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Preparing Employees to Run on your Fast Track: 10 Onboarding Best Practices

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Gabriella Angiolillo
on June 29, 2012

Let’s say that after weeks of searching you find and successfully win the bid for the horse you believe could win the Kentucky Derby. You bring it home and put it in a beautiful stable, and nourish its growth with super-food grains and the best veterinary healthcare available. Then, you point it toward a pasture and tell the horse to “run!”  Is that a horse that’s going to win at Churchill Downs?

This is the story of too many employees’ first days on the job. They enter a company; are told they are the best and the brightest; are given compensation and benefits, a computer and desk; and then are left to figure out how to “run and win” on their own.

Great onboarding programs are a continuous process, with the best programs lasting at least 90 days. For the right outcome – an employee who is aware of how to contribute to your corporate culture – it takes an organization leader’s support to identify and transfer the various skills, knowledge and abilities for new hires to succeed.

At Peoplefluent, our HR department constructed an onboarding program founded upon ten important implementation steps:

  1. Research onboarding best practices: Ask and share information about onboarding programs with other employers and use their experiences as a platform to inspire your own ideas.
  2. Focus on creating one great pilot onboarding experience: Apply what you learned to one segment of your company and fully commit to execution. Quality over quantity is most important to prove the validity of the concept.
  3. Start with a champion: Connect with an individual in charge of a business unit at your company who has implemented an onboarding program or is enthusiastic and committed to creating a program for his or her team. 
  4. Work with professionals who make others believers: Ideally the person described in step 2 above can serve in this capacity. After their successful onboarding experiences, encourage them to tell others about the impact the program had on their part of the business.
  5. Move quickly after the first success, letting the first success snowball: With initial success move fast to take advantage of what other business leaders’ appreciation of the program’s value. Use that recognition to gather resources and greater buy-in.
  6. Partner with the business, enabling the business to own its content: Just as a franchise needs individual franchise owners to run its stores, in order for the onboarding program to expand, the business unit leaders need to take ownership of their own teams’ program. 
  7. Use onboarding efforts to introduce a social and/or learning platform: Multiply everyone’s hard work by making use of technology to share material in a centralized platform. Information sharing that begins in onboarding – along with the connections people make during onboarding – can be extended for ongoing information sharing and social collaboration.
  8. Create a feedback loop: Use surveys and speak with both the new hires and their managers to find out how to improve the program further.
  9. Measure your results: Compile results from the surveys and other statistics to discover objective results.
  10. Replicate the successes: Onboarding is one process that is neither cyclical nor ever really complete. Once you get started, don’t stop: keep evolving and refining the program for new classes of professionals who join your team.

It’s worth remembering the origins of the word “career” which (before its current manifestation) had meanings that included “a track for wheeled vehicles” (typically those that went at a high speed) or a “course… or headlong path.” For employees to be successful in their runs on your organization’s fast track, a robust onboarding program is essential.

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