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How Do I Set Up an Onboarding Program?

I am overseeing the inception of an online onboarding/orientation site for new employees. How do I gather peer-reviewed information/suggestions to complete the project (we need to have it up and running by September 2014)? What are the characteristics of a successful implementation and, conversely, what challenges are we most likely to encounter? Are there any good case studies or user examples of how this can be done successfully?

— Still Learning, Education, Manchester, New Hampshire

July 8, 2014
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Related Topics: Onboarding, Employee Orientation, Organizational Culture, The Latest, Dear Workforce
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Dear Still Learning:

Following are some key challenges when onboarding, followed by bulleted steps you can take to improve the success rate.
Senior leaders are not committed to onboarding.
• Show senior leaders the business benefits for onboarding and keep them updated.
• Involve senior leaders in engaging new employees with the values and business.
People can be very busy at work and other priorities could emerge that push onboarding to the back of the line.
• Engage a cross-functional team to work on the onboarding initiative.
• Onboarding should not be an “add-on” but should supplement the work that is already occurring.
• Mentors for new employees can help bring them into the culture.
• You need to demonstrate the clear and tangible benefits of onboarding. People need to see what’s in it for them.
Onboarding is treated as a “nice to have,” not a strategic imperative.
• Align the onboarding initiative with relevant and timely strategic areas of the business. Promote this alignment across the enterprise.
• Dedicate resources in time, personnel and financial to put meat on the bones of the onboarding initiative.
• Ensure there is an onboarding timeline with specific activities, responsibilities, goals and milestones.
• For companies with a leadership development program, require that the emerging leaders actively participate in onboarding in some way and/or add value with an improvement to onboarding.
• Incorporate onboarding conversations into the one-on-one sessions between new employees and their supervisor. The focus should be on getting the new employees up to speed in terms of their job, company culture/values and the business.
New employees feel they don’t gain insight on company culture/lack socialization with other team members.
• In-company socialization can occur with mentors leading the way, along with involvement in affinity groups and participation on sports teams or other company-related activities.
• Maximize technology within onboarding by having an onboarding link on the company’s intranet and mobile applications. Content would include videos, resources, blogs, newsletters and social media.

Source: Dana E. Jarvis, adjunct professor, Duquesne University and regional organizational development consultant, Resources for Human Development.

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