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on January 19, 2017 Onboarding

How to Build Onboarding Plans for New Hires

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One of the key differentiators of Administrative versus Strategic onboarding is the role of a structured employee onboarding plan for new hires.

But how do you get started? If you’re working in an established company, you’ll find multiple siloed resources, overwhelming wikis, outdated playbooks, and of course… hiring managers that are already stretched and believe their Google Doc works “just fine”.

As a member of the People Operations team, it’s your role to set up managers for success and equip them with the tools they need to be effective. This includes educating your managers on how to onboard new hires. 

This post will cover a proven six-step method to Build Onboarding Plans for your Organization.

#1. Define the post-start experience with Road-Maps

To differentiate from the overall Onboarding Plan, we like to focus on the post-hire experience as Onboarding Road-maps. These are structured learning plans that provide new hires with relevant goals to support their success in their new role.

This isn’t the administration of setting up laptops and organizing a swipe pass. Instead, this focuses on one question — What and when should we have new hires learn and understand to be successful?

For organizations seeking to maximize the lifetime value of their talent, Employee Development is essential. Taking the time to build structured onboarding plans shows that you care about new hire success.

The old-school method of drowning new hires in a thousand Google Docs, blog posts, and playbook reference manuals is dead.

Leverage key trends in learning.

With today’s constant overload of information and distractions, you need to leverage the key trends in learning:

  • - Bite-sized, snackable content - no 100 page playbooks
  • - Crowdsourcing best practices - leverage shareable content across teams
  • - Collaborative learning with others - no sitting in corners while managers are at meetings
  • - Actionable results and outcomes - (we’ll touch on this later)

Research shows that structured onboarding improves new hire retention by 82%. You need to invest the time in breaking down your messaging alignment from playbooks and powerpoints into the right type of content.

#2. Identify the Key Objectives of your Road-Map

It’s important to be smart with your team (and their time).

The second step for a strong Onboarding Road-Map is identifying the key objectives that your Onboarding Plan should focus on.

Key onboarding objectives.

Emphasising everything has the same result as emphasising nothing — the new hire will lack focus and direction and be uninvested in the process.

We typically see people-first companies focus their objectives on:

i. The Onboarding Basics

What are the helpful things they need to get started? Will an onboarding buddy be assigned? Is there a regular All-Hands Meeting, Team Happy Hours, or a Company Knowledge base?

It’s important to identify and focus the new hire’s attention on the best opportunities to learn new things and best practices all along the road.

ii. Company Knowledge

To become a US citizen, you need to understand the nation’s history and values, and be connected to the country. Becoming a successful, mission-aligned new hire is no different.

What’s the pitch for our company? What are our competitive advantages? What’s our strategy and how do we execute it day-to-day? These are are all crucial elements for the new hire to learn.

iii. Cultural Alignment

A strong, nurturing social life is both a basic human need and essential for career success. While these things can be learned slowly over time, we encourage you to invest in teaching new hires your mission and connecting them with the team.

Some common issues that new hires can face include the way colleagues make decisions, different communication styles, how new ideas are advocated and how disputes are resolved.

iv. Case Studies

What’s important to our customers and how do we solve their needs? What are some common objections our sales team face? Why do customers choose us vs the competition?

Once we identify our essentials, we need to speak to our peers and leverage the current knowledge on what’s important.

Siloed resources and outdated content in wikis, playbooks, manuals, guides, and email threads are impractical and ineffective. Rather than struggling to organize such content, make the most of your time by finding the most relevant material for new hires.

#3. Identify Role Models that want to Help

The hardest part of getting Onboarding Road-Maps in place is organizing and motivating your company’s managers to create plans for their new talent. But Employee Onboarding plans must be aligned with business objectives.

The most fundamental problem with existing onboarding programs is that they’re not strategic.

Every company is unique, which means teaching new hires how to be a ‘great employee’ is not always the same as being a ‘great employee at your company’.

This commonly occurs when HR or L&D departments own onboarding — they create the content, but the content is not connected to the business units. Therefore, is not aligned with team-specific tactics and strategy.

The good news is that you can normally find one advocate or role model that is passionate about new hires and onboarding — they will recognize the importance of a structured onboarding plan.

With this role model, you can develop the baseline Road-Map covering core objectives relevant to all new hires. Developing the baseline plan will help you build a strong foundation of objectives that can help get the support for other managers.

Onboarding advocate.

#4. Approaching Managers

Everyone’s busy. But it’s the People Team’s responsibility to equip managers with the tools they need to be effective.

The best employee onboarding plans include a mix of core onboarding objectives relevant to all new hires (which we created with our advocate), and secondly, role-based objectives for their specific role (i.e. marketing, sales, or product).

The best managers will already have an existing plan in place in a Google Document or PowerPoint, but organizational alignment and consistency is impossible using methods that are siloed and don’t scale.

Sadly, most managers don’t have any plan in place and would appreciate the support of the People team providing the structure. Remember — coaching managers on how to effectively onboard new hires is the responsibility of the People Operations team.

It’s not uncommon that great individual contributors are hired and promoted into managerial positions with no education or know-how of how to onboard their team.

Reaching out directly to line managers with set instructions, the proposed structure, and a Road-Map template can help provide clear expectations on what you’re looking for.

#5. Create Accountability through Assigned Outcomes

As Peter Drucker taught us…

"What gets measured gets managed." - Peter F. Drucker

With Onboarding Plans, it’s critical to have Outcomes that are tracked as part of onboarding plans to ensure that new hires are having a consistent onboarding experience.

These include the right conversations with their buddies and managers, along with providing the People Operations team visibility across the organization.

The involvement of a Buddy, Mentor, or Coach is essential to Onboarding Plans, and you need to make them aware of their responsibilities.

With social acclimation being one of the most important components of new hire success, outcomes should be assigned to multiple stakeholders across the onboarding process.

A Buddy could be responsible to:

  • - Discuss - ‘What you wish you knew when you were a new hire’
  • - Arrange a meeting to introduce the new hire to 10 people in the organization  

The Manager could be responsible to:

  • - Provide the new hire with an understanding of how cross-department collaboration and communication occur in the organization
  • - Discuss and agree on clear business objectives that new hires are expected to deliver against

People Operations could be in charge of:

  • - Ensure new hire attends introductory sessions with leadership on key business functions
  • - Have a development discussion and complete your Personal Development Plan

How many outcomes should be part of a Road-Map?

As mentioned above, the best onboarding plans have a mix of core onboarding objectives and role-based objectives — typically totalling 3 - 5 objectives.

We believe that new hires should be working to achieve 10 - 15 outcomes with their peers. Too many outcomes can detract from overall progress, so focus on what's really important.

#6. Build a Scalable and Repeatable Process

The best onboarding programs focus on building a scalable and repeatable process for new hire success, ensuring a culture of sharing best practices and continuous improvement.

By creating Onboarding Road-maps on a common platform and structure, all business departments can share the ideas and feel confident in the program. They’ll know that best practices are being shared and new hires are benefitting from a common onboarding strategy and organizational alignment.

New hires are a big investment, and it’s year one in which most of the investment risk exists. If you don’t invest in their success with a structured onboarding plan, you could be left trying to fill the role again within 12 months.

Forward thinking leaders know that putting the foundational pillars in place from day one yields huge benefits for organizational success. Once you create these plans and weave them into the fabric of your current business, incremental cost of widening and improving the onboarding program is small.

At Sapling, we help companies build structured onboarding programs with best-in-class technology. To learn more about how to run an effective onboarding program, schedule a free product demo below.blog_banner.png

Jeni Fahy

Jeni Fahy is a contributing author at Sapling, a culture-first organization helping People Ops leaders deliver employee experience programs with consistency, visibility, and analytics. If you’re interested in enhancing your employee experience with strategic employee onboarding, schedule a demo with the Sapling team.