Onboarding – Manager of First Impressions

This is the first in a blog series aboutĀ onboarding; to read along and get updates, follow us on twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. To join our quarterly newsletter fill out the form in the right margin of this page ->

In this blog series we are going to focus on practical advice for one of the most complex, yet most common business processes.

Onboarding starts a new relationship. This is usually done in reference to a person or a business. And just like any relationship, this first experience accomplishes a lot. It sets expectations, communicates value and helps move the relationship along during the first critical moments.

The same can be said for business-to-business (B2B) companies. You will need to onboard new clients, customers and partners regularly. The trust and collaboration will be based on these preliminary transactions.

Being able to onboard well is a symptom of high performing organizations.

First impressions last forever! The onboarding process sets the expectations of the new employee, client or company. If it goes smoothly, they think things will go smoothly in the future.

Having the discipline, resources, foresight and leadership to make onboarding go smoothly is no simple feat. Oftentimes the complexity of a person or company destroys our ability to build something that works for every situation.

Nonetheless, through trial, error and sheer perseverance your teams can achieve an acceptable and delightful experience.

So how do we start?

Most designers agree that a map is a decent place to start talking about processes. Mapping out the workflow will help people understand what is being discussed along with the upstream and downstream impact. For example, if an HR role enters in a new hire name into a form; don’t make anyone type it again.

This might seem obvious, but if you’re drowning in paper forms you might not be able to see the forest through the trees.

Onboarding is a living and breathing process. It is always changing.

What happens prior to the on boarding process starting? Literally. What is the trigger to start onboarding? Did they accept an offer? Did they sign a contract? That’s a great place to start!

When they signed the contract, is that the last thing you need to get started? If not – work upstream to that contract or agreement so that you can gather the necessary information required to take on a new client/customer or teammate.

Next, how much lead time do you need?

If someone just signed a contract, how long until they have products in their hands? How long do you have to set up a new employee and prepare for their arrival? How long until they are trained?

When the first order of business is to do “all those things we didn’t do last time”, it looks like you are disorganized, your teams are disorganized and you can’t be bothered to make things better.

The stream of tasks and workflow to onboard a new employee should go as fast (or faster) than you expect the employee to also produce and contribute to the teams’ success.

And this is the most basic of all requirements for an onboarding process. You see the process should right-fit your culture and organization. Go as fast as needed for success. Not faster, nor slower. Both will cost you more than is necessary.

So hopefully mapping out the processes and seeing what needs to happen and when will start to make you look more organized. Like you care about this new relationship!

So how much of the experience of a new employee should we consider “onboarding”?

This is one of my favorite questions and it’s one of only two places left to innovate most onboarding programs. Many organizations already get the process of intake of personnel along with assignment of security and tools. Companies and teams looking to take onboarding to the next level, add security training to match their access and tool training as well. Then start career path activities and mentorship programs.

Putting these talent management basics in place at the onset of a relationship will help in very valuable ways. Things like attrition avoidance and risk mitigation. This isn’t just an investment in security, efficiency and recruiting; it’s also an investment in protecting intellectual property and talent retention.

The management of any relationship is, in entirety, onboarding.

From the moment a new relationship is formed, to the time professional ties change or sever, onboarding is happening.

If an organization has excellent ownership of internal and external processes, specifically in learning and development, there will be a continuous effort to grow and nurture relationships with and between staff.

This is also why it’s so hard to make improvements to onboarding as a process. You have employees, partners and clients participating in the process at all times.

The only time onboarding ends is when you complete offboarding. Lest we forget; if it’s important to give people access and tools, it’s probably just as important to remove their access and collect their tools.

This brings us to the next biggest innovation gap of most organization’s onboarding process.

Knowing what access, tools and skills each employee, customer or partner company has is an extremely valuable set of data. This value extends to multiple departments, processes and systems. It also keeps the information up to date for audit and reference within other processes and applications.

The easiest way to manage your most valuable assets (your people) is to capture their context when they start. Then manage the lifecycle to continue to keep this information up to date.

The opportunity cost of capturing what tools, access and skills an employee has during onboarding is too great for any organization to overlook.

As your team diversifies the skillsets needed to design and deliver great onboarding efficiency, content and procedures; the onboarding process will continue to improve. And so will your employees.

Stick with this series as we continue to explore on boarding. We’ll cover a myriad of related subjects on this topic.