by B. Leach | Jan. 18, 2017 | 7 Min Read

Employee Onboarding Best Practices to Reach Your A-Game Faster

You invest time and money recruiting for an open position in your organization. At last: the new hire’s first day. Even if they walk through your doors with industry experience, they are essentially a newbie. How do you ramp them up to speed so they reach their A-game faster?

Following these employee onboarding best practices is a great place to start!

Whether your newbie makes $15/hour or $150,000/year, every employee deserves a thorough, informative, and fun onboarding experience. It reflects well on your company and pays off in the long run.

Don’t Confuse Onboarding with Orientation

Yes, they both start with an O and are crucial to new hires, but they’re different.

Orientation is more of a checklist, a company-centric event. Similar for employees in all levels of the organization. Compliance, benefits, emergency contacts. Email, computers, calendars. Orientation is a nuts and bolts activity that ends when all boxes have been ticked.

But post-orientation, let’s say Day 4, is your new hire a fully functional member of the team?

You wish.

That’s where onboarding comes in. Onboarding is a process that (ideally) creates a confident, engaged, and valuable contributor. It’s job-specific, and represents an employee’s path to productivity.

It often lasts longer than we think: from Day 1 until the newbie is a productive, contributing member of the team. That can be 30, 60, 90 days – or up to two years! ‒ depending on job complexity. This period is crucial for new hires. It’s an opportunity for your organization to connect in a meaningful way to help the employee gain confidence in their role, become engaged with the company, and maximize productivity.

So, what are some employee onboarding best practices to help you achieve these objectives? We have some knowledge to share.

Create an Inventory of Knowledge, Skills, and Behaviors

Onboarding should cover the basic knowledge, skills, and behaviors (KSB) necessary for an employee’s specific responsibilities. A best practice is to create an inventory and strategic assessment of the KSB needed for the job – to define the fastest path to productivity.

Much of the early job knowledge training can be experiential, self-paced learning. New employees need info, but can discover it themselves through interactive teaching tools, rather than having someone “teach” them. Unfortunately, thick binders and PowerPoint presentations are the norm in most companies.

But do you really want to be most companies? We didn’t think so. Create high-quality training that engages learners, helps knowledge stick, and streamlines the path to productivity.

Mix it Up with Blended Learning

After identifying training topics that support the required knowledge, skills, and behaviors your new hires need, consider offering engaging content in multiple modalities, to reflect the three types of learning: visual, kinesthetic and auditory.

The trick is to select the learning modality that best aligns with each of the job’s KSB topics.

We all have different learning styles. Blended learning works so well because it touches on each different style, for more comprehensive training. A mash-up of learning modes such as e-learning, instructor-led, interactive workbooks, videos and animations, keeps learners engaged and helps information stick.

Blended learning becomes a new hire training best practice when it combines both the personal engagement of face-to-face training with self-guided learning. Incorporating various styles helps learners consume, retain and apply the knowledge to their jobs.

Increase Speed to Competence

Onboarding is about how efficiently a new hire becomes productive. The longer it takes, the more it costs the organization in lost time and revenue. The goal is to help them hit the break-even point – fast.

We recommend giving new employees enough information to get started in their role as quickly as possible, so they can put what they’ve learned in motion. There’s value in testing new knowledge situationally in their daily work.

But it’s a fine line: don’t let newbies loose before they are competent, or you risk damaging both the organization and their confidence.

New hire onboarding best practices also include on-the-job training and job shadowing, which can hasten productivity.

Make it Social

The best onboarding programs incorporate a high-touch from leadership, which instills in the new employee the importance of their role as viewed from the top. Don’t just leave it to HR: the department manager and team should participate.

According to The Definitive Guide to Onboarding, “56 percent of new employees thought assigning ‘an employee “buddy” or mentor’ was one of the most important things a new employee needs to get up to speed and begin contributing quickly.”

It’s comforting to have a resource who can answer questions along the path to competency.

ATD’s TD magazine describes how employees at Buffer, a social media management tool, get three buddies during their 45-day Buffer Bootcamp: a leader buddy, a role buddy and a culture buddy. We give this well-rounded approach a fist bump.

Meet and greets are another smart way for new hires to expand knowledge while building relationships horizontally and vertically across the organization.

Don’t Ignore Culture

Don’t underestimate the important role company culture plays in onboarding. Not all cultural norms are written; some must be experienced first-hand. There’s a lot more involved than just logging in and working. Are there Friday team lunches? When and where is cell phone use appropriate? What’s the deal with the break room fridge?

Cultural information isn’t always in the training manual, but is crucial to a new hire’s organizational engagement. Sharing beliefs and rituals helps newbies adapt faster.

According to Forbes, “a company’s culture is its only sustainable competitive advantage and should therefore be the centerpiece of its onboarding program.” Because, the most talented people want to work for the most desirable companies. And those talented people will drive your ongoing success.

Follow-up. Reinforce. Validate.

A BambooHR poll respondent suggested a “30-day review . . . [because] when new, you may miss important facts that make sense more once you are acclimated to a new position.”

We couldn’t agree more. Whether Day 30, 60 or 90, when your new hire starts performing their daily tasks, onboarding still isn’t complete. Continued monitoring ensures that behaviors are on-message with company expectations.

In this phase, incorporate a validation component of the training completed so far. Whether a ride-along or deep dive session with a direct manager, assess the new hire’s KSB as reflected in daily job activities. This presents an opportunity for either validation of current KSB level or follow-up with additional training as a course correction, if necessary.

One final action: when your newbie is meeting job quotas, socially engaged with the company, and officially “one of us,” it’s time to get their feedback. Ask for input about their onboarding experience. Where did you nail it? Where could you do better? Their qualitative, first-hand reviews are invaluable.

When onboarding is successful, new hires feel valued, appreciated and warmly welcomed. They know the inside jokes, what’s ok to say, and who it’s ok to say it to. They’re officially on board!

Seek Experienced Guidance

Feeling lost? Think of us as your onboarding best practices GPS: we can guide you. To get started, check out our free Essential Employee Onboarding Checklist.

Aligning KSB with various modalities of learning is our specialty. And we’ve made a splash exploring key training concepts like live action video vs. animation, microlearning and the role humor plays in learning.

We can help you craft a custom onboarding training program to skyrocket your organization’s onboarding quality and efficiency. Our custom training solutions empower newbies to experience your company culture while learning best job practices in an engaging, informative and relevant way. What’s not to love?

What are your company’s onboarding best practices? Share your feedback in the comments below or on Twitter @unboxedtech.

Ready to revolutionize your organization’s onboarding? We’ll make it happen. Let’s chat! (888) 723-9770

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