Two Steps to Effective Employee Onboarding

Nicholas Newton | 10.7 min read

When Joel accepted the position of Night Shift Supervisor of the largest maintenance and repair shop in a major transportation firm in his city, he was extremely excited to get to work and make a difference for the family owned business. After just a few days of unstructured crash coursing in company software and general meet and greets, Joel took the helm in his new office and set to trying to learn the daily ins and outs of his new position. After a long night of taking notes, he was feeling confident and as the early morning hours approached, the phone started to ring. Drivers, contractors, and company owners were calling and stopping into the office to check the status of various repairs that were scheduled through the night. Around 2am, with his office packed with anxious drivers looking to access their routes, the phone rang. Joel hit the speaker phone button and continued conducting business with the drivers in the room. 

The man on the other end of the line was seething with anger: “Where are my trucks?! How could you schedule four trucks from the same fleet for repair?! Why didn’t you assign me spares from the spare fleet?! I am not going to be able to conduct business today!” Flustered, Joel asked for the name of the man on the line so that he could get more information and get back with him. A noticeable, nervous hush fell over the drivers in his office and a pregnant pause on the line was punctuated: “It’s on the side of the building, what is your name?”

Despite feeling like he had failed his company in his first week, the reality is that Joel’s company had failed him. Even though he was motivated and approached his new position with positivity, he was not given the knowledge, information, and most importantly, the support he needed to accurately perform at the level that was going to be expected. Joel’s company had no onboarding process. As a result, the employee suffered, and the business suffered.

Employee Onboarding: What is it?

Modern employee onboarding processes are a sleek, forward-thinking method of giving a new employee the basic information, knowledge, training, and tools they need to become an effective member of your team as quickly as possible while making them feel welcomed, educated, and vital in the process. In a nutshell: making your new hires feel supported and benefitting from their skill sets earlier. Onboarding begins at the application process and tapers off up to an onboarded employee’s introductory period.

Creating an Efficient Employee Onboarding Program:

The steps to creating your new employee onboarding process should begin with a meeting between your decision makers with the following action points toward customizing your program: 

  • Decide on the size and scope of your program based on company or operation size. This will also allow you to decide on the length of the onboarding program and the frequency at which the program restarts. For larger operations, these programs could begin anew every week with a fresh group of new hires.
  • Decide on a delivery system. Some operations may choose to hire an onboarding specialist, but many will use the new hire’s supervisor or mentorship within the current ranks. This person should be personable and friendly as well as knowledgeable.
  • Onboarding is not training but contains training. Decide what training is needed—maybe it’s equipment training, compliance training, handbook review, general employee information, safety department training, or facility tours—and organize this into a program using the best practices covered in the next section.

Best Practices for New Employee Onboarding:

Onboarding begins at application and should taper off up to the end of an employee’s introductory period in three stages. You’re advertising your brand with every new conversation, whether with a potential hire or a current employee.

Stage 1 – Orientation, Training, Onboarding Best Practices

New Hire Orientation: While the processes and scope of your onboarding program will vary by industry and size of the operation, the main goals and best practices remain the same.

Your orientation training should begin immediately. Another best practice here is to integrate all the training and information the new hire will need (Examples: Safety training, software training, work rule review, and general information) and condense it into a program that’s:

Interesting: While it is impossible to make every aspect of onboarding interesting, there should be interesting aspects of the program. Welcome packets can aid with this by offering a letter from the direct supervisor of the employee, preferably with some details and talking points about the supervisor. This packet may contain company apparel, pens, or business cards for the new employee where appropriate, and any new tools or tech the employee will need such as a company phone, laptop, or tablet.

Another tip for keeping an employee’s interest is to pepper company and brand history presentations or company tours throughout onboarding.

Well Organized: Your employee onboarding process flow should be organized so that it builds on itself. Strategically place breaks and find a balance between dry material—such as safety training or general handbook review—and guest speakers or facility tours. Using a learning management system, like Wisetail, is a great way to standardize and streamline your onboarding process.

Informative: A root goal of onboarding is to get the new hire vital information that they will need to be effective immediately. This should include contact lists with names, emails, and phone numbers of people who can help support them during their introductory period. General work rules and policy should be outlined, and safety protocols should be highlighted. General knowledge the employee would be interested in—pay frequency, benefits, time keeping software usage, PTO/Vacation policies—should be reviewed with plenty of time for questions and answers. 

Continue the Relationship: Whoever leads the onboarding process is likely to bond with new hires. Since another root goal of the program is to ensure your employee feels supported, this relationship should continue in a tapered fashion. Your new hire should be given the direct contact information for the onboarding specialist at the end of the program. Face-to-face follow ups are suggested for 30, 45, and 90 days to ensure the new hire is comfortable in their new role and to glean any additional training that may be needed. 

Stage 2 – Precepting and Mentorship – The Taper Down

Engaging the Supervisor: Once your new hire has left the careful structure of the training room, it’s essential to provide a smooth, effective transition into their work environment. The supervisor or manager plays a vital role in taking the hand-off from the onboarding specialist to complete a seamless onboarding experience.

Your supervisor should engage and take over right away as the lead support person for the new hire. This is where the welcome letter in the mentioned in stage two comes full circle. This provides a springboard for the new relationship and ice-breakers. One tip is to have designated times throughout the day where the supervisor checks in with the new hire to clarify any confusion or lack of understanding. Having these check-in points leads your new hire down a path of certainty and allows the supervisor to pick up on any areas of need that the company can strengthen through additional training

Selecting the Correct Mentor: Critical to your employees maintaining the good and straight foundation that you have laid for them so far is selecting the mentors to further support them. Mentors should be approachable, knowledgeable, and mature. Plus, they should also “push the positive messages” about your company and operation.

With a new generation of workers and technological tools that are making business more competitive and fluid, gone are the days that your business can afford to hire an employee, pair that new employee with a more seasoned employee, and allow the general saturation of the job and experience to mold them into what the company needs over a period. In modern business, achieving a high-quality product as fast as possible is required to stay competitive in any respective market.

Similarly, as more companies shift toward employee-centric models and the available talent pool shrinks, modern employee onboarding processes are required to stay competitive in the labor market. Executing the best practices and processes outlined here will result in higher employee morale, better brand recognition and reputation, a more cohesive team, and increased employee retention.

Click here to connect with a specialist and learn more about employee onboarding on the Wisetail LMS platform.

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Nicholas is a writer for Wisetail.