How to Get Employee Onboarding Right

When your company is growing like a weed, it's difficult to think about anything aside from��keeping your head above water. Although��many young, smart intrapreneurs will join a company because of its startup cred, that's not a sustainable way to keep new employees engaged and productive.

Training and��onboarding are not only critical processes��that prepare employees for their jobs: Without them,��chances are that new hires will not even make it past the first few months. The first 90 days��are the right time to��introduce hires��to new colleagues, share with them your expectations, and help them understand the specific values your company espouses. Do you value work ethic above all else? Now's the time to drive that point home. Does excuse-making set your teeth on edge? If so, tell your new hires ASAP. It will create more transparency around how they (and you) work.

At Red Branch Media, we've created an employment narrative that runs from the job advertisement all the way through to the new hire's first day. We give candidates and new hires��a reason to believe (we're a family business and bootstrapped, so the founders work as hard as the interns) and a map of��what their future could be (we tell stories of our successful employees and the highs and lows that got them to where they are today).

There's no one-size-fits-all approach to onboarding, but there are a few things we've learned that can help you get it��right.

Onboarding Is��Not the Same as Training

A��study��of 264 new employees��published in the Academy of��Management��Journal found that the first 90 days of employment (often called the "probationary period") is pivotal to building rapport with the company, management, and coworkers. When support levels were high from team members��and leaders, new hires often had more positive attitudes about their jobs and worked harder. When support and direction were not offered, the inverse occurred, leading to unhappy and unproductive employees who didn't make it much further than four months.

While many companies are aware of the importance of onboarding and training, not many are aware of how important it is to have both. In fact, the two terms are often used interchangeably, leaving room for misconceptions about what��is really wrong with a new hire's first 90 days on the job.

But in the��words��of Michel Falcon, founder of Experience Academy, there is an important difference: "Employee onboarding is the design of what your employees feel, see, and hear after they have been hired. Often, companies confuse onboarding with training. While training does have a role within onboarding, it doesn't represent the entire scope of the process."

Structured Onboarding Impacts Retention

Creating a structured onboarding program is key. According to a 2007 study by the Wynhurst Group, when employees go through structured onboarding, they are 58 percent more likely to remain with the organization after three years.

From our perspective, these numbers hold true. When someone has been with Red Branch Media for more than a year or two, we often work with them to find new and interesting ways to use their skills to keep the "engagement train" running.

Personally, I find that��a standardized onboarding program shows your new employees just how happy you are that they're there.��Gratitude, check-ins, and making people feel as if their contributions matter are all great (and free!) ways to ensure your new hires feel seen, heard, and accountable.

Training��Must Encompass How and��Why

Because recruitment is often seen as candidate-driven, many companies fear the loss of new hires. A focus on benefits and perks has left core training needs behind, but compensation packages alone do not lead to productive and engaged employees. Real training is a learning process that must��encompass both the how and the why.

Our "why" centers completely around sales and ease of use. It's very common to hear me say, "Our customers don't want us to make their lives harder" when discussing scheduling calls and proofing brochures, or "How does this sell the product?" when looking at everything from social updates to email marketing. When you train your new employees in the ethos of the company while simultaneously showing them how to do their jobs,��everyone wins.

According to a��CareerBuilder report, 60 percent of employees believe they will learn the necessary��skills once they are��on the job, but 49 percent of employers feel that training is an equal responsibility of employees and employers.

Try bringing��people from all levels into the training of a new employee, no matter where they sit in the organizational hierarchy.��A��mentorship-style program can assist and reinforce the new hire's training while simultaneously��encouraging office relationships. During every step of the process, new employees should know to whom��they can turn��when they need to give or receive feedback.

This is a mutually beneficial system, so take the opportunity to learn from your new hires what is working and what isn't. Take care, though, that your current employees aren't overly burdened with training new hires, and guide the process to optimize��everyone's time.

A Balanced Approach

Training is fuel for the onboarding engine;��without one, the other will surely suffer. Approach your new-hire program with care. Take time to consider all the little things that an employee will need to succeed at their job. Training should cover��programs, best practices, technology, and equipment, and it should come with clearly stated goals.

And remember: Onboarding doesn't��stop at company policies, facility tours, and department introductions.