Onboarding Employees

Mar 8, 2015

Video Transcript

Welcome to Inside Kimmel. I’m Charlie Kimmel. Today, we’re going to talk about onboarding. Traditionally, what’s been thought of as onboarding is, give or take, about the first two weeks of a person’s employment at a company. I think that’s short-sighted. What we see in the industry, those companies that are successful in transitioning people into their company look at onboarding as a longer process.

So we’re going to look at three phases. We’re going to look at hiring, that phase from acceptance to start date, then what we would call, traditionally, onboarding, the first two weeks of employment. And then we’ll talk a little bit about integration and the importance of the first six months that somebody’s at a company.

Hiring Phase

So the first step in successfully onboarding somebody into your company, or into a company, is the hiring phase, from acceptance to start date. The important thing to remember and the critical thing to remember about this period of time, and we recommend it be two weeks, is when your new employee is the most vulnerable they’re going to be throughout the process. They’re vulnerable to counteroffers and offers from other employers. The reason for this is changing jobs is one of the most stressful things that a person can go through in their life. The first most stressful thing is the death of a loved one. The second is a divorce that’s not of your choosing. And the third one is changing jobs. That’s the only one we actually choose to do. And in these circumstances, your new employee’s going into work each day surrounded by people who they like, they’ve befriended, and the company wants them to stay. What makes this so difficult is that you don’t have a presence there. And if you don’t keep in contact with them, you’re liable to not even get to experience the actual onboarding process.

So what can you do to make this process a little bit easier and a little bit smoother? The first thing we would suggest and that we’ve found to be a very successful tool is to make your new employee aware of the discomfort they’re going to go through while they work out their notice. Just by naming the elephant in the room and letting them understand that you know what they’re going to be going through can go a long way in solving some of that stress and relieving a little bit of that vulnerability. It also opens it up to a telephone call and a dialogue when it does get difficult. So we would suggest definitely making them aware of it. But then be diligent and vigilant in staying in contact during that time period. There’s a number of things you can do. Just reaching out and calling and asking how it’s going is important, asking them what types of restaurants they like and having menus for them when they get there, or what color of vehicle they would like if they are going to end up having a company vehicle, if their spouse has any hobbies, if they have any hobbies. We recommend trying to stay in contact, if its’ a two-week period of time, at least a couple of times per week. If you do that, you remain in the person’s mind. They become less vulnerable. And you become seen as somebody who is very interested and excited about having them come on board.

Onboarding Process

The second phase of the onboarding process is the actual onboarding process, or what people would traditionally call the onboarding period of time. And that’s the first two weeks. Now, what’s critical to remember about this period of time is this is the most awkward period of time. This is the period of time where your new employee is most likely to decide that they don’t want to do this, that they might want to do something else. You have to remember, they’re coming from an entirely different situation into an entirely new world. So they are going to be uncomfortable during this time.

So what are some of some of the things that we see successful companies do in this process? Well, the first thing, again, is make sure your new employee is aware that this going to be an awkward time. So once it’s named, and they feel uncomfortable, there’s some comfort in that. And we’ve seen that to be very successful.

So the second goal is to make it a little bit less awkward. What you’re trying to do is make them feel at home. We would recommend strongly engaging the family. Do whatever you can to engage the family. If you’re having a company picnic, make sure the family is invited. Ask your new employee the birthdays of all of your children or graduation dates so you can be sure to send cards. Find out what the spouse does for a living, and see if there’s anything you can do to help them network. Contact a realtor for them. Take the new employee out to lunch. Take the whole family out to dinner. Send a gift card home with the new employee so that they can take their family out to dinner. Anything you can do to stay in contact to make it less uncomfortable is going to be critical during this time period. The most important thing that you can do is to make sure you check in every single day. Maybe even twice a day wouldn’t be too much during this period of time.

Integration Phase

And the third and final phase of the extended onboarding process is integration. And this would be the first six months of a person’s employment with a company. We call it integration because we have seen that after six months, somebody’s conclusion is drawn about the company, good or bad. And that’s what they’re going to think from that period on. So during this period of time they are the most malleable. So take the energy to show people that this is how your company is and making sure they understand the culture, what you’re trying to do, what you’re trying to go for, and what their role is with the company. You get this done in the first six months, you’ve got a really good chance of having a solid employee integrated with your company.

So some of the tools that we’ve seen companies use to have successful integration of a new employee are one-on-ones, weekly one-on-ones, which is just simply a weekly meeting with their manager to go over everything that’s happening. It’s as much of an emotional check-in as it is a professional check-in, just to make sure they’re integrating into the company well, obviously talking about the projects that they’re working on as well. So the first one, one-on-one meetings weekly, at a minimum, with the new employee for the first six months.

The second thing would be some special projects. Engage them in a way that is a little bit different, that shows that you have trust in them and shows that you are excited about having them, and they are a vital part of the company, because that’s what we’re trying to do is get the new employees excited about working here. And nothing excites folks more that we’ve seen is trust and faith in their ability to do something and working with them on a special project with the company.

And thirdly, the most useful tool in the integration process would be a three-, a five-, and a ten-year plan. Have a meeting sometime after the first month to three months. Sit down the new employee and ask them, “Where do you see yourself with our company in one year? In three years? Five years? Ten years?” It serves a lot of purposes. The number one purpose, we believe and we’ve seen, is that the new employee gets to see and hear that the company wants them around in 10 years and that they’re in the plans of the company in 10 years. There’s something about that that makes people feel included and feel excited. Secondly, it lets you know, “Hey, wait a second. Maybe we’re not on the same page.” If this person’s ten-year plan or three-year plan is completely different than what you think it might be, it allows you to adjust and have that conversation now prior to there being a surprise later.

This is a process that gets people engaged in the company, excited about the company. And after that first six months that they’ve been there, they feel like they’re a part of something, and they’re going to be around for quite a long period of time.

Thanks for watching Inside Kimmel. I’m Charlie Kimmel. We hope you learned something.

About the Author

Charlie Kimmel

As President and CEO, Charlie has dedicated his 25+ year career to executive search at Kimmel & Associates. Charlie began his career at Kimmel & Associates in 1990 as a Recruiter. In 1993, he graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where he received a BA in History.

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