Congratulations ‒ you’ve filled that vacancy with a promising hire and breathed a sigh of relief. Now you can schedule their benefits sign-up with HR, introduce them around the office, and they’ll hit the ground running, right?
Well, it’s not that easy, of course. Today’s jobs require learning a complex web of systems, technology, communications vehicles and protocols, not to mention who-does-what-where and how to work with them. An orientation session, worksite tour and welcome lunch are only the start of an effective onboarding process. Providing employees a smooth acceleration ramp into performing their job requires the hiring manager, recruiter, HR and other colleagues to develop and execute a longer-term plan.
An effective framework uses a what/who/when approach:
- What do they need to learn?
- Who should teach them these things?
- When should they learn them?
Let’s work through the steps to build an onboarding plan for a fictional employee.
First, list the important things they need to learn in the first weeks and months about their job and the organization. Consult with their predecessor, if available, other employees doing the same or similar jobs, people in their home department, and people they will work with in other departments.
Such a list might include: Learn software programs 1 and 2, and SaaS application 3. Meet key people A, B and C. Learn basic policies and procedures. Review departmental budget and goals. Learn to access computer files on internal networks. Get briefed about the status and importance of Project X and Product Y.
Next, assign “teachers” for these lessons. The hiring manager and departmental staff will likely do the bulk of training, but enlisting others spreads the burden and helps a new employee start developing relationships.
A few experienced colleagues would be good instructors for commonly used software and procedures. The hiring manager is best to review big-picture items like departmental initiatives, budgets and annual goals. In addition to reviewing benefits, HR often explains the performance review process. Managers and other staff of sister departments can explain what they do, and how they will interact with the new employee. This many-hands approach reinforces your teamwork culture as employees learn about the organization’s many activities and how they all fit together. In return, you should be willing to help train other departments’ new hires, too.
Finally, schedule these training sessions in a logical order, starting with must-know-soonest and extending as needed to cover important on-the-job training. Trying to teach too much, too soon produces confusion, frustration, a lack of clarity about priorities, and the in-one-ear-out-the-other syndrome (we can absorb only so much, after all). A well-thought-out plan, much like the syllabus for a college course, outlines how training will proceed in a logical order over a month or more, easing both yours and the new hire’s stress levels.
After thinking through the what, who and when, a finished plan might look like this (except for the days and times that you’ll include):
- Benefits enrollment. (HR)
- Welcome lunch. (Team)
- Learn software program 1. (Mary)
- Learn software program 2. (Joe)
- Lesson 1 on basic policies and procedures. (Manager)
- Lesson 2 on basic policies and procedures. (Asst. Manager)
- Explain network file directories. (Susan)
- Review home department budget and goals. (Manager)
- Learn SaaS application 1 (John)
- Get briefed about the status and importance of Project X. (Manager X)
- Meet key people A, B and C in other departments. (Manager) (But don’t just wander around hoping to bump into people you want to meet your new employee. Use your scheduling program to find a block of time when all seem available, then schedule a “meeting’ with them. In the invitation, say this is not a real meeting, but a time when they appear to be available for you stop by.)
- Get briefed about the status and importance of Product Y. (Manager Y)
- Learn SaaS application 2 (Jim)
- Etc., as needed
When the onboarding plan is complete, distribute it to the new employee and all the people in it. Few of life’s changes are more unsettling than starting a new job. Your new hire will appreciate the thought you’ve put into their training, and be relieved that they have a roadmap to follow.
And once you’ve done one of these, it can serve as a template for other new hires, who probably need to learn many of the same things and meet many of the same people.
Of course, make sure to give the new employee some real work as soon as possible, too. Nothing helps them settle in like digging into the job at hand. And remember that no plan can cover everything a new employee needs to know—that’s what experience is for!