Onboarding is a hot topic in HR circles, and rightly so. Clearly it's important to bring new employees into the organisation in a way that sets them up for success in their job and has them excited about the company and their long-term future.
There's many articles about how to get it right or how to not mess it up, much of which contains good advice.
But ... the most obvious critical thing to get right in onboarding seems to be missing from this advice ... get your new employees doing productive work of the role as soon as possible!
Most new employees signed up to work for your company because they really want to do the job that they were successful in landing, and can't wait to get started.
However, starting a new job in a new company naturally comes with some nerves and anxiety for many people. This anxiety can be exacerbated when there is a large lag between arriving on day one and actually doing the work of the new job through to feeling fully productive in the role. The longer the lag, the greater the feeling of the proverbial monkey on the back of the new starter.
What causes this lag? Things such as:
- Corporate induction programs that literally go for days and many of which are full of one-way communication (PowerPoint anyone?);
- Setting the new starter up to read your policy manual, procedures, intranet, annual report etc as busy work while waiting to get them started;
- In consulting and client-oriented environments - wanting to ensure that the person is 100% across the company and its offerings before going out on client meetings or delivering client work; and
- Lack of availability of their manager or other key people to get them started on their job.
This amounts to overloading new starters with too much information, much of which won't be retained, or too much idle time in which they may feel unproductive or uncertain.
Of course, we don't want to throw employees right into the deep end in their first few days and have them feel over-whelmed, lost or disengaged already.
But conversely, when finding your feet in a new company one of the fastest ways to feel comfortable and part of the team is to do the productive work of the job amongst your new team mates.
Perhaps we feel that we are protecting or helping the new starter by easing them in to their job, but in many cases the impact of this is the opposite to our intent.
So when planning your new hire's onboarding, build it around getting them started on their job as soon as possible.
Then, when a few weeks in, their friends and family ask how the new job is going - they can honestly tell them how awesome their new company and role is, rather than a stock polite and hopeful response.