by Rich Mesch
Whether you mean to or not, your organization has an Employment Brand. Your Employment Brand is a clear message to employees and potential employees about what your organization values and what the employee experience is like. Often a new employee’s exposure to the Employment Brand begins long before their first day. Every contact they have with an organization demonstrates the brand. How were they treated in the recruitment process? What have they seen on television or read online about your business? How is the organization welcoming them to the team? Do they know what their first 90 days are likely to look like? Six months? Their first year?
Your Employment Brand will have an enormous influence over the talent you attract and the talent you retain. The Employment Brand is typically the embodiment of your organization’s culture. What does your onboarding say about your culture? How does onboarding drive your Employment Brand?
- Your Employment Brand starts long before your employees’ first day. In many cases, your candidates have already experienced your employee brand before they join your organization. Whether they’ve seen your advertisements, been a customer for your products or services, had colleagues who worked for you, or researched you online, it’s rare for a candidate to come to the table without a perspective on your organization. During the hiring process, every person they encounter is a new element of that brand.
- Employees want to feel welcomed. Large organizations may hire hundreds or even thousands of employees each year, but most employees will only start one job. Everyone wants to feel they have made a good career choice, and feel excited about where they landed. Onboarding has a lot to do with an employee’s early perceptions of a company. What does your organization do to make new employees feel welcome? And don’t forget, you can start that process from the first contact with the employee, or at least from the moment the offer is accepted.
- New employees want the tools to do a good job. New employees are often frustrated by not understanding the tools and processes necessary to get the work done. Often, processes are a tangle of acronyms that are meaningful to veterans, but a complete mystery to new employees. How does your onboarding prepare employees to do their best work? Does it demystify processes to make them easy to understand and easy to locate?
- New employees want to network. Often the hardest part of joining a new organization (or getting a promotion in the same organization) is that you don’t know anybody. Work gets done through people, and knowing the people in your process is critical to success. Good onboarding includes a lot of introductions, networking, mentoring, and peer contact. Getting to know the people who get the work done usually means the work gets done faster.
- New employees want to get busy, fast. It’s tempting to think “good onboarding” means weeks and weeks tied up in classes. While some jobs do require a great deal of education before people can be productive, learning can be even more effective if it’s provided in context, on the job. Many onboarding programs throw so much information at new employees that they can’t hope to retain it. Moving more of that information to the “point of need,” when employees can apply it immediately, is often more effective.
- Onboarding doesn’t happen in the first week. Let’s differentiate between “onboarding” and “orientation.” Orientation is focused on things like, where do I get my employee ID, where are the restrooms, how do I fill out an expense form? These are important and need to be done early on, since not knowing where the restrooms are pretty much guarantees a bad job experience. Onboarding is the act of preparing you to do your job effectively, and it will take more than a few days. While every company is different, it’s reasonable to spread onboarding milestones through an employee’s first year.