Have you ever had an incredible onboarding experience that made you think, “Yes! I totally made the right decision — this is going to be so amazing”? I did. I had that experience. I had an interactive, immersive, innovative three-day onboarding-palooza. I remember playing some fun games and meeting some really interesting people across the organization. As a learning and development professional, I thought the design of the program was engaging and cutting-edge. I was so excited to be part of a company that had created and delivered something so incredible. On Thursday, I got to my desk all pumped up, knowing this was going to be the best job ever and that I’d forge a successful and long-lasting career that I could be proud of. I’d probably retire from there.
I quit nine months later.
What happened? Well, when I got to my desk that Thursday, it was crickets. My team worked remotely, most of them in other cities. There was only one other person in the office, and he was on a different team. I had to (virtually) hunt down my very busy manager to try to get an idea of what I was supposed to be working on. I got 30 minutes on her calendar early in my third week of employment.
It was a rough go. Many of my friends and family told me to stick it out for a year. “You’ll start to get an idea of what you’re doing by then,” they told me. I didn’t want to. Even if after a year’s cycle of deliverables, and even if the next round would be more predictable, I felt no connection to the team or the organization. I felt no excitement or passion for the work I was doing, and for a characteristically high performer, dialing it in was not only affecting my work, but my personal life as well.
I’m not writing about this as a therapeutic exercise (though thank you, I feel much better now). I am writing because not only have I lived that experience, but I have seen it over and over again with friends and with clients, and some of them are not even lucky enough to have had that awesome initial experience. Many times, company on-boarding is merely providing an overview of benefits, an intro to technology and handing out ID cards.
For an on-boarding program to be effective and successful, you should proactively onboard your new hires for their entire first year. A successful onboarding strategy will reduce attrition and increase employee engagement, both of which impact your customers’ satisfaction as well as your bottom line. If you’re wondering what you could do besides benefits, technology and ID cards, read on.
- Employees need to be immersed in your culture from day one.
How do you immerse employees into your culture? A great way is to share with them the company’s vision, mission and core values. When an employee understands the purpose behind the company (vision), how the company plans to fulfill that purpose (mission), and the guiding set of beliefs and behaviors that will help the company achieve its purpose (core values), the employee can align with their own beliefs and behaviors and see how they not only align with the values, but contribute to the company’s overall purpose.
- Employees need to understand how to be successful in their new role and how success is measured.
From day one, employees should know what a successful employee at your organization does. Find model employees to mentor and speak with the new team members to show them what success looks like at your company. Set short term goals for your new hires to meet; review them, and offer real, applicable feedback on what they did and did not do well in meeting those goals.
Empower new employees with the ability to think independently and offer the best way to make decisions autonomously at your company. This will not only engage your employees from the start, but also contribute to a culture of innovation and continuous improvement.
- Employees need to be checked in on regularly.
This can and should go well beyond the first year. When an employee first starts, their direct manager should meet with them within the first few days, and with a weekly one-on-one meeting every week after that. Ideally, the new employee will meet with their boss’s boss and everyone else up and down the succession line on some sort of regular cadence (these are sometimes called “skip-levels”).
As mentioned earlier, setting up some sort of buddy or mentor program helps new employees get to know other people in their department or across the company. This helps with culture immersion as well.
Creating a culture of happy, engaged, and inspired employees starts with their onboarding experience. Be sure to plan for a yearlong strategy to immerse your newest team members in your culture.
This article originally appeared in Forbes. Click here to read