April 23, 2018
Experts Corner

If you don't know how to onboard new employees, you're not alone

Pam Butterfield

For many employers, bringing on new employees is something they haven't had to do for years.

The majority of their workforce was Baby Boomers who came and stayed. But today, those Boomers are leaving and employers are facing the impact of all that institutional knowledge going out the door with them.

Many are worried about how they will bring on new workers to fill all those slots. What I'm worried about is that many of these employers have forgotten — or never really knew — how to onboard new workers so they'll get up to speed and stay.

Today, those processes are critical. This is especially true when you're hiring Millennials who make quick decisions about their workplaces and have no problem leaving if they are unhappy.

If a company doesn't onboard the Boomer's replacement properly, chances are they will leave. And by the time the next employee comes along to fill the spot, the Boomer (and his or her institutional knowledge) is long gone. Without that knowledge, the newest employee has a much higher chance of failing.

Onboarding gets an employee up to speed about how to do their job, how their work contributes to the company goals, how things are done and how things are not done.

Here are three things successful companies do to help new employees get off to a good start and become confident contributors:

Onboard employees: Imagine this. You're standing with one foot on a boat and one foot on a dock. If you don't put both feet on one of the surfaces as the boat pulls away you fall into the water.

The goal of a well-thought-out onboarding process is to get a new employee to move both feet solidly onto the boat (your company). If you have a new employee and they get drenched from falling in the water too many times, chances are they will not be loyal to you. And they won't perform the way you anticipated.

Provide company and job-specific training: Training costs money and takes time. Not training your employees costs even more.

Good people do not want to go to work every day and screw up. And Millennials, who seek engagement and development, will quickly sour on their jobs without new challenges.

What that means is that you must have an established, repeatable in-house training program. This will help your employees develop the skills they need to do the job the way you want it done. It will reduce the likelihood of mistakes and rework, and help new employees learn the procedures that allow them to do it efficiently.

Ongoing feedback: Regular on-the-job "guidance" catches problems before they become huge performance issues. With newer employees, it allows you to provide course-corrections, on-the-job training and feedback.

Millennials expect constant, supportive feedback. You can make fun of that, but it's what they expect. The annual performance review doesn't cut it with this crowd.

The big takeaways

The lessons here are that today's employees aren't yesterday's employees. And they never will be again. They expect more from a job and when they don't get it, they leave. This drives up costs, increases frustration and the ability for a company to move forward.

Take a good look at your recruiting, onboarding, training and employee engagement processes. Start evolving them to meet the needs of the labor force you'll need today and tomorrow. Develop repeatable processes that can be used as these restless employees move on. Stop complaining and start learning from them. They may just have something to teach you.

Pam Butterfield is the founder of Business Success Tools, a small business consulting firm.

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