Starting a new job may be one of the most stressful events in our lives. While there is much talk about job change frequency in the 21st century, what remains constant from past generations is the concern for how successful we will be in our new jobs.
In a 2016 Human Capital Institute survey, respondents said the most effective onboarding practices for reducing time to proficiency are performance feedback from the employee’s manager (80 percent of respondents), training classes (76 percent), and written performance goals and timelines (61 percent). Less effective are the common peer mentoring, social events and self-paced training.
These results tell us that new employees respond to specific, goal-oriented programs and direct interactions with someone of authority. While busy managers may feel that pairing a new employee with a peer for task-specific orientation is expedient and effective, that mindset leaves out an important part of the experience: feeling valued by company management.
Passing off the responsibility to someone else lets the manager off the hook for leading growth and success. If your company has decided to provide an onboarding program, it needs to be comprehensive and deliberate. L&D may take the lead in developing the program, but mangers must be involved in its implementation.
Be sure the program weaves in and exemplifies your company culture. Express the principles that guide your purpose and actions; make them part and parcel of the messages you present to new employees.
To guide the development of an onboarding program that considers not only the one-time learning of important job tasks but the ongoing development and success of employees, follow PIE:
Preparing is the orientation, learning and training portion of onboarding, including:
- Company orientation and enculturation
- Meeting stakeholders and leaders
- Joining the workgroup
- Job shadowing
- Technical/functional learning and training
For example, when Andy begins his job at S&J Grocery as a customer service clerk, the store owner spends the morning welcoming Andy to the company, showing him around, and introducing him to his co-workers and department managers. He then hands Andy off to the HR manager, who provides Andy with a new employee packet and reviews it with him to be sure he completes the steps and understands the information. Next, Andy meets with the customer service manager for job training. She guides him through a handbook that includes processes, procedures, job aids and frequently asked questions, including as many scenarios as possible.
Make sure all materials are standardized so you can replicate them and use them to measure performance .
Informing is the ongoing sharing with all employees of company information, including:
- Business challenges
- Business and employee successes and celebrations
- Changes to business strategies and products
- Upcoming events and promotions
- The beginning and end of initiatives
- New and departing employees
- Problems that all employees can help to overcome
For example, the owner of S&J Grocery gathers the entire staff to explain that a supplier of fresh vegetables has been hit by floods, severely limiting their supply of top-selling items. He wants all the employees to understand so they can explain to customers why they can’t find those vegetables and when they may expect to see them back on the shelf.
Resentment can build if employees feel there is something happening that they don’t know about. When leaders keep employees in the loop or, better yet, allow employees to engage in the solutions, it leads to our next slice of PIE.
Empowering employees means giving each the permission and means to think creatively and take responsibility for the success of the company and themselves, including:
- Teaching employees the definition of success for each task so they can act with confidence and competence
- Allowing employees to make mistakes and then discussing with them the outcomes and what they will do to avoid those mistakes in the future
- Assigning projects with guardrails for changes in time, budget and business objectives but allowing the employees to create and implement the solution (The manager is the coach, not the decision-maker.)
- Being at the appropriate level of experience, tenure and authority to solve problems or make decisions
At every level of a company, employees want to feel valued, appreciated and engaged in its culture, growth and success. True empowerment is an essential part of an engaged workforce.
Each company’s version of onboarding will be unique, but implementing PIE is a thread that weaves all parts of the employee experience and outcomes together.
The most important element to implementing PIE is adherence to the process and consistency of the message and execution. These behaviors are carried out over time and are not subject to changing managers or business climate. They are what make a business successful over the long term.