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Corporate Onboarding

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This paper is a result of a course in Organizational Leadership and answers the question, "What makes an effective onboarding program for employees, executive managers and CEOs?". It pulls together …

This paper is a result of a course in Organizational Leadership and answers the question, "What makes an effective onboarding program for employees, executive managers and CEOs?". It pulls together best practices from a number of resources, and provides insight into elements that will improve employee retention and productivity by fostering a rapid acclimation into the corporate culture.

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  • 1. Running Head: BEST PRACTICES IN ONBOARDING Best Practices in Onboarding Lisa Parrott Argosy University/Seattle Campus March, 2013
  • 2. Running Head: BEST PRACTICES IN ONBOARDING First impressions go a long way to making an impact, and joining a new companyis no different. Building an effective onboarding program is a challenge thatorganizations often take for granted. Most individuals have probably experienced the painand boredom of spending hours filling out paperwork on their first day or two of joining anew company. Often this monotonous work is essential, but lacking in providing awelcoming environment for the new employee. This task may be augmented by an onlinewebsite, a meeting with their boss and possibly a few hours of group training, which stillleaves the individual wanting. A large number of organizations regard the first few daysfor a new hire as essential for meeting legal and policy requirements, rather than takingthe opportunity to connect and build a lasting relationship to foster employee retentionand loyalty. Research suggests thatpoor onboarding experiences can lead to 4% of new hiresfailing to return the next day and dissatisfaction in nearly one third of executives.“Thething retailers need to remember is first impressions are lasting and the fastest, leastexpensive way to reduce costly employee turnover is to make more favorable firstimpression than missteps during onboarding” (Lofstock, 2008, p. 51). Van Dam (2007)argues that employee turnover can cost companies 30 to 50 percent of their first year pay,with estimates reaching up to 100%. An article in Training Magazine, titled „DO NOTRUN‟ (2008) finds that 71% of their best in class companies provide an onboarding strategyto retain new employees, with 100% of their companies seeing improved retention over theprevious year. “Onboarding is simply the process of helping a new employee become asuccessful part of an organization” (Allen, 2012, p. 83).
  • 3. Running Head: BEST PRACTICES IN ONBOARDING DO NOT RUN (2008) also found that 86% of new hires decide to stay with acompany within the first six months of employment. This suggests the need to provide awell-rounded onboarding program beyond the paperwork and benefits requirement, and alsolasting well into the first year of employment. In addition, the needs of younger generationsare pushing companies to include online programs that fit the millennial culture. Changes intechnology have allowed companies to become geographically diverse requiring the needfor methods of onboarding that previously were not an option. Because of this, companiescan automate their onboarding process, which provides an additional cost savings of $400 to$800 per new hire by eliminating supplies, man-hours and increasing productivity. Anotheraspect of cost savings includes requiring direct deposit for all employees. Bradt (2010) suggests that onboarding is a form of transformational leadership andemployers should consider it “an act of shared leadership” (p. 5). Taking this approachallows the company to incorporate the values and culture the employee brings to theorganization while sharing theirs with the new hire. The company must also embody thisbelief in their hiring process and provide the time, job expectations and resources necessaryto make employees feel welcomed. It is essential for the hiring manager to recognize theneed for a successful onboarding program, and prioritize the process above daily workrequirements, as it can increase the time a new employee becomes productive by up to fourweeks. For this reason, in order to create an effective onboarding strategy, training for hiringmanagers is the first step before bringing a new hire into the organization. Companies mustshow the dedication they have to making a positive and lasting first impression that reducesthe potential for attrition and creates a supportive environment for all new employees. This
  • 4. Running Head: BEST PRACTICES IN ONBOARDINGtraining should highlight the savings associated with retention and increased productivityfrom employees who acclimate quicker to the culture and job requirements. Hiringmanagers need to know how they play a pivotal part in defining the needs of the employee,their expectations for first year achievements and how they must co-develop the plan for theemployee to reach these goals (Bradt, 2010). Employee dissatisfaction can occur within the first six month (van Dam, 2007),often stemming from performing a role they did not interview for, not being given the toolsto succeed and failing to connect with their hiring manager.The hiring manager isresponsible for a number of steps in the onboarding process, including setting upeverything the new hire needs to start on the first day. This can range from finding aworkspace, computer, phone and chair to also obtaining the login and password. Theywill also need to send out the communication to the organization about the new hirewelcoming them aboard. The hiring manager will become responsible for following upwith the new hire at routine intervals to obtain feedback on the onboarding process,growth potential and re-evaluate the employee plan to ensure the individual is on track tomeet their first year goals. After training the hiring manager on their requirements in the onboarding process,the next step involves the recruiting team. During engagements with potential newemployees, they must show their respect for the candidate‟s time and foster theorganization‟s values. This will help reinforce the fit for the individual into the company.For managers, senior executives and Company Executive Officer‟s (CEOs), it is essentialfor the recruiting process to include an opportunity for the individual to engage in aninformation interview with a member of the organization that is not in the hiring process.
  • 5. Running Head: BEST PRACTICES IN ONBOARDINGThis will provide an unbiased opportunity for them to ask difficult questions about theculture of the company within impacting their hiring process. Upon hiring a new employee, the company should begin the formal onboardingprocess by emailing a welcome packet of information. Keep in mind; this packet shouldembody the values and culture of the organization by fostering a sense of inclusion and whatto really expect as a new member of the company. If fun is a value for the organization thenthe onboarding process should highlight this trait (Amazon has a „Peculiar‟ quiz to get newhires thinking about their culture and what it really means). Things to include: a video from the CEO introducing them to the company culture, values and fun tidbits that characterize the organization using real examples a checklist of steps to complete and the expected timeframe for accomplishment the link, login and password to the company internal employee system, where they can fill out necessary paperwork (like I-9) and update their personal information a link to the company onboarding page, with tabs for benefits information, videos on a day in the life of, fun quizzes, knowledge tests (like emotional intelligence), location specific information (like restaurants, schools, real estate agents for those who will be moving), feedback links, visual tours of the organization, employee resource group links, what to expect on day one and week one articles and policies (such as dress code, attendance, how to use sick leave and vacation time, etc.) an acronym list, and new hire group meeting times (this can be done in person or virtually) their employee page, where they can add facts about themselves and upload a picture name and contact information for their hiring manager, mentor and peer buddy who will help them adjust to the organization date and time for orientation and what to expect on their first day as well as who to contact for any questions (a mentor or peer buddy should join them upon arrival to orientation) new employee e-book that can be downloaded to their tablet, phone or other device (Allen, 2012)
  • 6. Running Head: BEST PRACTICES IN ONBOARDING The first day for new employees should be standardized into an orientation that isupbeat, interactive and goes beyond the paperwork requirement. The primary focus shouldbe on company culture, values and goals (Arnold, 2010). If the company is small and only acouple of employees start at the same time, the orientation can be personalized and includean introduction to key personnel on the first day. For larger organizations with multiple newhires, they can hold routine scripted orientation groups. Regardless of size, the orientationshould answer basic questions and provide a chance for employees to ask questions, get afeel for the organization, feel welcomed and provide feedback about their experience. A funway to bring individuals up to speed is to provide a game or quiz with real prices featuringquestions about the culture of the organization. All employees should experience the orientation process, regardless of title withinthe organization. This is a chance for them to bond with others on a personal level, and theorientation process should include icebreakers for individuals to learn a little about eachother. This is also the day when a new hire will be meeting their mentor, peer buddy andhiring manager for lunch or coffee (providing a relaxing social environment). A newemployee will often be overwhelmed at the start, so information should be provided in smalldoses and reinforced on the onboarding website. The onboarding page should provide a listof topics to review online depending on their time with the organization. At the end of theday, the hiring manager will seek feedback from the new hire through the employee page.This will document their impression and provide ideas for improvement going forward. It isessential the hiring manager reviews this feedback and provides a response to the new hirebefore the next feedback session. In doing so this will instill trust and commitment to theemployee‟s opinion and insight.
  • 7. Running Head: BEST PRACTICES IN ONBOARDING The first week at a new company should be accompanied by an onboarding training(Launch) plan, co-created by the hiring manager and new employee. In this Launch Plan,the manager establishes the job description, expectations, first year goals, trainingrequirements, weekly one on one meeting schedule, and list of key stakeholders the new hireshould meet with to discuss specific topics. They will also be expected to meet with theirmentor the first week to set up a similar plan for personal growth and goals. The newemployee will also engage in job shadowing with their peer buddy (either in person or anonline format), knowledge tests, and job specific training. By using the employee page,hiring managers can measure retention, individual training accomplishment andperformance reviews.The end of this week should also be followed up with a request forfeedback through the employee page. Again, the hiring manager will review and respond tothe employees input. At lease once a month, all new employees will attend an onboarding chat session,either virtually or in person (depending on the organization). An HR manager who willencourage them to speak openly about their experience and recommended improvementswill facilitate the meeting. New hires will also begin attending development classes withinthe organization. This will continue throughout their tenure, to keep them in touch with theonboarding process during the first year (Short, 2011), and then beyond as it grows into theemployee development phase. These classes will include topics like team leadership,leadership styles, conflict management, personality styles and emotional intelligence. It is essential to continue engaging with employees on a routine basis their first yearto foster their personal growth and commitment to the organization. Individuals determinewhether or not they will stay within the first six months, and so hiring managers must
  • 8. Running Head: BEST PRACTICES IN ONBOARDINGcontinue to recognize milestones, discuss progress and seek feedback. By the third monththe employee should be encouraged to engage with employee resource groups andorganizations that can help build their sense of community. Every three months the hiringmanager and HR team will send out feedback surveys requesting both quantitative andqualitative data around the onboarding program. Employees struggling to becomeautonomous at the third month may also need to be evaluated in regards to their position fit,and encouraged to relocate if not meshing with the hiring manager or when their skills arebetter suited in another role. This will encourage retention and lower onboarding coststhrough reassignment as opposed to hiring two new employees. Executives and managers should complete these onboarding steps, and also includea few targeting the additional role they fulfill in the organization. Eder Van-Hook (2011)argues that as many as 40% of senior leadership leaves the organization within 18 months.This number is compounded by the cost associated with attrition (30-50% according to vanDam, 2007), and as a result, failing to retain executive talent can begin to add up fast. A keyto managers acclimating to an organization starts with how they approach their role and thesteps they can take to fit in. Listening is a critical factor to joining a new company in themiddle to senior leadership roles, and individuals may require a mentor who can guide themon using “I” less during their first months and asking opening ended questions to engageemployees. Before turning a new manager or executive loose within the organization they firstneed to spend time sharing their leadership philosophy and learning more about that of thecompany. For this reason, after completing the first day orientation, new managers are thenassigned to take part in a leadership-training day, which begins first with an evaluation and
  • 9. Running Head: BEST PRACTICES IN ONBOARDINGdefinition of their leadership philosophy that can be shared with their direct reports. Theywill then engage in classes about leadership styles, approaches, team building and dealingwith conflict. This will allow HR managers to observe the new leader and identify strengthsand areas of improvement that can then be acted upon through mentor meetings. Mentor meetings for new executives provide them a chance to unload the key itemslearned by listening the first month. It will also establish a relationship when one can set aplan to work on self-improvement. At the six-month mark, the manager meets with theirhiring manager and mentor for a 360-degree feedback session, that highlights theaccomplishments, path toward completing first year goals and areas for continuedimprovement. The first week for a new executive will also involve observing a turnover video(when possible) from the prior individual in their role. When this is not a viable option, asenior coach will be assigned to interview peers, managers and key stakeholders to developa guide that will help facilitate their introduction to the new position (Johnson, 2006). Theintent of this turnover process is to understand the department; it‟s progress on key projects,areas of improvement and to establish a sense of continuity for personnel and their futurewithin the company. In many cases employees feel as if they have to restart their progresswith a new manager, or may be upset about being passed over the promotion. This turnoverwill also go hand in hand with meetings for direct reports to „interview‟ the new manager ontheir leadership philosophy, work style and expectations for the department. In the first month the senior leader will also begin assessing the strength of theirteam and direct reports by observing their performance as a cohesive group. The managerwill be examining the ability of the group in start up mode with a new manager, how it
  • 10. Running Head: BEST PRACTICES IN ONBOARDINGbegins to turnaround and performing to expectations, determining if it requires realignment(is there a bad apple bringing the team down?) and finally observing if it can sustain success(Derven, 2008). Senior executives are not the only new hires that can face uncertainty and a feelingof being unwelcome in an organization. For this reason, the board must be involved whenCEOs are onboarding within a company. It is essential for them to provide the personalintroductions to key stakeholders in order to provide legitimacy and also spend time with thenew CEO to familiarize them with the organization and its peculiarities. This can be done inconjunction with an outgoing CEO where permissible. Someone from the board or anotherCEO recommended by the board should be appointed as the mentor for the new CEO tosucceed. A board can also provide significant assistance by hiring an outside consultant tosupport the CEO‟s transition. The board must also foster a learning and developmentenvironment for the CEO, by establishing director level education outside the organizationto help foster new and creative ideas for the company. To ensure the CEO has sufficientsupport from within, they should be tasked to set up a „kitchen cabinet‟ of senior leadership(Eder Van-Hook, 2011) from each division to act as an advocate (Allen, 2012). And finallythe staff must provide an introduction meeting to the organization within the first few weeksto familiarize the CEO with staff biographies, company financials, annual goals andorganizational challenges each department would like to see addressed in the upcomingyear. This can also be a chance for the staff to reinforce their support for each other. TheCEO will also be evaluating their team and direct reports for the same criteria as theexecutive leadership.
  • 11. Running Head: BEST PRACTICES IN ONBOARDING The investment from a well established and thought out onboarding program is notseen up front, but is rather the result of increased employee productivity, high employeesatisfaction and retention. The cost savings can be astronomical as previously mentioned,but the impact employee turnover has on morale is not often quantified. It is also impossibleto measure the effect employee dissatisfaction has on recruiting efforts, as it is difficult toknow who refused to consider a company based on this area alone. Websites like Glassdoorare providing potential employees the chance to evaluate a company online before makingthe decision to apply. By developing a program that meets the needs of all parties concerned and providesnumerous inclusive opportunities for the new hire, any company can ensure they bringemployees up to speed quickly and with regard for development and future growth withinthe organization. Onboarding is required for companies of all sizes and employees at alllevels and locations. Technology can deliver this information through a wide variety ofplatforms, include online websites, in person orientation and Skype chat sessions. Failing tocreate an effective onboarding program that seeks feedback from its users is akin tothrowing away funds in a recruiting, training and attrition cycle. Companies that wish to besuccessful over the long run will implement a formal onboarding program that meets thedemands of their future employees.
  • 12. Running Head: BEST PRACTICES IN ONBOARDING 5 Things all Onboarding Programs must provide for new hires: 1. A guide into the nuances of the organization, its culture and values; an explanation of the hiring managers leadership style and who the key relationships are for the employee to be successful 2. Basic administrative needs – policies, benefits and paperwork 3. A personal connection to the company for the employee (welcome aboard emails, signs, mentors and or peer buddy) 4. Acknowledgement of their worth and value to the company (from the CEO to the hiring manager and recruiter); automated milestone emails to employees and their hiring manager 5. General „how to‟ perform their job and grow within the organization; also how to navigate the decision making process to get things done (is it very autonomous or micromanaged?) 5 Additional Steps for an Executive and Management Onboarding Program: 1. Participate in a leadership training day which includes an evaluation, and classes on understanding leadership styles, approaches, team building and dealing with conflict 2. Spend the first month engaged in active listening and weekly mentor meeting „downloads‟ which also identify areas of strengths and areas of improvement; at month 6 participate with hiring manager and mentor in a 360 degree review (Johnson, 2006) 3. When possible, review the turnover video from the previous individual in the role to cover their take on the department, it‟s progress during their term, areas of improvement and continuity on personnel and their future within the company (in many cases a manager will be working with an employee for promotion and this is lost when a new manager arrives; when this is not possible, a coach is assigned to interviews peers, managers, and key stakeholders to develop a guide for navigating their new position in the first 90 days (Johnson, 2006) 4. Establish meetings with direct reports facilitated by HR managers where the employees „interview‟ the new manager 5. Assess their teams and direct reports - start up mode, turnaround, realignment and sustaining success (Derven, 2008) 5 Additional Steps for a CEO Onboarding Program: 1. Involve the board for personal introductionsto key stakeholders and company peculiarities in order to provide legitimacy (can also be done through a turnover with the old CEO when possible)
  • 13. Running Head: BEST PRACTICES IN ONBOARDING 2. Provide a transition consultant outside the organization who can provide unbiased assistance 3. Establish director education outside the organization that are in line with the values and needs of the company 4. Create a „kitchen cabinet‟ of senior leaders in each division who will provide support in navigating the company landscape (Eder Van-Hook, 2011) and act as an advocate (Allen, 2012) 5. Hold an introduction to the organization meeting with staff biographies, company financials, annual goals and challenges the staff would like to see the CEO address in the upcoming year
  • 14. Running Head: BEST PRACTICES IN ONBOARDING Onboarding Checklist for Hiring Managers_____ Attend onboard training for new hires_____ Follow up with new hire_____ Define job responsibilities, goals and expectations_____ Send out welcome email to employees_____ Set up phone and office space_____ Obtain login and password_____ Seek feedback at end of day one, week one, month one and every three monthsthereafter for onboarding and provide response to employee before next feedbackopportunity on actionable items Onboarding Checklist for All New Hires_____ Send intro email including: a video from the CEO introducing them to the company culture, values and fun tidbits that characterize the organization using real examples a checklist of steps to complete and the expected timeframe for accomplishment the link, login and password to the company internal employee system, where they can fill out necessary paperwork (like I-9) and update their personal information a link to the company onboarding page, with tabs for benefits information, videos on a day in the life of, fun quizzes, knowledge tests (like emotional intelligence), location specific information (like restaurants, schools, real estate agents for those who will be moving), feedback links, visual tours of the organization, employee resource group links, what to expect on day one and week one articles and policies (such as dress code, attendance, how to use sick leave and vacation time, etc.) an acronym list, and new hire group meeting times (this can be done in person or virtually) their employee page, where they can add facts about themselves and upload a picture name and contact information for their hiring manager, mentor and peer buddy who will help them adjust to the organization date and time for orientation and what to expect on their first day as well as who to contact for any questions (a mentor or peer buddy should join them upon arrival to orientation)
  • 15. Running Head: BEST PRACTICES IN ONBOARDING new employee e-book that can be downloaded to their tablet, phone or other device (Allen, 2012)_____ Attend orientation on ___________ Complete feedback at end of first day, first week, first month and every three monthsthereafter_____ Meet with mentor, peer buddy and hiring manager_____ Work with hiring manager on Launch Plan_____ Attend monthly onboarding chat session_____ Attend monthly development class Additional Onboarding Checklist for Executives and Managers_____ Participate in the leadership training day_____ Weekly mentor meetings_____ Six month 360 degree review_____ Review turnover video or guide_____ Meeting with direct reports for interview_____ Assessteam and direct reports Additional Onboarding Checklist for CEOs_____ Meeting with key stakeholders_____ Work with transition consultant on a weekly basis_____ Begin director level education outside the organization_____ Create a „kitchen cabinet‟ of senior leaders in each division_____ Attend big picture organizational meeting from all divisions
  • 16. Running Head: BEST PRACTICES IN ONBOARDING ReferencesAllen, K. (2012). "Only One Chance to Make a Good First Impression." Water Environment Federation Magazine.Vol 24, (1). p. 63-65.Arnold, J. (2010). “Ramping Up Onboarding” HR Magazine. May, p. 75-78.Bradt, G. (2010). “Onboarding: An Act of Transformational Leadership”. People & Strategy. Vol. 33 (2), p. 4-5.Derven, M. (2008). “Management Onboarding”.American Society for Training & Development. April, p. 48-52."DO NOT RUN In on Onboarding." Trainingmag.com. May 2008.Eder-Van Hook, J. (2011). “Welcome Aboard”. Associations Now. April, p. 30 - 35.Johnson, L. (2006). “Rapid Onboarding at Capital One.” Harvard Business Review. September, p. 3-4.Lofstock, J. (2008). “Onboarding – the Key to Valued Employee Retention”. Convenience Store Decisions. October, p. 48-51Savitt, M. (2011). "Effective Onboarding Leads to an Engaged Workforce". Trainingmag.com. July.Short, D. (2011).“Employee Onboarding”.Training.Vol 48 (4), p. 38-39.van Dam, N. (2007). “The Business Results of Strategic Onboarding”.Chief Learning Oficer. June, p. 18.