hiring authority preparing for newcomers, it’s important that you think about how you announce their arrival to the existing team and plan for their introduction to the organization once they start. You want to ensure that these new team members feel welcome. During the period of offer acceptance and decisions on start dates, give them opportunities to review materials about your organization as well as nonconfidential projects which enable them to begin leaning into your organization. Provide your new hires with a what-to-expect memo for day one which covers such basics as attire, where to park, who is going to greet them and what to expect out of the gates. This will help them better prepare for their first day, when you’ll want to ensure they’re greeted at the door and that they know beforehand who will be greeting them.
The person who greets your new arrivals should escort them to their desks and provide a few minutes to get settled. Make sure their desks or office spaces are clean, organized and have the necessary materials needed to start their day. Branded organization welcome gifts are a nice additional touch! Make sure you have an agenda set up that allows them time to meet the team and offers some element of social connection with key members of the team. Lunch with peers is a great place to start. Give them that agenda, which should show a combination of training, interactions with peers and social touch points to help them get a feel for the culture, and consider an end-of-day debrief each day to allow them time to ask any questions they may have or share general thoughts. One thing great organizations do is establish a mentor program, whether formal or informal. Mentors will be their go-to people for questions and serve as a guide for how to build their brand within your organization.
What are some common mistakes or misconceptions in the onboarding process? Any specific scenarios for hiring authorities and their welcome teams to avoid?
Don’t assume that because you’ve hired experts that they’re going to know where to go or what to do on day one. Newcomers will need, at a minimum, introductions to their key partners and systems. Make sure they know where to turn with critical questions. These are all key elements of ensuring that they begin to feel self-sufficient and independent as soon as reasonably possible. If you assume they already know or will quickly figure out these things on their own, you run the risk of making them feel like they’re on an island.
Your new hires just completed their first day. Now what? How long does the onboarding period last?
Depending on the seniority levels of newcomers’ roles, the onboarding process typically lasts through the first 30 days. During the first 30 days, they should be doing such things as: learning existing processes and getting to know current team members; assessing their team and the needs of that team; and beginning to think strategically about how they want to implement their role in the organization after the onboarding period. Setting those touch points, whether daily or weekly one-on-ones – depending on the needs of the team – is important. It’s also wise to set 30-day and 90-day check-ins. At 30 days, touch base and ask: “What have you learned?” and “What are your observations?” and “How can we better help you?” At 90 days, now that they’ve had time to settle into their roles and help create strategy and vision for your team, it becomes imperative to establish how to implement those elements if you haven’t already. It’s good to lay out some of these thoughts ahead of time so that they understand when these healthy exchanges will be and can begin to prepare the information needed for them.
How can organizations and newcomers keep the onboarding momentum going? What are some best practices to ensure an effective progression from onboarding to continuous learning and development?
Looking at overall career and succession planning can be a good way to establish appropriate learning and development touch points for new team members. Bringing an independent contributor into your organization and providing leadership training, presentation opportunities and leadership exposure, for example, can help that emerging leader step into a supervisory role sooner rather than later. At a more experienced level, an individual who is already a team contributor can take time to evaluate her role on the team and succession planning within it – which helps her realize that you’re investing in her as much as she’s investing in you and your organization. Be sure to provide ongoing learning opportunities in specific functional areas … LEAN or continuous improvement training for someone in operations, for example. Invest in them and they will invest in you!
What should hiring authorities and their welcome teams ask for and expect from newcomers in preparation for day one, during orientation and training, and after onboarding is completed?
A good best practice when putting together an orientation and training schedule for new team members is to create opportunities for continuous feedback during the process. Let them know what’s expected while acknowledging that everyone learns differently. Explain that you’ll provide check-ins to make sure they get what they needed and you and the organization do as well.
Ask new hires to come well prepared with whatever tools and paperwork are necessary on day one. Let them know you’re going to ask for feedback and set up time to do so. If your environment is one of, “We hire people and let them run”, make sure the candidate knows so that expectations are managed and ultimately aligned.
Giving them smaller projects they can work on before day one can be beneficial so long as confidentiality is not a concern. It’s less about handling a full project and more about providing them with organizational context and details which will help onboarding go smoothly soon afterward. If they’re transitioning from one role in another organization to this new one in yours, they probably don’t have much time to sit down and complete large asks anyway. It could instead simply be information you go over on their first day. Doing this can help keep them excited and interested in what’s going on between offer acceptance and their first day on the job.
What else would you like to share with professionals who are well versed in welcoming and supporting newcomers as they become fully functioning colleagues?
How an individual is brought into an organization on day one sets the stage for how they integrate into the organization going forward. Taking the time to properly plan and provide the right environment within your organization and your team is an investment that will pay for itself as new members join your team in the future.