Ninety-one percent of first-year employees stay on with an organization, if the onboarding process was successful—and nearly 60% will remain after three years. Those are beautiful stats, especially when you consider the high cost of turnover and the burgeoning talent shortage.
Effective onboarding is one of (if not the) most critical things leaders can do, and yet, so many of them mistakenly leave it up to HR. Even the greatest HR departments in the world can’t offer new hires a dose of what it’s like to work on your team and understand the requirements of the position. That’s your job, and you can’t take it lightly. As the stats above show, it’s the best way to retain top talent. More than that, it’s the best way to ensure that your new hires soak up the right information, understand what it means to be a part of your organization, make a smooth transition, and begin contributing in a meaningful way quickly.
As you plan and execute your onboarding strategy, remember that the most effective programs follow these rules:
- Inculcation, not just instruction. Repetition is the mother of learning. For people to really understand their role, their contribution and the value they can add, it takes time and repetition. It takes time and patience. Initial instruction is critical (and we want those programs to be awesome); they just can’t do it all alone.
- Personalization, not just process. You have no way of knowing what questions new hires will have on Day 1 or Day 3 of orientation because they might not even have those questions yet. It’s better to answer their questions as they come up and provide training as they need it. That means you have to be approachable so that they feel comfortable coming to you, and you have to answer their questions patiently and thoroughly when they do. It will take more of your time initially, but it will pay off big. Not only will you train them well early on, but you will also build a trusting relationship that will last.
- Examples, not just explanations. You know that it is one thing to hear someone talk about something. It is something entirely different to see it in action. Show them how to do the work.
- Expectations, not just exhortations. In order to be as successful as possible, we all need clear expectations and benchmarks for our performance. Those explanations must come directly from you.
- Mindset, not just methods. Attitude, approach and “Here’s how we do things around here” can’t be taught once and left alone. You must consistently set the example, model the right behavior, and address anyone whose behavior doesn’t align with your mindset. Your actions have to match your words. Otherwise, you will send conflicting messages.
- Answers to “why,” not just “how” and “what.” Actually your existing program may lay out the big picture pretty well, and you might be tempted to focus on the tactical requirements of the job. Don’t be tempted. As a leader, you must continue to help people see why their work matters.
While you will need to rely on HR for many things during those first few days, including paperwork and other routine processes, you can’t delegate the hard work. It’s up to you to take the time to work with new hires and help them adjust to your organization, team and their new role.