2020 was one of a kind. We found ourselves navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, fighting for racial justice, and reprioritizing what seemed like every part of our lives (family, health, finances, and more). Specifically in the business realm, most companies had to pivot to a virtual environment and readjust to meet the various needs of their employees. While much changed, one thing that remained the same was the importance of successful onboarding for new employees. As we enter into a new year, with still so much to learn, here are my top three suggestions for a meaningful onboarding experience in 2021:
Encourage internal networking at your organization. Think about the helpful resources and meetings that gave you more context about your role, as well as the non-written work culture expectations. Beyond access to tactical tools and understanding policies and procedures, introduce your employee to critical leaders and influencers they should know to support each other's work. Be thoughtful about how you will introduce them to the team virtually and in-person — highlight their experience and accomplishments, and most importantly their why and how it connects with the organization’s collective work. Also, share the most effective ways to communicate with leaders within the organization. Some leaders prefer emails with key bullets, others prefer an email followed up with a call or face-2-face meeting. This intentionality shortens the learning curve to get new employees acclimated to their role, establishes community with decision makers, and shows the level of investment in setting up your team for success.
Plan out realistic and measurable goals. You should develop a 30-60-90 day plan with consistent check-ins and feedback that hold both you and your employee accountable to meet short and long-term goals with milestone wins in between. In your meetings, ensure there is a mutual agreement of what success looks like, with reminders of if or how their work aligns with the organization's values and vision. This creates more focus, productivity and helps to avoid any assumptions that can lead to gaps and mistakes. It also shows a collective effort to achieve success.
Foster a culture of communication that challenge and champion your employee’s work. The makeup of your team should bring unique skills, experiences, and talents to maximize performance and increase perspective. Building a healthy team rapport happens not only during team meetings, but also through discussions, group lunches, and social activities; providing team members an opportunity to learn about their colleagues on a personal level and understand them as human beings. This effort makes all shout-outs, acknowledgement, and critical feedback authentic knowing that their best interests are considered for their personal growth — that is not transactional. It also provides more context to show empathy when supporting your team’s work-life balance.
No onboarding is perfect; however, being thoughtful about the process sets a tone of cultural values that are invested in employee’s performance, development, satisfaction, and ultimately retention. Being intentional with your organization’s onboarding practice has the power to lead to a more sustainable organization. At the end of the day, reflection and communication is key to understanding each other's needs for successful onboarding.