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Dear Workforce How Do We Add Pizzazz to Onboarding?

Dear Enthusiasm Wanted:

Following are five high-impact, low-cost ways to strengthen your orientation:

1. “To dos” before Day One
As soon as the offer is accepted and a start date confirmed, send a “welcome aboard” gift to your new employee. Examples: a T-shirt or similar promotional item, or simply a personal note from your executive director, hiring supervisor or the entire team.

If not previously provided, send the new employee info on the history of the organization, the vision of the founder(s), an overview of programs, recent important press releases, and other information pertaining to the job, the organization and/or the communities it serves.

Send benefits enrollment information and tax and other paperwork before the person’s first day on the job. Ask the new employee to bring forms completed on the first day. This saves time for more engaging activities.

Consider sending a new-employee survey with appropriate questions designed to get to know the new employee better. I developed one called “All About Me!” that asks about favorite food, interests, hobbies, activities, pets, sports, as well as questions about what motivates them and how they would like to be rewarded and/or recognized for success. Survey questions are customized, and the responses provide ideas that strengthen the onboarding plan design.

Coordinate with IT and facilities to ensure the new employee’s workspace is fully operational when he or she arrives. This includes a clean office/cube/desk, working computer, e-mail address, phone extension, keys and building access. Provide clearly written instructions regarding computer and phone usage and facility info in addition to a meeting with IT to answer questions and check on systems.

2. Develop the onboarding plan in collaboration with the new employee
Use info from the survey to plan a thoughtful, welcoming first day that includes their favorite foods (for first-day lunch!) and provides insight to personalize their integration during the first days and weeks.

Develop a schedule of meetings, activities and training plans, and include key stakeholders inside and outside the organization. Develop the schedule and present it to the new employee on the first day for input.

Create a plan that corresponds with the flow of activities and meetings and extends beyond the first few days, weeks and months. Include conferences.

3. Develop engaging onboarding activities
There is nothing more uninspiring than reading a policy manual. Consider using a “live handbook” that includes a message from your executive director and/or sections presented by various members of the staff.

A “must do” for a new executive directors and a powerful “should do” for staff at any level: Attend all or part of a board meeting. Most board members like to meet new staff, and the new person likewise can familiarize herself with the organization’s leaders.

Schedule activities whereby new employees gain meaningful exposure to constituents, clients and customers. Aim to initiate this within the first 30 to 90 days and sprinkle the opportunities throughout the first 12 months.

4. Assign a mentor to the new employee
Select a respected staff member who has institutional knowledge, relevant experience and a desire to provide guidance and serve as a navigational resource.

Integrate the mentor into the onboarding process and schedule quality time at appropriate intervals during first 12 months to reduce the learning curve and provide a “go to” person beyond the immediate supervisor.

5. Develop work plans and goals
Help new employees establish a work plan with specific job goals. Tap the ideas, perspective, experience and enthusiasm the newcomer brings to the job. Commit to getting this done within the first 30 days on the job.

Include personal/professional development goals that align with the mission needs and the career interests. Communicate the performance review process and timeline and commit to stick to it. Discuss informal performance feedback methods and channels.

It is often easier for small organizations to get creative with onboarding. Engage stakeholders who are creative and passionate about the organization and its purpose.

SOURCE: Patricia Duarte, Decision Insight Inc., Boston, October 12, 2009

LEARN MORE: The best onboarding programs don’t last long, but have a lasting impact.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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