Secrets Revealed: How to Master Onboarding Employees

It’s tough being the “newbie” in the office. Sure, you’re all enthusiastic (maybe a little nervous too) for your first day on the job, yet it's still nerve-racking. You walk in and see everyone around you, flash a smile, make the polite introductions and yet, you still feel a sense of uncertainty.

First of all, this is normal.

I mean you’ve just been thrown into an office space where all your co-workers know their roles, are familiar with their environment, and you have no real certainty about anything other than, “You got the job!”

You stand in a critical position. Things could either go really well, which will indicate to members of the organisation that you are an asset to the team - or you may flounder, which leaves you wanting to hit the ground running. If you land somewhere in between, it’s not looking hopeful for either you or your boss.

This is just an example of why onboarding new employees is essential for success - yours and theirs.

What You Forget and Why You Shouldn’t

The “new kid on the block” feeling quickly disappears into oblivion after a few weeks on the job. You forget how hard the first day - heck the first week - can be.

Once you’re accustomed to the culture, your role, the lingo amongst the team and the day-to-day activities, you don’t even glance back to your former “newbie” self.

Today, companies have forms ready to be filled out; they show you where the bathroom is, where you can make coffee, the lunchroom and then Bham! Consider the onboarding process complete. Big fat mistake.

To successfully onboard new hires, you have to forget all that you know. You have to pretend that today is your first day walking through the office doors. Start by putting yourself in their shoes.

For example, make a list of questions they would be asking themselves:

  • Where do I park?
  • Is parking metered?
  • What’s the nearest train station or bus stop?
  • Is there a carpark? How far is it from the office?
  • Do I have to go through security checks?
  • Do I take the stairs or the elevator?
  • What level is the office?
  • When I arrive, is there a code or a bell I have to press before entering?
  • Who do I ask for when I arrive?
  • What’s the dress code?
  • Are Friday’s casual wear?
  • Do I bring my lunch?
  • Is there a shared fridge?
  • Is there a stove or microwave?
  • Is lunch provided? How do I pay for this?
  • What time is lunch? And how long for?
  • Can I take short breaks outside of lunch?
  • Where can I grab a coffee?
  • Do I bring my own laptop?
  • What documents do I need to bring?
  • Where will I sit? Will someone show me?
  • Will I need a phone? Or will you provide me with one?
  • Do I need to bring office supplies? Where can I get them from?
  • Does someone monitor inventory? Do I tell them what I’m taking? 

These are just a handful of questions we forget to answer when we’re accustomed to our workplace. And to think, this is just the introduction stage - this has nothing to do with their job just yet.

Just reading through these questions can take you back to your first day? It is a little unnerving not knowing all of this. And if you haven’t been onboarded properly, then getting something wrong can lead to feelings of embarrassment and squash any amount of confidence your employee does have on day one.

Making a list of these questions can be the foundation for building a solid onboarding experience for your new hires. It means they don’t have to work everything out alone. Plus, it makes them feel welcomed and part of the team. While this list may be the very basics of your onboarding practice - it sure is a solid beginning.

Make Your Onboarding Experience Unique

Many companies have fun and creative ways they onboard their employees, from company Onboarding Handbooks, which have short stories from recent new hires and protocols around what to do when and where to go for what.

Some businesses have Onboard Kits with water bottles, company t-shirts with their values printed on them, branded pencils, pens, keychains, notepads and coffee mugs. Some workplaces include little quotes or jokes.

Others make the contents of the box more experiential. Some include welcome letters from the CEO, maybe a fun little office map noting where everyone sits, a list of local places to eat and where has the best coffee. It may include the nicknames of office staff and who to go to for what.

You can make your Onboarding Kit as fun, creative - or strictly professional as you want. You have free reign. Just remember, the purpose of Onboarding Handbooks and Kits are to welcome your employee and make them feel comfortable on their first day. It’s to make both parties jobs easier.

Don’t forget!, Communication is the key to any successful relationship.

Guide Them Through the Jungle

Other things to consider include offering your new employee a buddy. Do you have mentors who can help them through the initial onboard experience? And who will also assist them if there’s anything they need help with in regards to their job.

Having a mentor for the first couple of weeks supports your new hire with questions they don’t yet know the answer to - silly or not. Remember, they’re just learning the ropes. Mentors are not there to show your employee how to do their job, rather act as a guide to navigating unfamiliar territory. Your new starter is most likely very competent - or else you wouldn’t have hired them - but they may just be finding their feet. Support them as much as possible. 

If you’re limited with resources, do the basics and make your employee feel as welcome as possible. A successful and thoughtful onboarding experience will be the starting point of a productive business relationship.

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