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May 12, 2020

Your Onboarding Lessons – #MTtalk Roundup

Michele Doucet

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"Set yourself up for success and focus on maintaining that success."

Cat Cora, professional chef and entrepreneur.

It was a sunny fall day as I turned into the parking lot of my new workplace. I was five minutes early for my first meeting with my new boss. We had agreed to meet in the reception area at 9 a.m.. The receptionist greeted me warmly, had me sign in, and asked me to have a seat while she called Roddy to let him know that I had arrived.

Minutes passed. The time was now 9:20 a.m.. After three unsuccessful attempts to reach my boss, the receptionist asked if there was someone else she could call to come escort me into the building.

My First Day

Surely, Roddy hadn't forgotten about our appointment? He's the Vice President of HR, after all. He likely got caught up in traffic, I thought to myself.

After one of my HR colleagues escorted me to my office, I sat down at my desk to wait for Roddy to arrive. On my desk was a branded coffee mug, journal and pen. Very nice. There was also a schedule of appointments for the day and a set of forms to fill out. I scanned my workspace to familiarize myself with the layout. No laptop or monitor.

Roddy arrived soon after I had settled into my office. He introduced me to the HR team, reminded us that we would all be having lunch together, then disappeared down the hall to his office. I spent a few minutes with my team members to get more acquainted, then set about completing the numerous forms.

My first day was a whirlwind of appointments. I was taken to Payroll to submit my forms, escorted to Security to get my new badge, and I met with the benefits consultant.

Lunch with the HR team was relaxed and fun. And topping off the day was a "town hall" meeting, during which a major fundraising campaign was launched. There were cupcakes, coffee and tea for employees, as well as a draw for prizes. While the timing of the town hall on my first day was coincidental, it was a great way to meet people and get a feel for the workplace culture.

All in all not a bad first day. Despite a few early missteps, my onboarding experience was off to a good start.

The Onboarding Process Begins to Unravel

Alas, my high hopes for a well-planned onboarding process quickly began to vanish as the events of week one and the weeks that followed unfolded.

I couldn't get my computer set up until day three. Attaining access to all HR folders on the network took a week. My boss missed our one-on-one where I'd hoped to get clarity on expectations and priorities. And, when we finally did meet, I discovered that Roddy hadn't created a 30-60-90 Day Plan to help to smooth the transition into my new role. He also left it to me to identify and introduce myself to the key players in the organization.

I didn't feel well supported or set up for success. I decided that if I was going to make a go of this role, I needed to find my own way.

Where There's a Need, There's an Opportunity

Unfortunately, I'm not the only one who's had a poor onboarding experience. Many organizations still don't give onboarding the time and attention that it deserves.

So, I used my onboarding experience, and the insights I gained from other employees, to design a new program for my organization. Today, the onboarding experience is clearly mapped, structured, and thoughtfully executed.

The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has presented some new and unique challenges to onboarding new employees – in particular, figuring out how to onboard someone virtually. But, while there are differences in how onboarding is now conducted, the structure of the process remains the same. And it's always driven by the experience that we want to create for our new employees – an experience that welcomes, engages, and sets them up for success.

Onboarding Lessons

During our #MTtalk Twitter chat last Friday, we talked about how to successfully onboard new people into your organization – even when you're not able to welcome them in person. Here are the questions we asked and some of your most insightful responses:

Q1. What's the objective of onboarding? Isn't orientation enough?

@kkopacz1 The objectives of onboarding are to help the new hire feel comfortable in the workplace, earn their commitment to the organization and help them start producing and contributing to the cause.

@SizweMoyo Orientation helps you understand what the company wants from you. Onboarding is between you and the team you're expected to work and deliver great work with. It is absolutely necessary.

Q2. In your opinion, what are some of the most common onboarding mistakes?

@MicheleDD_MT Leaving it up to the employee to find out how the business works. Not setting goals/expectations or setting priorities – if you don't do this, the employee is not set up for success. Could result in false starts, and the employee may fail.

@Ganesh_Sabari Poor first impressions, exaggeration, information overload, too wide a spectrum of achievements, objectives and aspirations, lack of precision.

Q3. Describe your worst experience of onboarding, as a new employee.

@JusChas At one job, the orientation and onboarding was combined. We sat in a room for six hours while the HR Director read us the entire 167+ page management handbook. Without lunch.

@Yolande_MT My supervisor and another colleague had a shouting match on my first day – they sat on my left and my right and the whole fight LITERALLY went over my head… I lasted exactly two weeks. I was too scared to open my mouth.

Q4. How would you onboard your new team member if there were no organization-wide process?

@JKatzaman Learning by doing can be a good orientation with the right – not micromanaging – guidance. If your leader and the rest of the team cares, the feeling and motivation will be mutual.

@J_Stephens_CPA One group in our office made sure all the basic supplies were on the desk after it had been wiped clean. Streamers and welcome sign. Lunch on day one with team and leadership before end of week. Also a guided tour of the office and introduction to each person.

Q5. What might you do if the organization you were joining didn't have an onboarding process?

@Adaolasunmade Create one for myself and run it by the hiring manager.

@hopegovind I will ask them about their onboarding process and also make the management understand [the] importance of having one.

Q6. What makes onboarding great? What needs to happen?

@ThiruHR An inviting culture: Take an honest look at your work environment and consider what you can do to create an inviting culture.

@MarkC_Avgi Good onboarding breaks the pain of policies and procedures, and develops the more personal and interactive relationships that make a business run successfully and profitably by improving the employee experience.

Q7. What have you changed in your onboarding model to accommodate virtual working, and why?

@MicheleDD_MT Orchestrate and sequence welcome packages to be shipped to the employee: welcome letter and swag, laptop and resources, etc. Each shipment has an "Open me first" to map out the schedule of activities for the day/week, instructions, list of contacts, and resources.

@kkopacz1 Understanding what they will need to know about joining the company and how they prefer to consume the information is key. Personalizing the message. Incorporating real-life stories. Leveraging technology, such as emails, webinars, etc.

Q8. What do you find challenging with virtual onboarding?

@Midgie_MT Ensuring people's availability to say hello and meet the new person. Walking around the office to drop in and say [hello] is just a bit more challenging in a virtual context.

@PG_pmp Communication and keeping engaged are challenging with virtual onboarding.

Q9. What do you like about virtual onboarding?

@Yolande_MT A new team member can "find their feet" in the privacy and comfort of their own home. The job is new, but the environment is familiar.

@JKatzaman The best thing about virtual onboarding is the commute.

Q10. How can we all make a difference in a new team member's onboarding process, even if we're not in HR?

@harrisonia To make a difference in a new team member's onboarding process even if we're not in HR, we should: be ourselves, tell the truth, be available, listen, be reliable, and trustworthy.

@ZalkaB Say hello to new faces you see in the office or hallways. That's for starters. Ask if they need anything. Even "Do you know where this is?" goes a long way. It's the same for virtual employees – don't forget them, be proactive.

@CoachHollyW Offer to be a "culture guide." New leaders must demonstrate an understanding of the prevailing organizational culture in order to: gain credibility, make changes to the culture, influence the culture to be more productive. A "culture guide" can help in this aspect.

To read all the tweets, take a look at the Wakelet collection of the chat here.

Coming Up

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many things have changed – and will continue to do so for some time. So we want to know which area of your life will likely change the most in this "new normal."

For all the options, and to cast your vote, click here.


In the meantime, here are some resources relating to the topic of onboarding that we discussed on Friday:

Onboarding with STEPS

Engaging New Recruits

Understanding Workplace Values

Successful Handovers

Successful Inductions

Six Steps for Succeeding Without a Handover

Building an Effective Team

How to Manage a Probationary Period Effectively

Off to the Right Start

What is Employer Branding?

Team Charters

10 Recruitment Mistakes

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