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8 Tips to Ensure Great Onboarding

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Here's a short and simple question: Does your school district have a program to onboard new employees? I frequently ask this question to groups of educators, and more often than not, I get a puzzled look in return. Then, our conversation generally goes as follows:

Me: "When a new teacher or other staff member is brought into your district, do they walk in the first day knowing the culture of their building, safety rules, health insurance or emergency procedure information, how to access their email, who their mentor is, important internal processes, what the goals and strategy of the district are, how they will be evaluated, etc.?"
Group: Laughs hysterically... A few sarcastic comments from some people in the back...

While I'd like to say this is a 1 in 10 occurrence, sadly, it's more like an 8 in 10 occurrence. In all of the various industries I've worked (from electricity and retail to healthcare, automotive design, farming, and education), it's the same story. What it comes down to is that most organizations, regardless of what they make or buy, or the services they provide, do a poor job of onboarding new employees.

Chronologically, onboarding should occur after sourcing, recruitment, selection, and hiring. By definition, onboarding (some call this induction or socialization) is the act of bringing new employees up to speed on the organization's goals and strategy, rules, internal processes, expectations, culture, etc.

Onboarding is important because it decreases the amount of time it takes for someone to become comfortable and productive, while increasing an individual's understanding of the organization's vision, culture, and internal processes. It promotes appropriate behaviors and builds an understanding of evaluation and growth opportunities. An effective onboarding program can also help strengthen employee loyalty and reduce the chance that high-performing staff will leave for other opportunities.

While not everyone takes the same approach to onboarding, most organizations that do it well believe the process should extend beyond a one day meeting and into the first 90 days of an employee's tenure.

Onboarding is not "easy," but it is essential to growing talent in schools and other professions. Unfortunately, many HR managers leave it out of their talent management strategy. From my experiences, here is a list of 8 tips that will help any organization in developing their onboarding process.

Tip #1: The process should be formal but fun and should not overload!
Tip #2: Great programs extend support over 90 days and some programs extend into a new hire's first year of employment.
Tip #3: Everyone learns differently, so use a blended learning model - including online learning, social media, video, classroom activities, on-the-job previews, etc.
Tip #4: Invite current employees to share experiences with new staff.
Tip #5: Involve current staff in the design of your onboarding process.
Tip #6: Every new hire should be assigned a mentor or coach.
Tip #7: Make it personal. While we say this in education constantly, I believe it's true anytime you deal with people: "People are not widgets!"
Tip #8: Upon completing the onboarding process, new employees should be asked for feedback on their experience!

How does your organization approach the onboarding process?

Do you have any tips to add to this list?

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