Six Steps to Enhance Your On-Boarding Program

The initial weeks and months on the job are a crucial time for new hires, and while it may seem like a basic responsibility to offer an orientation to newcomers, a new survey shows that more than a third of HR managers said their organizations provide no formal program.

That’s according to a recent survey by Accountemps, a specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals, and includes responses from more than 500 HR managers.

A best practice is not just for employers to offer orientation, but to take it to the next level by providing a more substantial on-boarding program. Here are some steps to ensure a more engaging on-boarding program to help set new hires up for long-term success on the job:

Put it in writing. Supervisors should offer new hires a handout that details the company’s on-boarding process, including a schedule of activities and topics. Knowing what to expect can help to ease the jitters many people feel when starting a new job. An added bonus is that the handout also can keep managers on track with their role in the process.

Use videos or books appropriately. Leaders need to recognize that videos and handbooks are supplements to a broader introduction; they’re not intended to be the bulk of on-boarding programs. People need the opportunity to interact with supervisors and colleagues and ask questions to feel fully prepared to assume their jobs.

Clarify expectations. Newcomers must meet with their direct managers early on to learn the expectations of their position. New hires must be told not only about their responsibilities, but also how their role ties into larger objectives.

A timeline should be given indicating when key learning objectives must be met. For instance: Training in the firm’s proprietary software must be completed by the end of the second week. Likewise, managers also need to spell out top project priorities and target dates for completion. This will inform employees about exactly what they need to do to meet goals from the start.

Involve senior management. When holding orientation or training sessions for multiple new hires, it’s beneficial to have a company leader — the higher up, the better — make an appearance. This shows the organization takes on-boarding seriously and values those joining the team. In smaller meetings with one or two new hires, the head of the department might be invited to stop by to offer a welcoming message. Executives can talk about the vision for the company and how newcomers can bring a fresh perspective to related efforts.

Get more out of mentoring. The “just-follow-Sarah-around” approach some firms take doesn’t ensure knowledge transfer. Managers can tap into the expertise of their tenured employees by setting up formal mentoring relationships between more experienced team members and new hires.

Those selected to guide newcomers should not only have the right skills, but also the time and interest to assist them. Mentors need to be ready to show new employees the ropes and be available to address any questions or concerns people aren’t comfortable asking their supervisors.

Follow up. The on-boarding process isn’t complete once employees finish their probationary period at the company. Managers also should take the time to solicit feedback from newcomers about their experience with the program.

Some questions to ask include:
• What elements were most or least useful?
• Did you receive adequate preparation to do your job?
• What information should be covered in future programs?
• How helpful were other employees during your first months at the firm?
• Did the information that you learned match up to the realities of working for the company and doing your job?

Feedback can help leaders pinpoint any flaws in the current program and make changes. Inviting comments from new staff also shows the company promotes open communication, which can further create a positive impression and boost retention.

Robert Hosking is executive director of OfficeTeam, a staffing service specializing in the temporary placement of highly skilled administrative and office support professionals. He can be reached at