The Personalized Approach for Successful Employee Onboarding

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If you’re not personalizing your onboarding process to each new employee, you’ve already failed.

Your new employee is sizing you up. While you may have controlled the interview, what you do in the months ahead will determine if you pass yours. It costs staff-hours and cold hard funds to onboard a new employee. If you put little to no effort in onboarding, you’ll statistically lose a good employee inside of six months. When this happens, the vicious cycle starts all over again. Make sure to get in right the first time!

Sure, you’ll have a format, rules to follow, an outlying strategy for your onboarding process, but each new employee is different – celebrate this! You hired your new employee because they were an individual, bringing district attributes to your organization, make sure you show how important these attributes are to you during the orientation and onboarding process, as well as every year ahead.

My first day at one organization there were no introductions, I was lead into a small room without even meeting the other employees and asked to write a series of articles by an uninviting and sloppily-dressed boss. I handed over the articles at the end of the day, he looked at them for a matter of seconds, handed them back, and said, “Make them better.”  I asked if there were any specific things he would like me to improve. “You’re the writer,” he responded and left the room.

Use the Interview Process

Hopefully, you used the interview process to learn some stuff about your new talent, beyond just their proficiency in Excel. I had one company ask me what ice cream flavor I saw myself as. I responded pistachio, “It’s been around a while, but it’s more unique than chocolate or vanilla.” At orientation they hosted a luncheon – pistachio ice cream was a featured treat.

As a side note, a first-day lunch is always appreciated; it allows new employees to interact with newbies, veterans, management, and their bosses. You all get to learn more about one another in a casual setting. DISCLAIMER: Find out what a new employee likes to eat, you don’t want to take them for Korean barbeque if they’re a vegetarian.

It’s good to know employee interests even before they walk in the door. The interview process is an excellent way to pull this information. You can also do a little light stalking, active social media accounts will give you plenty of insight, and it may make you reconsider some hires.

Company Swag

Cool swag with a new employee’s name on it is far better than just adding your logo to a whole bunch of stuff. If an employee is a fitness enthusiast, give them a tour of the company gym, tell them about your health and wellness program, and present them with branded swag like a yoga mat, gym bag, or water bottle.

You can include your company logo too, but personalized products with an individual’s name will help to make new employees feel special, especially if that product is tailored to their interests.

Perhaps you have a new copywriter coming on board. Business swag like custom journals, custom notebooks, and personalized pens are all good swag ideas for a welcome to the team. Do they have a favorite author or artist? Perhaps you can get them swag gifts for their desk that feature one of their quotes or a product that incorporates their designs.

Have a new tech person that you want to welcome to the team? They’ll likely appreciate a personalized mouse pad and an ergonomic mouse.

It’s great to incorporate new hires’ likes into unique swag ideas for their desk.

Everyone loves a coffee mug that defines them – they make great gifts for team members. Show employees where to find the coffee and present them with this small token – an actual mug will also cut down on the use of Styrofoam.

Most new hires will also be able to take advantage of things like cute spiral notebooks, company letterhead, and more.

Ensure you have business cards waiting to welcome a new team member on their first day. When employees have to wait several weeks to get their business cards, it makes them feel like they are anything but part of the team. It’s all in little details. Include a business card holder too.

Cards vs. Emails

Show some class, have a welcome to the team card waiting at the employee’s desk when they arrive in the morning. A welcome to the team email is so impersonal, especially sent on behalf of an owner that barely makes an appearance. If you’re upper-management, do not act like Oz behind the curtain, it is a terrible first impression to make, and your new hires will notice. Show up to greet a new employee, and make yourself present throughout the day. This is a good rule of thumb to follow throughout your entire career.

You can add a company logo to your welcome to the team greeting card, include a nice message, photos of your staff, and have all your employees sign it. If you’re going to do a welcome email to new employees at least make it interesting. Companies with many branches will film funny videos of their staff to welcome a new team member on board if they can’t be there in person.

Onboarding vs. Orientation

During orientation, custom presentation folders with that day’s syllabus included inside will work well. Map out what you have planned for the afternoon on nice company letterhead. You’ll want to have the main points of the orientation and on-boarding process typed out, and all procedures should be saved into your work-day system. You can also include any paperwork that your employee needs to sign or allow them to do this digitally on their computer, but make sure that this task does not consume their entire day. Also, ensure that your new talent has received a custom notebook. Personalized notebooks with their name on it are great for jotting down info.

Company orientation is different from employee onboarding. The on-boarding process can take several months getting employees trained and acclimated to company responsibilities and culture. Some companies take up to a year to go through the onboarding process, and while you may not be Google, there’s no excuse for skimping in this department. Orientation and onboarding are different; the orientation is your introduction, a way of presenting your company’s modus operandi to new hires – your voice, your standards, how you operate, what makes you unique, the roles of your employees, and how a new employee fits into all of this.

You can have a formal meeting for company orientation, but make it light. Icebreakers aren’t always the way to go about this. Many icebreakers are dated, and some can make people feel pretty darn awkward, like a second interview about stuff that doesn’t actually matter. If you really feel the need to use an icebreaker, I like tossing an actual ball around. The person that catches it has to say something about themselves. It’s pretty simple, but it keeps people on their toes.

Assuming that you feel your company is special; think about how would you showcase this in a 30 minute to one-hour live-action sketch? The guests of your orientation are your audience. How would you introduce your characters (employees), show off personalities, and present their backstories? How would you engagingly present your company? Look for the stories within your organization, those that have sparked real emotions. Don’t be afraid to talk about your setbacks and how you have overcome them. Brag a little. What have you done for your customers and in turn what has that done for your staff?

You need to hook a new employee from the first moment they walk into orientation. Think Ben Affleck during his famous orientation speech in Boiler Room. “Become an employee of this firm, and you will make your first million in three years.” This may be a claim you cannot make, but don’t focus on the statement itself, focus on the hook. In one sentence he commanded the room’s attention, and doesn’t lose momentum; he follows that bold claim with several other equally impressive stats about his company. See if you can emulate this.

A boring PowerPoint may not be the way to go. But, to the contrary, I have seen PowerPoints that have completely amazed me, hyped me up, and got me excited for the next day. Combine enough out-of-the-box research with engaging materials, a fun and inspiring outlook, and you should do fine.

During orientation, give your new employee a chance to speak, but do your best not to put them on the spot. Make sure new employees know about all perks and benefits that your company offers, as well as social functions, teams, and community events.

The Buddy System

Provide your new employee with a buddy that will help with onboarding training. When you welcome new hires, it’s great to give them a mentor that can show them around, explain tasks, company culture, and more.

Onboarding Process Steps for the Future

As time passes, your new hire should start to get the hang of their responsibilities and offer their own insights on increasing company productivity, revenue, and clientele. This does not mean the onboarding process should stop. Ensure that your new hire continues to learn. They should feel welcome, engaged, and inspired throughout their years at your organization. Set up continued employee training sessions, develop their skills, allow them to go to worthwhile conferences geared to their role, and give them as many opportunities as you can to advance in their position at your company.  Set up regular team building exercises, luncheons, and employee outings. A fantastic work environment will breed innovative thinkers, taking your company and its employees to new heights!

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