The days and weeks after employees start at your company represent a time of unique opportunity. Can you teach them new systems and skills? Of course you can. But have you also stopped to consider all the other important goals you can reach during the onboarding period? To name just a few, you can:
• Grow and encourage adoption of your culture
• Get new hires to understand, promote, and believe in your brand
• Sow the seeds for outstanding customer service
• Cultivate the kind of spirit and energy that customers will value and love
• Hear creative ideas from new employees who have a fresh perspective
• Build retention by proving that your company is a great place to work
• Set up communication channels with new hires that will improve operations throughout your company
Those are only a few of the opportunities you have during employees’ first weeks at your company. But how can you take advantage of them? Here are eight approaches that work:
1. Start by Having a Well-Defined Onboarding System
Many companies just wing it, with negative results. Still other companies see onboarding as little more than filling out forms, showing new employees to their job positions, and explaining lunch breaks. Because new hires start their jobs without a deeper understanding of what is expected of them, they make mistakes that quickly become costly habits that must be corrected later on.
Many problems can be avoided if you set up a structured onboarding system that functions as high-level training. On their start days, new hires can meet individually with HR representatives to fill out forms, for example, and then meet as a group to watch videos and learn about your company, its brand and its values. After lunch, they can be trained in the basic skills their jobs demand. Watching training videos, engaging in work simulations, and working alongside current employees can work well to reach those goals. And after day one, they should attend regular follow-ups to address problems and reinforce basic concepts and skills.
The operative strategy is to clearly define ahead of time exactly the skills and behaviors you need, and to create a concise mini-curriculum that tracks to them.
2. Set Up Genuine Mentoring Relationships between New Hires and Successful Current Employees
Remember, mentors’ goals should not be to get new hires to imitate what they do, or even to adhere to company systems. Their purpose is to discover what new employees would like to accomplish at your company, and to help them reach those goals. In short, mentoring is not about the mentors or strictly about your company, but about the employees who are being coached.
3. Find Ways to De-layer and Free Up Communications
Invite new employees to brainstorming sessions where their new ideas are collected, posted, discussed, and put into action when appropriate. Also consider setting up de-layered systems — like virtual suggestion boxes — where employees at all levels can present suggestions directly to top company executives. If employees can only submit ideas to their immediate managers, you have created a communication structure that carries a risk of demotivating front-line and entry-level personnel; just one supervisor who stifles new ideas can do great damage to your company.
4. Don’t Do Training on the Cheap
One thing is for certain: if you are only handing out employee handbooks and having new employees fill out withholding forms, you are missing out on some great opportunities. If you can train every new greeter to sell just 10 percent more on every purchase, for example, it could result in thousands of dollars’ worth of new business, maybe even more. Or if you can set up mobile training that sends out pings to remind employees to use specific skills they learned in training, you could increase your training ROI dramatically. The lesson? Spending a little more to deliver great training is a moneymaker, not a cost.
5. Within Your Budget, Customize Training for Each Employee
Even “standardized” training can be enriched by creating individualized training elements for each new employee. You can evaluate the skills of your new hires during training and address them directly, for example, or help employees overcome anxiety about performing certain parts of their new jobs. Investing just a little time to give training extra value can go a long way toward getting new employees up to speed faster.
6. Stress and Reinforce Your Mission Statement, Vision Statement, and Strategic Company Plan
The onboarding period is a highly effective time to share the big picture about your company and to get employees to buy into your most important goals and priorities. Instead of waiting for employees to discover these critical priorities, start talking about them soon after new hires come on board.
7. Consider Creating a Career Plan for all New Employees
You won’t want to do this for seasonal or short-term employees. But for employees whom you would like to stay with you for the long term, consider sitting down with each of them to create individual career-development plans that spell out what they need to do to be promoted within your organization. You could say, for example, that prep and finishing workers can apply for shift supervisor training after six months of employment, or that your company will provide technical training to help them move into their desired career path at your company.
Millennials, especially, are more likely to stay with your company for the long term if they know the ropes and understand what it takes to build a long-term relationship with your organization.
8. Evaluate Whether You Are Acting like a Great Employer
This is something you should always do, not only when you are training a new class of employees. So take the time now to benchmark your company climate, benefits, quality of work/life balance, and other factors against other companies. Unless you have the best of everything, you cannot expect your employees to commit their hearts and minds to working with you for the long term.
You see, retention starts with you, not with your employees. Unless you commit your efforts to becoming an “employer of choice” — a company that people talk about and would love to work for — you are damaging your operations, profits, and, ultimately, your success.
Cordell Riley is a sought-after keynote speaker, and the owner and president of Tortal Training, a leading training development company he founded in Charlotte, NC. Tortal uses strategic engagement methodologies and specializes in developing mobile training platforms for organizations with distributed workforces. A recognized training expert with extensive experience in the service, automotive, and franchising sectors, Cordell has spent more than 20 years helping thousands of companies achieve outstanding success through training. For more information about Cordell Riley, please visit www.Tortal.net.