Check Yourself: 5 Flavors of Onboarding

Remember your first day of work?

That was the day you switched from being a hotly pursued prospect to an employee. When you shifted from saying them to us. The day you got to see behind the curtain.

Whether you got that warm, welcoming vibe — flowers at your desk, planned lunch, and friendly greetings — or something else — sidelong glances, confusing instructions, or an isolating location — your first day created an impression with you, and your employer was responsible.

Onboarding is a big deal, no matter the situation. Programs and products often include extra-friendly built-in welcomes, gyms and other providers work extra hard to ease the way for visitors, and employers can’t afford to miss the boat.

And yet — why bother? Why put in the effort to attract a fish you’ve already caught? Put another way, didn’t you already do the work? Isn’t this employee already onboard?

Small organizations and start-ups especially can struggle with onboarding. If you only have a dozen employees and they all had to onboard themselves, when do you need to start making onboarding A Thing? Can’t they just figure it out for themselves? After all, it’s a start-up. So… can’t they just start up already?

In a start-up, when does onboarding need to become A Thing? Can't employees start themselves up? Click To Tweet

Well. It’s already A Thing. Onboarding matters. First step, first word, first day of work — all of these are a big deal. New employees make judgments from before they step in the door to the time they clock out.

Give yourself a check-up: Which of these onboarding styles do you use?

DIY: This method of onboarding means that a new employee has to work it out for herself. She’ll figure out how to work her phone, where to go for lunch, and when it’s okay to go home. Use this method of onboarding if you don’t have a clue, either.

JUST THE FACTS: Technically, this style of onboarding meets all minimal requirements. Sit here, do that, send this welcome email by COB. Clinical accuracy, but maybe a bit chilly.

AND ANOTHER THING: Building on the simple facts, this theory suggests that new employees need to know more than just the basics. Who are all those other people and what do they do? Does anyone actually play foosball, or is that table just for show? Not to get too dishy, but are there any vibes this tender new employee should be aware of?

TRAIN UP: Sure, you’re hiring people who have skills, but they probably don’t know quite how you do things in your particular neck of the woods. This method includes a clear training plan that covers all of the requirements for the role, technical training on all the necessary tools, and clear instruction on protocols and practices the job requires. Make no assumptions and you won’t be disappointed, practitioners of this method suggest.

ADORATION: Wow! A new person! How amazing! This method showers the new employee with attention, swag, and genuine support. An enthusiastic guide (or chosen few!) help shepherd the new employee through the first day and beyond to ensure he feels the love and knows he’s made the right decision.

Sure, there’s a balance to achieve. Every organization has its own culture and every new employee is unique, so there’s no magic formula. It might seem like a waste to continue to recruit someone you’ve already got on the payroll. Still, for the amount of time and money the hiring process takes, you can’t afford to ignore onboarding.

Want to make improvements? Collect feedback from new and veteran employees, choose the right crew — role experts, culture gurus, and all-around good folks, and brew up your own special blend of onboarding magic that’ll engage new employees and strengthen your company culture and productivity along the way.

Go team!