5 Reasons to Onboard Employees, Regardless of Company Size

You’ve found her. The perfect applicant – she has it all: relevant experience, eloquent and thoughtful interview answers, and impressive references.

She starts Monday, and she quits six months later. At her exit interview she says, “I never felt connected to my coworkers or the company itself. There didn’t seem to be a point to me coming to work every day.”

Or maybe this speaks more to you: Your new hire is a college student. He’s fascinated by your field, although he has no relevant experience. He is enthusiastic about learning the ropes, asks insightful questions, and gets along with all of the staff members.

He’s about a month in and his whole demeanor has changed. He is consistently late, does only the bare minimum of what’s expected, and gossips with the staff. You fire him after only 40 days and post your opening on CovalentCareers yet again.

The issue at hand.

Where did we go wrong? Did these employees’ evil twins show up to work?

Many would point to their interview process as the problem and, while there’s no denying that an effective interview process is vital, I would ask, “What are we doing to turn these perfect applicants into perfect employees?”

As practice owners, store managers, and HR directors, we fail – and fail often – to build great teams and overcome the growing pains of a creating a business with a true culture.

What do we do about this? How do we connect our new hires inextricably to the values of our company, their coworkers, and to their jobs? How do we create a loyal staff?

The answer? A comprehensive onboarding plan.

It is vital to onboard employees.

An effective onboarding plan covers everything from how to set up direct deposit and where to park, to the skills and processes employees should master, and finally, to the foundational values and culture that make your practice unique.

Onboarding is daunting, and dare I say it…corporate? Many smaller practices and even larger practices seem to shudder violently at the phrase “onboarding plan.”

But fear not; onboarding will not make your office a cold, dark, corporate monster. I promise. Here are a few reasons practices don’t onboard (and my rebuttals of course):

“I don’t need to. I train my employees, and only trusted employees train new hires.”

Remember playing telephone? The phrase at the start would be “I eat my soup with a spoon” and by the end the phrase has become “I buy pea goop on the moon” (huh?!).

In all seriousness, I can almost guarantee that as your company grows and your responsibilities as a business owner/manager grow it will be impossible for you to personally cultivate your values and culture, and even teach skills to new hires.

At some point, if not already, someone on your staff is going to be tasked with training a new hire. Give them tools to bring the new hire up to speed, like an onboarding plan, and they’ll thank you for it.

It takes the stress off your trainer; they know what is expected of them and of the new hire, and you can rest assured the vision for your company won’t be lost in a devastating real life game of telephone.

“It’s too hard to make an onboarding plan”

It’s true, developing an onboarding plan is difficult. It takes time, effort, thought, and a lot of revision. You’ll probably have to develop a task force of your best staff to develop it. You’ll probably have to ask some advice from other practice owners and read some books on engagement and team building.

But the return is worth it. All the work is on the front end- put in the hours and the sweat to get it going and from there it’s just maintenance.

“It’s time-consuming, and payroll-draining, to onboard.”

Yes, and no. Yes, developing the onboarding plan is time consuming (see above). And yes, putting a new hire through an onboarding plan takes at least 90 days. And yes you’ll be paying for those extra man-hours.

But let’s look at it this way. How much time, and money, is spent in the hiring process? Now multiply that by how many times new hires “just don’t work out.”

Let’s invest the time and money we’ve previously been using… ahem, wasting…during re-hiring into developing our new hires into life-long team members.

Here are five reasons you should onboard every new hire, from your first and only employee to your 108th at your 14th store.

1. Onboarding creates a culture to be proud of…intentionally.

A crucial part of an onboarding plan is instilling the cultural values and social norms of your company. If you’ve ever heard grumbling from your tenured employees that “things just aren’t how they used to be,” there’s a good chance that your company culture got lost in the humdrum of everyday tasks.

A comprehensive onboarding plan will help you pass on the culture you’ve created to every generation of staff you hire.

And, if you find yourself needing to embark on a reconnaissance mission, there’s nothing wrong with putting some of your tenured staff through the onboarding plan- sometimes we all need a little reminder of why we come to work every day.

2. Onboarding establishes the foundation for growth.

Remember how your mom used to buy you shoes that were just a pinch too big? “You’ll grow into them!”

Developing a straightforward, organized, onboarding plan for your new hires gives you some wiggle room, some room to grow. You develop the infrastructure you need to grow your staff- think of the day when it would be impossible to train each new hire yourself! You might be a two man shop right now, but one day someone you hired and mentored will hire and mentor someone else.

Don’t let the vision you have for your company end with you; develop an onboarding plan so that everyone sees your vision too.

3. Onboarding is a life jacket.

You would never, unless you were my dad, throw a toddler into the deep end of the pool without making sure their lifejacket was securely fastened. Why do we do it with our baby team members?

A 30-employee optometry private practice in Florida interviewed their staff about their first 90 days with the company. Almost every employee said something along the lines of “it’s sink or swim here, if you don’t pick it up in two weeks or less you should just head home.”

The sink or swim method has been defended to exhaustion as a form of “weeding out” those that won’t cut it. Forgive me, but what are you doing at the interview?!

The interview is the place to weed out those that don’t fit your company, but once all parties have signed the dotted line you should be nothing less than 110% committed to their success.

The first 90 days should consist of handing them a life jacket and sending them for swim lessons.

4. Onboarding elevates your brand.

When new employees start working for Starbucks, they each receive a “personal email” from Howard Schultz. It welcomes them to the company, inspires and motivates them to be engaged at work, and gets them excited to begin a rigorous onboarding plan (former barista here).

There is a level of pride that comes from being a barista at Starbucks that has nothing to do with pay or the ability to craft a luxurious latte. From the start, a Starbucks barista is given the sense that “We care about you, we’re excited to train you, and we want you to take hold of the opportunities we have here.”

You don’t have to be a multi-million dollar company to instill pride and passion for your company.

5. Onboarding creates engaged employees from day 1.

The Employee Engagement study from Gallup shows that more than 70% of employees are not engaged at work… In case you missed it: Gallup identified 12 elements of great managing that influences employee engagement and identified if and how that influences the bottom line. The result? It does, and it does significantly. With an onboarding plan, you present:

  • How to perform the role and what is expected of the employee
  • How someone can be successful in this role
  • How the role fits into the overall goals of the company
  • How much you care about your employee’s success and development in the role

You’ve hit 80% of the elements of engagement on day one.

Stop hiring 10 new people a year to maintain a 5 person staff. The inability to retain quality staff goes deeper than the interview. We’re driving ourselves crazy writing and then rewriting our interview processes when the problem lurks in the first 90 days of the new employee putting on their name tag and showing up for work. What are you doing to turn the model applicant into the model employee?

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  • Buckingham, Marcus., and Curt Coffman. First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. New York, NY.: Simon & Schuster, 1999.

Courtney Beaumont

Courtney Beaumont is an on-boarding content and strategy developer for a mid-sized eyecare private practice in Tampa, as well as an optometry student at SCO. Her passions include developing culture and training strategies for new hires, and ongoing employee engagement.

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