Creating the Best Onboarding Experience for Your New Hires
A lot of marketing consulting firms start out as solopreneur operations. But as you continue to take on more clients and expand into new areas of expertise, you might find yourself looking to add a team member or two (or more!) to your business.
Once you’ve made the hire, you need to welcome them onto your team and get them up to speed on the systems and processes you already use for your business. This can be overwhelming for both you as the employer and for them as the new employee, but it also sets the tone for the rest of your working relationship. A solid onboarding experience gets your new team members off on the right foot and sets you all up for success.
If you’ve never taken on employees before, or if you feel like you’ve fumbled the onboarding process in the past, we’re going to cover the basics of creating a stellar onboarding experience for your new hires.
Onboarding is Bigger Than Orientation
When a new employee joins your team, there are of course some boxes to be ticked: tax forms to fill out, health insurance paperwork to complete, and company email addresses to be activated. This is part of the orientation process, but it is not an onboarding program. One of the biggest mistakes that companies make is thinking that once those steps are complete, the new employee is ready to be left to their own devices.
In reality, a successful onboarding program lasts over the course of the first full year of employment. More than just making sure they have the essentials to do their job, get paid, and access benefits, onboarding introduces them to the company culture and creates a support system that they can access throughout their tenure with the company.
Create Clarity Around Role and Responsibilities
The first step to making sure that you and your new hire will both be happy in the long term is getting on the same page. Your new employee should leave their first day with a crystal clear understanding of their role and responsibilities.
Establishing their role from the first day is critical. Not only does it ensure that the new hire is aware of what’s expected from them, it means that any existing employees understand where this new person will fit into the team. Sometimes tension is caused when a new hire is introduced, with the existing team members worried they’ll see some of their responsibilities taken away by the new kid on the block. When you’re clear up front about where everyone stands, it eliminates some of the resentment that can creep in when someone new joins the team.
Talk About Company Culture
It’s also important that your new hire is immediately introduced to the culture of the company. Is it okay for your team to work from home? Are there set hours people are expected to be at their desk? What’s the relationship between management and other employees, and how does that manifest in the office?
While company culture is something that will become clearer over time, it’s helpful for you to establish expectations and norms right up front. This empowers your new hire to dive right into work without fear that they’ll be stepping on toes or making any social gaffes.
Training modules can be helpful here. Consider putting together a video series that introduces your new hire to the company. Video is a highly engaging way to get your message across, and featuring members of your existing team on the video can give your new employee a real feel for the place and the people who work there.
These videos can be spaced out over time and cover various topics: from the basics about history of the company and clients you serve, to topics like extracurricular activities the office might organize (things like a softball team, book club, or volunteer opportunities).
Establish a Mentorship Program
A mentorship program can go a long way towards helping new employees fit in and thrive. Whether it’s just yourself and one team member or you have dozens of employees, there is a benefit to creating a structured approach to mentorship that pairs new employees with seasoned ones, who can then become their go-to for insider knowledge.
Because people are busy, it’s helpful to have a formalized program here. Even mentors with the best of intentions can get off track and let their mentees fall off their radar screen if they don’t have a set approach to helping them out.
If yours is a bigger office with an HR department, they should consider organizing monthly lunch sessions where mentors and mentees can all gather together. Or they might put together a series of courses for mentor/mentee pairs to take together.
If you are a team of only one or two, even something as simple as making an effort to establish regular team meetings and then begin them with a check-in—where every employee has the opportunity to share something they’re working on that week, plus a challenge and a win from the past month—opens up lines of communication across levels within the company. It also makes it easier for you as the owner to spot potential problems before they get out of hand.
Periodic Check-Ins Are Key
During the first year of employment, it’s helpful to have a formalized series of check-ins where the new employee can touch base, you can provide feedback, and you’re able to ensure that everyone is happy with the workload, expectations, and environment.
These check-ins can actually be managed with the creative application of your marketing automation tool. You can establish an email campaign that’s triggered on the first day of employment and set to send specific messages throughout the year. When you onboard a new employee, they’re greeted with an email that contains links to the employee handbook, relevant internal communication tools (like an introduction to your Slack channels), and maybe a welcome from leadership.
Several weeks later, they may get an email asking them to schedule a lunch with their supervisor, so they can touch base and make sure the first month at the company is going well and address any questions or concerns right off the bat.
At the six month mark, you might want to send an email with a link to a quick survey about their experience within the company so far, and an invitation to share any feedback they have. And then at the year mark, you can schedule an happy anniversary email and a link to set up a formal review with their supervisor.
Special Considerations for Remote Workers
While it’s important to make each and every new employee feel welcomed and integrated into the team, it can be especially difficult to do this if they’re a virtual assistant or are working remotely.
We’ve talked a lot about the benefits to hiring outside help to get everything done, but having team members scattered around the country or globe just means you have to be all the more diligent about setting up systems and processes to keep you all on the same page.
We’ve written in the past about the keys to establishing a successful virtual working relationship, and while many of the suggestions here are the same as above (harnessing video for training, establishing robust project management systems), it’s important to make sure you’re extra conscientious about this with employees who won’t share the same space with you every day. Check-ins are especially critical here. Sometimes it’s hard for a remote employee to feel comfortable broaching issues with you—particularly because when chatting over email or messenger they aren’t able to read your non-verbal clues—so being proactive about soliciting input (good or bad) is important.
Setting up a solid onboarding experience for your new employees is the key to establishing healthy, productive, long-term working relationships. Fortunately, there are a lot of modern tech tools that can make it easier for you to ensure the program is fully realized, from chat platforms that encourage open communication to marketing automation tools that ensure the entire program is rolled out consistently over time.
If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Marketing Automation.