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Onboarding, Don't Wing it.

December 21, 2016




It’s 7:45 am and Melissa Hardy is pulling into the parking lot of her new employer, “Davidson’s Gifts and More.” The shop opens at 8:00 am and Melissa was ready a whole hour early but stretched out the timing so that she didn’t have to sit in the parking lot too long before going in for her first day. Melissa is extremely excited about finally getting an opportunity to work as a florist for the first time. During her interview, the owner boasted about the Davidson's legacy and told her that she would get hands-on training by a highly experienced florist. Melissa knew that this opportunity would fit well with her long-term goal of becoming a wedding planner and was optimistic about what she could bring to the business.


Melissa waited in the parking lot patiently, but as the time inched near 8:00 am, she began to wonder what was going on. Did she have the correct start time? Did she have the wrong start day? Melissa checked her cell phone for the time again, 7:58 am. Disappointment flooded her, and she began to imagine the despair of searching for yet another job.

Just as she started her car, she noticed a full-sized sedan flying through the parking lot. The driver, a twenty-something-year-old female, barely placed the car in park before opening the door and jumping out. Melissa watched as she flung her purse over her shoulders and huffed to the entrance. Relieved, Melissa turned off her car and made her way into the flower shop with her dreams still intact.


“Good Morning,” Melissa said greeting the employee who was now her co-worker. “Hi,” the woman answered as she fidgeted with items on the counter preparing for the work day. “My name is Melissa,” she said introducing herself hesitantly. She thought about extending her hand, but the woman looked cross and unwelcoming. “What can I do for you Melissa,” the woman asked flatly. “I’m her for work,” Melissa said. “Um,” the woman said looking around at nobody for an explanation, “For work here,” the woman asked. “Yes,” Melissa informed, “The owner hired me last week, and I am supposed to start today. She said I would meet with Amber.” The woman looked uncomfortable, “Well I’m Amber, but I have no idea who you are or that I’m supposed to be training you. Wait here for a second. I’m going to go call the owner.”


While the natural reaction to the above scenario may be, “Come on! Who does that?” The fact is that someone is reading this has lived this situation. This happens all the time. An employer is desperate for an employee who is enthusiastic and willing to learn but invites them into a broken organization that will ultimately drain the potential out of the bright, new, shiny employee. New employees are hired to improve the situation, but they are often greeted by people who are comfortable with the status quo. This disconnect can quickly turn an opportunity to improve into more of the same.


Many employers fail to understand the value and importance of proper onboarding because it happens with or without an active onboarding strategy. When there is no strategy, new hires just do what they see everyone else doing. This works when things are going well, and there are plenty of positive behaviors to learn. However, if the employer seeks to improve the team, the lack of an onboarding strategy could hinder this objective.

The first day after the interview may be the most important day of an employee’s life with your organization. It is the first time they will know if all you said in the interview about your business is true. They get their first glimpse of your culture and choose whether or not they made a good decision. Will they leave and apply for more jobs or will they be optimistic about the opportunity? Orientation is step one in the onboarding process, and it must be conducted with the employer’s goals for the new employee in mind.


What should have happened on Melissa’s first day?


1.   Be present. The person who hires the employee is the only connection the employee has to the organization. Without that connection, the employee feels like a warm body. The owner should begin his or her investment in Melissa immediately, and that starts by saying welcome.


2.   Inform all employees of the new addition to the team. When adding a new person to the team, everyone needs to know the role of the new hire and how or if his or her positions will be affected. This is especially important in environments where employees are competitive with each other. Make sure your team understands that the new hire is there to enhance the existing team, not to put someone else out of a job. Employees should be instructed to be courteous, warm, and welcoming. Make the new hire feel wanted and appreciated.


3.  Give the new hire a training plan that tells them when they will be trained and evaluated. Even if an organization has a relatively simple training system, the new hire needs to know that they are important and they aren’t just taking up a new job; they are becoming part of a culture. Additionally, the new hire needs to know that it will not be a cakewalk. Set your performance expectations right up front and communicate to the new hire that they are here to improve the average; not maintain it.


These are simple tips. However, every organization should employ a full onboarding strategy that not only lays out the operations and activities of a new hire but is aligned with the company’s overall business objectives. Employees are the most expensive and valuable asset to your business and every minute they are on your clock; they should be working for the good of your business. Onboarding is the process of acclimating your employees to your unique culture and teaching them the standards and expectations that will make them successful and move your business forward. So don’t wing it. Put the necessary planning and preparation into an effective onboarding strategy for every new hire. After all, they are the face of your business.


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