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How to onboard employees to make them productive from day one

Finding the right set of individuals to build a startup is probably among the highest priorities on an entrepreneur’s list. But often a critical error that is made by most is to assume that the battle has been won once the best person has been hired for a role.

I made that mistake while building my own startup over the past three years. To list them:

  1. Focusing too much on hiring
  2. Considering onboarding unnecessary or a “waste of time”
  3. Assuming training needs to happen “on the job”

I realized that onboarding helps new hires adjust to the social and performance aspects of their jobs so they can quickly become contributing members of the organization.

Why onboarding?

The process of hiring, sourcing, shortlisting, selecting and appointing suitable candidates is a tedious one, consuming large portions of both time and money. This is usually why small businesses or rapidly scaling startups tend to overlook the importance of onboarding.

Early-stage startups are misled by the notion that they are too “small” or “lean” for an onboarding process. But what they fail to realize is that this process is the best way to welcome their new hire and show him/her why choosing to work for their company is a great idea.

Whether a new team member feels encouraged and excited, or excluded and bewildered by a startup’s breakneck pace, is determined at the very beginning. How you choose to onboard your new hires will determine how fast they settle into your culture and start making significant contributions to your company.

Read more: 3 Ways in which onboarding is key to employee retention

5 Tried-and-tested steps to implementing an effective onboarding process

Having shared why an onboarding process is crucial, here are a few things we implemented differently while structuring the same for the new hires at Flexiple, the company I founded, and which have made a considerable difference.

1. Prepare the new hires for day one before they join

A few pointers to ensure a great first day for the new employee:

  • E-connect them with a single point of contact
  • Take care of paperwork before their first day at the job, i.e policies and forms that new employees need to fill out and sign
  • Provide an agenda for the day
  • Provide equipment so that they are deployable on day one
  • Set up the new hires’ online accounts. This includes company email, instant messenger, software, etc.

2. Schedule a fully packed day one

As the new hires navigate new organizational waters, it is important to give them a sense of purpose and responsibility right from day one. From my own personal experience, it isn’t a great feeling to show up on the first day and not have any work or idea of what to do.

A lot of stress is laid on employees making a lasting first impression. However, employers need to think about the impression they make on their new hires as well. If they do not feel welcome in their first few days on the job, that could cost you a great employee, simply because he/she could not relate to the company or its culture.

Read more: Building a knowledge-sharing organizational culture

3. Include important resources in the onboarding kit

It would be wise to include important documents, links and resources that your company uses on a daily basis in the onboarding kit.

Let me give an example: One of my colleagues who works in the company’s sales division, two weeks into the job found himself having absolutely no idea about the automation tool Zapier that we use on a daily basis. I realized that this shed light on the inadequacy of our onboarding process. We had neglected to brief him about the tools and resources that the startup uses.

To make sure this did not happen again, a couple of the company’s standard operating procedures were included in the onboarding kit. This also sends the message that everything we do is process-driven and structured. The intention of inundating the new hires with resources and documents is to give them a feel of what they would be working on when they join.

4. Make training a priority

If the goal is to have a highly productive workforce, time needs to be spent to develop employees. Aligning effort to goals is the best strategy. Creating a training program that is built on the values and goals of the company and making sure that training is targeted to the employees goes a long way in integrating the new employee into the fabric of the company.

It is crucial that the top management is involved in this process as it sends a strong message to the new employees that they are extremely valuable to the company.

5. Talk about your company’s culture and its history

The most stressful part of joining a new organization is not feeling comfortable, accepted and part of the tribe. The best way to bridge this gap is to show the new hires how the company’s culture and core values helped make decisions in the past.

In our company, we are a 9-member team. It was important that the new hires got to know every team member and how their work impacts the company. To initiate this, one-on-one sessions were set up for them with every team member. Pointers were included in the onboarding kit to highlight the open office culture and how their goal must be to be completely involved and to make an impact on the organization. Nitty gritties like dress code, office timings, etc. were highlighted as well.

What was the result?

...happier new hires.

Implementing this structured onboarding process has indeed made a difference. Three new hires joined us two weeks ago and they are well up to speed by now and are working with the mindset that we not only appreciate but encourage.

Closing thoughts

With the high cost of recruiting, startups must understand that effectively integrating new hires into the organization is an important step to ensure their success. Each business/organization can have its own version of the process. Onboarding done right will result in a faster learning curve for new hires, improved communication and a more productive and engaged workforce from day one.