The Key to Retaining & Engaging Our Team Members

employee experience employee retention leadership culture onboarding process orientation team building teamwork what is onboarding Mar 22, 2022
Employee Orientation Process

If we really want to build an onboarding process that works, especially when we’re responsible for leading the organization and we may not have direct interaction with each team member on a daily basis, we need to be sure the first impression we make is one that lasts - and a good one at that!

While the standard orientation we provide for a new team member is just part of the overall onboarding process, their first day with us provides some unique opportunities we’ll rarely have again. Yes there’s all that required paperwork to knock out, and hopefully we’re investing the time to cover the most critical policies and procedures, but there’s no reason whatsoever for it to be as painful as it is in almost every organization. Quite frankly, this is the perfect time to begin developing a relationship with our new team member(s). I’ve never seen a rule that says orientation has to suck! Even if there was one, I would have a goal of breaking it every single time… I realize there’s a ton to cover on day one, but if we’re willing to consider the impact that time with each new team member can have over their entire career with us we’ll quickly realize it’s worth the effort to add at least a little personality. (I know that’s a stretch for most folks in a human resource role, but humor me…)

Regardless of the title I held at any given time, or whether the time I had in the orientation process was a few minutes or several hours, my goal was to make a personal connection with each individual while I covered the content I was responsible for working through with them - however dry that may have been. Not only did I need them to hear and understand what I was sharing with them, I wanted to make sure they knew they had a point of contact to reach out to when (not if) they had concerns later on. I also made an attempt to learn as much as I could about them during that time so we’d have some common ground to connect on later on; sometimes that meant getting to know more about their families or their hobbies, and sometimes it was more about learning what they hoped to be doing in the organization years down the road. 

Each of those things sent helped send one very specific message: it told that new team member that I cared about them! When we invest the energy into showing someone we care from the very beginning, we begin earning a level of loyalty we may never get otherwise. When there’s a rough spot along the way later on, and there will be sooner or later, the connection we worked to make from the start may make all the difference in the world!

A recent SHRM article on the topic quoted the CEO of BambooHR, Ben Peterson, as saying “We cared enough to hire them, we want them to know we care enough to build rapport.” Peterson also mentioned taking the new employee out to lunch on their first day. I’m not looking to get into the weeds here by detailing what every minute of any company’s process should look like, but making sure we develop a strong connection that yields rapport better be driving whatever it is that we’re doing! And that makes it so much easier to do what we’ll be working through next time…