Moving from Onboarding to “Warm Welcomes”

I’ve been doing some research, and the gap regarding the importance of new hire onboarding and how the actual experience is handled is interesting.

The Onboarding Gap

Workplace success starts with the employee’s first experience with the business, meaning how the onboarding process is handled. For new employees, the onboarding experience is not just about learning to work within the organization’s parameters. It’s also about learning how to adapt to and thrive in their new environment.

That said, collectively, businesses feel providing a solid onboarding experience is critical to setting the stage for employee success. Yet, according to a Talmundo Onboarding Expectations Report, 34% of new employees have not experienced a solid warm welcome at their organizations. 

What’s up with that?

A proper onboarding program introduces people to the company, teammates, and their new roles. It helps new team members get familiar with the tasks, processes, goals, and organizational procedures.

However, when you put it that way, it all sounds very… well, dull and officious. It’s not the warm welcome new employees are looking for. Let’s face it, not all employers put a lot of time and effort into making employee onboarding a positive or even memorable experience. In fact, in many organizations, new hire onboarding is less about a “warm welcome” and more about ticking the compliance box. Perhaps it’s time to consider a new normal?

Creating Onboarding Zombies

Does this onboarding process sound familiar? HR brings in a new employee and presents the “New Hire Show”. This show usually involves hours of tedious compliance e-learning, stacks of paperwork, and a dull-as-rocks HR-focused PowerPoint. And while all this is important and even necessary, it’s not exactly heart-racing material. It’s more “creating sleeping zombie material.”

In fact, your onboarding program should not only set up the hire for success, but build momentum and excitement for the next steps. It should set the stage for acknowledging the new hire made a fantastic employment decision, not make them question it.

Food for thought:

  1. 58% of companies say their onboarding program primarily consists of paperwork and processes.
  2. A Gallup report states that 88% of HR professionals believe they do a good job of onboarding new hires – yet only 12% of new hires would agree.
  3. The Wynhurst Group found that effectively onboarded new hires were 58% more likely to still be with their employer after three years.

The Disconnect

If 88% of HR professionals believe they do a good job of onboarding new hires and only 12% of new hires would agree. There’s a solid disconnect.

Could the disconnect be a lack of aligning what a new employee wants and expects from their onboarding versus what the business THINKS new employees want?

Further, a whitepaper written by Enboarder found that 12% of employees strongly agree that their organization has good onboarding processes. Only 12%! This data is even more astonishing when considering that good onboarding can improve employee retention by around 82% and overall productivity by around 70%. It’s tough to deny these numbers.

Onboarding by the (Scary) Numbers

Here’s some more information about onboarding that will be of interest:

  1. OC Tanner reports that 20% of turnover happens in the first 45 days without a strong onboarding program.
  2. 40% of employees did not receive the minimum information needed before the first day.
  3. 43% of new hires stated that it took longer than one week to get a basic workstation and tools to do the job.
  4. 55% stated that they didn’t have a clear understanding of the application of the company’s mission and values statement until after three months.
  5. 40% of new hires are left alone on their first day.
  6. 42% state they were not supported during the first week.
  7. 46% reported that support dropped off during the first three months.
  8. The Brandon Hall Group wrote an entire report on the cost of a bad hire. (You best sit down first for this.)

With all this in mind, why are we not adjusting our onboarding plans? And why do we continue to be shocked and amazed when people turn into new hire zombies?

Building the onboarding “Warm Welcome”

Let’s take a critical eye to a process that is supposed to help new employees be the best they can be and reconfigure it to be an employee highlight rather than a burden.

Start before day one:

  • PLAN to get their stuff ready! For the love of all that is good – not having email, computers, phones, office, tools or other necessities is a sign of disrespect. Having their stuff ready is the least you can do. This takes planning!
  • Set leadership expectations. Do managers know what they are supposed to do? Do they have checklists to follow and milestones to meet? “Managers know what they’re supposed to do” is not a sound strategy.
  • Give everyone have a role in the process. If you are hiring a sales person, everyone in the sales team should have a role in the “warm welcome”. Who is responsible for the initial reach out, or having lunch with them on the first day? Do they know their contact person during the first week? Who is the designated buddy?
  • Notify the team: Prepared to welcome the new employee by sending out an e-mail to everyone in the office.
  • Send SWAG! Everyone loves SWAG (stuff we all get). BEFORE the employee’s first day; send a packet or box of welcome gifts via snail mail. Water bottle, notebook, pen, tote bag, gift card for a favorite lunch place, company shirt etc.
  • Set up a Green Room: Have a place new hires can “hang out” before day one. This might be a Slack workspace, private LinkedIn group, or password-protected website for new hires to chat with other newbies, experience company culture stories, or nail the small details like where to park.

On and After Day One (Day 1 – 14)

  • Sweat the small stuff! The small, logistical details help a new person get a sense of comfort and familiarity in the workplace. Where is the bathroom, break room etiquette, and the best place for lunch? But don’t drown them in information. Sprinkle the small things through the first two weeks or create a handy one-pager of FAQ’s.
  • Reinforce values, attitudes, and behaviors that define the company. This is beyond sharing a PowerPoint slide with the mission, vision, and values. This is telling the culture story.
  • Share company stories. Do this via videos in the green room or set directly to their phone. This could be in-person small group activities that feature company champions.
  • Make it social. Share affinity groups or any social calendars. Put new hires in touch with group leaders or have group leaders host a lunch. Give them access to group chats or chat rooms.
  • New hire lunches. No one should eat lunch alone during the first week or longer. Build a culture of inclusiveness.
  • Bring alive the career journey. Create a video to help the new hire see their potential future. Even if it’s not within the department they were hired for.
  • Don’t make it a full 8 hours. There is a lot of cognitive overload potential. A new person has to watch, learn, listen and absorb. Letting them leave early helps their brain to breathe. Build in reflection time before they go home.

Ongoing (30-60-90 days)

  • Rotate buddies. Be sure the new hire has a buddy during the first 30 – 60 days. This helps them to know the different job roles of the business and how they fit into the bigger picture.
  • Leadership check-in time. Arrange check-in time or lunch with the new hire during the first month. Don’t let them fall through the cracks. This will also get in front of any issues or questions that may hinder success.
  • Provide learning moments: Create a coaching card (like a learning passport) with questions or assignments to complete during the first 30 – 60 days. Encourage curiosity, continued learning and growth.

Fine Tune “Warm Welcome” Efforts

You will want to build accountability. This would preferably be a line manager or direct supervisor who realizes the cost savings to the business if a new employee quickly gets up to speed and has a positive experience.

You will want to make sure new employees are becoming productive and thriving. If they are not, figure out what is going wrong. The “Warm Welcome” will need to be continually fine-tuned to maximize the process.

Establish a general checklist for the managers and the new hire to cover the onboarding expectations, making sure you leave room for personal touches. Your employees will get orientated whether you plan for it or not. Are you setting them up for success? If not, you’re creating a breeding ground for apathy and poor productivity, and therefore setting the business up for failure.  

Armed with the above data and action items, you’re bound to create an engaged and thriving workplace. And who doesn’t want that?

Shannon Tipton

Shannon Tipton

As Owner of Learning Rebels, Shannon Tipton is a skilled learning strategist, content developer and International speaker. Shannon has over 20 years of leadership experience developing successful learning strategies and infrastructures for training departments within organizations in North America, Europe and Korea.

Shannon works with people and organizations to develop learning solutions that brings actual business results. Recognized as bringing real-world expertise into the learning field, Shannon integrates technologies and social learning tools to strengthen workplace alignment, enhance collaboration and increase learning connectivity.

As author of “Disruptive Learning” Shannon frequently speaking at conferences across North America and Europe and ranks as one of the top 100 L&D influencers on Twitter (@stipton).

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