Onboarding New Employees: A Strategy for Retaining Your Best Workers

Mar 17, 2015 - Joe Matar
Do you remember what your last onboarding experience was like? Maybe you were thrown head-first into your role after simply being handed an employee handbook or perhaps you took a series of training classes to learn about your position and the new company. Chances are, if you’ve changed jobs at least once in your life, you’ve experienced different types of onboarding. As a hiring manager, it’s important to think strategically about onboarding new employees. How can you craft the most effective onboarding program so your new employees can get up-to-speed with company norms and their responsibilities quickly? While you can take a number of different approaches, one thing that’s clear is most new hires need at least four weeks to feel comfortable in their role and begin providing value. That time period can expand or decrease based on how much support they get in the early stages of their job. If you want to increase the effectiveness of your onboarding program, you need to create and assign three distinct roles to current employees. When structured correctly, these people will ensure your new hires have the necessary tools, information, vision and connections to succeed in their jobs. This, in turn, will lead to greater employee engagement, retention rates, and a reduction in recruiting costs over time. Here are the three roles you should create for current employees as the basis for your onboarding process: (Click here to tweet this list.)

1. Onboarding Champion

The Onboarding Champion, who is likely part of your HR or recruiting team, should be trained in the inner workings of the company. This goes beyond understanding payroll timelines, benefits and company policy information; the Onboarding Champion needs to personally know other individuals or teams that help make the company run smoothly. Typically, this includes the internal IT, finance and operations or facilities teams, as they keep the office space and systems functioning around the clock. The Onboarding Champion should be identified as the go-to person to send corporate-level questions when a new hire starts. If she doesn’t know the answer to a question, she knows who to ask to find a solution quickly. She connects the dots and helps new employees navigate the new company’s waters during the first few weeks of employment.

2. Culture Champion

All companies have a culture but the best companies build culture intentionally and share it openly with employees. Research has shown that a strong corporate culture can lead to better financial performance and higher retention rates in the long-term. Suffice to say, there are many reasons you need to share your company’s culture with new hires! Enter the Culture Champion. The Culture Champion should be someone who can speak clearly and passionately about the company’s mission and values. Often, this person is found at the senior level. It may seem counterintuitive to have an executive spend time discussing something intangible like corporate culture, but the truth is that new hires will feel more motivated and tied to a company if they see their higher-ranking colleagues living and breathing the culture. One way to ensure you don’t waste a Culture Champion’s time but still spread her message across to new hires is to schedule a monthly “culture chat.” Host an hour-long session, in-person or virtually if needed, when new hires can spend an hour learning about the company’s values and mission, why they’re important, and what they can do to continue building a strong culture for the firm.

3. Buddy

This final person in the onboarding program serves two purposes. First, the buddy, often a peer or someone in a similar role compared to the new hire, helps the new employee adjust to the flow of the workplace and office norms. If the buddy is on the same team as the new hire, he can help him get up-to-speed with current projects faster and serve as a go-to person for specific team-related questions. The second and equally important purpose that the buddy serves is helping a new hire socialize. This might sound strange since the new hire is here to work, but building a social network at the office is important. Millennials in particular crave connection and are more productive when they feel that they have a friendly network of colleagues. The buddy can encourage a new hire get to know people around the company and foster introductions. If you structure your onboarding program so each new hire has access to an Onboarding Champion, Culture Champion, and a Buddy, you will likely see a decrease in the amount of time needed for that employee to feel comfortable in their role, a quicker ROI in human capital and greater employee engagement in the long-term. Meghan Bollenback “retired” at the ripe age of 27 from her corporate career after years of running operations and real estate for a healthcare start-up to pursue her life passion. She is now a writer and creative professional based in Washington, D.C., who explores the written word through food, business, and her love of storytelling.