Don’t Just Check the Box!

buy-in employee engagement engagement leadership culture leading a team mission onboarding process orientation purpose team building team environment vision what is onboarding Mar 10, 2022
What is Onboarding

We’ll soon start working through the tangible benefits an organization can expect from an effective employee orientation program but before we go too far into the HOW, we have to nail down the WHO and the WHY! Otherwise, any steps we take won’t likely make the impact we’re hoping for…

Once we have a solid understanding of what a strong onboarding process should be designed to accomplish and we’ve decided to bring on teammates rather than just employees, we have a solid head start on anyone competing for the same skill sets simply because we’re investing in doing something other than just knocking out the required paperwork and funneling warm bodies into the meat grinder - I mean, the production process… But even then, we can’t just go through the motions. Without being extremely intentional and completely genuine, it’s still little more than checking a box!

More than twenty-five years ago, I sat through a two week long onboarding process with nineteen other folks. We were the first new full time employees hired by a local manufacturing facility in years, and we were selected from more than 1,000 candidates who had applied! Interestingly enough though, the only thing I remember from that process all these years later was the brief interaction we had with the plant manager on the first day and how painfully boring everything else was. That company had invested tens of thousands of dollars into those two weeks, not to mention the costs involved with screening through all the other candidates to get to that point… For my only positive memory to be the short time the plant manager was with us on day one, and really the only thing I can remember from the entire two weeks that actually had ties to what we’d actually be doing, I don’t think I’m out of line in saying that their money wasn’t well spent.

While that two week ordeal was about as different as I can imagine from the scenarios where someone completes their tax forms before showing up and gets their hands on real work by hour two of their first day, I can’t say it any closer to helping us feel “confident and competent” when it was over. Regardless of how much (or how little) time an organization schedules for new hire orientation, there had better be some intentional focus put into making a strong connection with each individual. Quite honestly, I believe that’s why I remember the brief time we had with that plant manager 26 years ago but so little about everything else in those two weeks; he made it a point to show us he cared about the people working there, including us! For what it’s worth, he also lived that same thing out in the years that followed…

I’m not about to suggest that the onboarding process should be the same for every organization, nor do I believe it needs to take a specific amount of time, but it does need to connect with the new team members in a way that they know they matter and earns their buy-in. Anyone involved in the process can’t just be spewing facts and figures, they should be connecting the information they share to the tasks the team members will be engaged in AND tying all of that to the company’s overall mission. 

The time, energy, and money that goes into effective onboarding is truly an investment. And like any investment, we should absolutely realize a positive return! We can’t leave this return to chance… While it’s important to make a connection with each new team member and to provide them with all they need to feel confident and competent, we also need to be very clear about what we need from them at each step along the way. When we’ve provided them with the tools they need to become successful teammates and we’ve set clear expectations for what that looks like, being sure to build strong connections with them through the entire process, we build a strong foundation for everything we do moving forward. We’re not just checking a box, we’re working with purpose.

Next time, we’ll take a look at WHAT we should expect to achieve when we’ve taken the time to get the WHO and the WHY right. Soon we’ll dig into the HOW, and that will be the easiest part when we have the rest in place!