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Onboarding for Small Business: How to Welcome and Train Your New Hires

by Ben Spradling | Apr 28, 2021 8:47:32 AM

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Onboarding season may soon be underway. The most recent U.S. employment report revealed that unemployment claims have reached their lowest marks since the start of the pandemic. It’s evidence that more workers are actively connecting with open jobs.

If you’re a business owner who has struggled to add to your workforce this past year-plus, that’s some welcome news. It should also be an opportunity to take a closer look at how you plan to train incoming members and introduce them to your company’s culture.

Many small businesses likely view onboarding as a process intended to help new employees get situated. While that’s not an incorrect perspective, it doesn’t exactly speak to the importance of the opportunity. Onboarding is essential to the success of both the business and the new hire.

Employees who aren't properly onboarded or report that they were improperly trained are more likely to leave, and those quick departures can get expensive. According to some studies, replacing a salaried employee can cost around an average of six to nine months’ salary. Plus, seeing employees exit can result in significant reputational damage to the organization, both internally and among job seekers.

So, as a small business owner, how do you avoid this costly pitfall? If you’re in a hurry to hire, there likely isn’t time to tailor onboarding experiences for each incoming employee. It’s easier to establish guidelines that approach the training in a consistent, measurable way.

Training needs to be specialized. While customization, time, and effort are often mutually exclusive, this is one area where you'll need to bend. It's not to say that employees – and the businesses that employ them – can't benefit from cross-training, of course. However, trying to teach too much too soon is an easy way to overwhelm a new hire right back out the door. Training priorities should mirror the new hire’s primary job responsibilities.

Take a loose approach to training. Again, discipline is great for consistency, but if your new hire doesn't feel comfortable straying off-book or asking questions, you're going to have problems. Strict training programs (think of an employee staring listlessly at a screen as a video series plays) are often time-intensive, expensive, and quickly outdated. Think about your company as it operates today, and make sure that present and forward-looking values and skills are where your training emphasis sits.

Be ready to go as an employer. This is a logical step towards making a good first impression with your new employee. If they arrive on their first day to a scramble for a desk, confusion as to what log-ins they'll need, or muddled ideas about whom they'll report to, they're likely to mirror that behavior when it comes to "owning" their work later. Have resources on-hand so that new hires only have to focus on learning their new position.

Ask something specific and set clear expectations. You know the work you're asking your new employee to do – they do not. It's up to you to lay out expectations from the start, and a 90 or 180-day goal is a great way to go about it. Where do you see this employee in three or four months? What should they be doing independently? Set a meeting on the goal date to discuss their progress, and hopefully, their achievement. Knowing that the meeting is in their fixed future will motivate the employee to tackle obstacles with purpose, and even spur them to reach out for help if they're struggling with something challenging.

Raise excitement and invite exploration. One of the most common complaints employees share, regardless of company size or industry, is that management either doesn't listen to them or doesn't care about them. Nip this issue in the bud by helping your new employees get excited about the benefits that await them, whether it be handing them a list of paid holidays, throwing a small "welcome to work" when they arrive or giving them easy access to information about product discounts and similar perks. Ask them what they're most excited about exploring in your company and in their position and help them facilitate that – they'll feel welcomed and rewarded for their service from the first day on.

More individuals are motivated to find jobs right now. If your organization aims to not only land but keep the best employees available, then your efforts should start on their hire date. Your business you aren't their only choice for employment, so convincing new employees they made the right choice should be as important as getting their signature on their offer letter.


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