by Melissa Van
Successful new employee onboarding is a challenge for many companies. I hear common questions from clients:
- “How do we help new employees see that they’ve made a great decision by coming to work with us?”
- “How do we get people productive quickly?”
- “What alternatives are there to pulling people away to attend classroom training?”
- “How do we make sure our new hires stick around?”
These challenges are especially relevant in the retail world, where many employees may think of their jobs as temporary, and where turnover is especially high. While every company is different, I’ve found some basic principles drive success in onboarding:
- Where do I fit? Where does my role and my contributions fit into the big picture?
- What is our purpose? What are the goals of the organization and what do I need to do to help us get there?
- How do I succeed? What are the processes and tools I need to achieve success? What does success look like?
- How do I become part of a community? How do I build a network, where I can both support and be supported? How do I sustain all of this past onboarding?
So what does that look like in practice? Here’s an example:
Where do I fit?
I’ve seen some companies do a really good job with onboarding. Effective organizations tend to look at onboarding for all roles as an on-going set of experiences, rather than as an event. We all need to know where we fit in the big picture. So the 4-hour session with HR on the first day where new hires meet a few executives and learn about the company structure is important –as long as I understand how it impacts my job and my contribution. Companies that do onboarding really well see “traditional” onboarding as just the first step to a series of well-planned formal and informal learning experiences.
A retail bank I worked with created a series of Onboarding Journeys for each of the roles in its branches. On Day 1, in addition to the generic company orientation, new bankers receive a roadmap that lays out their Onboarding Journey for the next several months. Points on the Journey include a mix of traditional classroom and web-based training, structured peer coaching and a “nesting” period in a “training branch”, and virtual live sessions. Proficiency checkpoints are included along the way, so new bankers can see how they’re expected to progress, and the support they’ll receive, from the beginning of their journey. New bankers comment that they like knowing what to expect and are impressed that the company has such an organized onboarding program.
What is our purpose?
Each leg of the journey has a purpose and presents an opportunity to weave in themes around the company vision and values. In the bank’s case, the themes reinforce the company Purpose and the importance of creating great client experiences. This approach helps new team members understand how they contribute to the goals of the organization.
How do I succeed?
Introductory virtual classroom sessions help new bankers get started and present the Journey. These sessions, along with meetings with their managers, give new bankers an understanding of their roles, what success looks like, and how to achieve success.
A series of web-based courses interspersed throughout the journey provides baseline knowledge of services and solutions. They also start to introduce the systems, resources, and tools bankers use on-the-job. So very early in the journey, new bankers start to learn “how things work” and “how to get things done.” And even though these courses are more focused on services and solutions, they weave in real client-based scenarios to further reinforce the client experience theme.
How do I become part of a community?
For their first month on the job, new bankers work in a “nesting” branch supported by a peer coach. This allows them to be productive serving clients very quickly, with on-going support from their coach. The bankers can practice skills and receive immediate feedback. The peer coaching program also helps the banker begin to build a network within the bank, which can start to build a sense of belonging.
The program uses three live interactive experiences staggered throughout the onboarding journey to allow for hands-on practice, teach the “people skills,” and help new bankers continue to pull together all of the aspects of the job – the services, the tools, providing excellent client experiences.
All of the stops along this Onboarding Journey together, help the bank achieve its goals. And the metrics show that this approach is working; the bank is seeing lower turnover in the roles where the program is in effect and new bankers are well-qualified to do their jobs in less time. The new bankers also have a positive experience knowing from Day 1, what to expect and how to be successful.
As they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. In the high-turnover retail world, effective onboarding has multiple benefits. It makes your team members feel welcome, empowered, and productive, encouraging them to stay and build a career. And effective onboarding accelerates speed to productivity, meaning your team members provide more value more rapidly–helping to assure that everybody meets their goals and enjoys success.
Melissa Van is an Account Director and a consultant for Performance Development Group.