How to Improve Employee Onboarding for Your Small Business

by BBB Staff | Jun 18, 2018 11:33:37 AM

How do you view the concept of onboarding when it comes to hiring for your small to medium business? If you see the process as something intended to help a new employee get situated, you're correct, but ultimately the greater benefit is actually to your organization. That's because employees who aren't properly onboarded or report that they were improperly trained are more likely to leave – a staggering 40 percent of them, in fact, according to a recent survey by Canadian hiring firm Go2HR. Replacing those employees isn't a simple matter, financially speaking, either: according to a 2012 Center for American Progress (CAP) study, the cost could climb as high as 213 percent of the displaced employee's salary – a number that has undoubtedly grown with the economy in the last six years.

So, as a small to medium-sized business how do you avoid this costly pitfall? You need new employees, that's inevitable, and you likely won't have the time to customize an onboarding program for every individual. That means you'll need guidelines to follow if you want to approach the problem 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.

Don't Treat Training as Strict Modules. Again, a disciplined approach 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employee staring listlessly at a screen as a video series plays) are often created at great time and expense and become outdated quickly. 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 who they'll report to, they're likely to mirror that behavior when it comes to "owning" their work later. Forbes notes that the best way to approach taking on a new hire is having their desk, accessories, and perhaps even a welcome note or "swag bag" waiting for them on their first day.

Ask something specific of them, on a clear timeline. 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.

Be proactive about confirming their expectations and explaining perks. 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" party as a meet-and-greet 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.

A great deal of time and effort is poured into the hunt for a great employee, but the hunt shouldn't end when you find one that's a good fit. Much like the goals of your business, your quest to keep those employees should start on their hire date, and simple efforts like these will go a very long way. Remember, you aren't their only choice for employment, so convincing them they made the right choice should be as important as getting their signature on their offer letter.

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