In a recent Training Manager workshop, we had a spirited discussion relating to New Employee Orientation (NEO) and Onboarding programs for new employees. It started when I asked the group to define the difference between these two terms, as I’ve heard them tossed around a lot lately and often times interchangeably. During the discussion I posed the question “What constitutes an effective onboarding program?” What I received was a bunch of conflicting opinions. Post-workshop, I took this ‘hot topic’ to our SMEs at Langevin’s Alumni Group on LinkedIn. Here’s the skinny on the Orientation/Onboarding debate:
To begin with, most of our Langevin Alumni agreed that “Orientation” and “Onboarding” are not necessarily the same thing, although in my experience, it really seems to differ from one organization to the next. One LLS Alumnus defined orientation as the provision of information specific to what a new employee might need to know about the company they’ve joined and the culture where they’ll work (org chart, benefits, code of conduct, harassment, compliance, etc.). Often it is the training department that conducts these sessions and they can be done in a variety of ways (ILT, technology-based, or paper-based).
Onboarding is defined as the knowledge and skill an employee will need to perform their job function (synonymous with how Langevin defines training) and can take place via classroom instruction, on-the-job training, e-Learning or a blended approach. Again, many organizations marry the two and simply call the mainstreaming process of a new position, onboarding. One thing everyone did agree on is that this process, whatever you want to call it, is a crucial element to both individual and organizational success and establishes a strong foundation for the future.
So, just what is the key to a good onboarding program? Michael Watkins, author of The First 90 Days and renowned leadership transition expert, offers guidelines for successful employee onboarding programs. Below are five simple steps to make a great first impression on your new employees.
- Clearly define the job role and represent it honestly. Few things are more disappointing to a new employee than the realization that the job they were offered is far different from what they’ll actually be doing. Misrepresenting the employee’s new role destroys trust immediately, after which no amount of orientation efforts can undo the initial damage. Consider creating a task list for new employees (according to their role), clearly stating what they will do on the job.
- Have all relevant paperwork ready. Make sure all administrative forms, such as employment, direct deposit, and benefits are ready to be completed on day one so the new employees can begin to focus on the more job-specific content.
- Clarify the company culture. To avoid future confusion (or embarrassment), provide employees with company information, policies, dress code, etc. If the organization has a New Employee Handbook (which your training department may help to create), distribute it early and make sure all employees know how to use it.
- Create a written plan detailing job objectives and standards. Documented objectives and expectations help diminish any confusion about a new employee’s job function and opens up the floor to discuss concerns or new opportunities. If documented standards don’t exist in your organization (sounds crazy, right – it happens all the time), you may have to create them (a.k.a. task analysis).
- Think beyond the first few days. After sixty to ninety days, request formal feedback on the new employee’s experience in your NEO/Onboarding program. You can also solicit feedback from the employee’s supervisor. Take this opportunity to address any issues or concerns as well as to note any accomplishments so all parties are confident that the new employee is poised for success in his or her role.
Now, I’d love to hear from you, Langevin Alumni! What training, resources, and other events make up your organization’s onboarding program?