How Employees Learn

This is What Perfect Onboarding Looks Like

Real talk: Most onboarding is bad. Really, really bad. And we get it since good onboarding takes a significant time investment that frankly, not all organizations have at their disposal. But what might seem like a luxury should be regarded as a necessity—that is, as long as it’s done well.

When executed properly, onboarding pays back in spades. New employees become valuable team members instead of liabilities. Less time is spent fixing mistakes and more time is spent on creating opportunities. Employees feel supported, while long-time employees get to mentor and enjoy leadership positions.

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It all hinges on perfecting the onboarding process. But what does that even look like? It goes something like this:

The Preemptive Explainer

New employees should have done their research before interviewing, but don’t leave them flying blind on their first day. A preemptive explainer video that helps them navigate their first day can help quell first-day jitters and let newbies hit the ground running. Understanding basic infrastructure before they start gives new employees a better foundation, with less training time being spent on the nitty gritty.

Face-to-Face Times

Simply put, an employee handbook will never compensate for a lack of face-to-face time with supervisors and managers. Part of the onboarding process should be spent linking talent to the right mentors. New employees can learn what’s been done in the past, what’s working well, and what could use improvement—something a written handbook can never communicate. What’s more, immediate face-to-face time with a mentor sets the tone for a collaborative company culture.

Basic Success Plan

New employees are usually pretty enthusiastic, but before they begin gunning for leadership opportunities, onboarding should lay the foundation. Understanding how to succeed on a basic level helps set the expectations upon which employees can move onto the next stage in their employment. Hyper-relevant information gives newbies the critical stuff they need from day one. If you’ve done a god job with that basic info, you waste less time going over beginner stuff when your employee really wants to level up.

Walk Around the Block

A new employee doesn’t even know where the coffee machine is, much less where to go when he or she has a question about graphic design. A “walk around the block” with a manager or supervisor helps new employees gain their bearings. Not only do they learn where everything is, but how each department works together for the greater good.

“Donut” Mess This Up

At ELM, we institute “donut meetings.” They’re low-key, casual chats (with donuts, natch) that any employee can schedule with any other employee to talk shop. These donut meetings help facilitate communication between employees that may not have opportunities to talk otherwise. Not only do the colleagues get to pick each other’s brains about their roles, but they put faces to names, departments, and job descriptions, giving onboarding a human element.

Setting Goals

Annual reviews are (thankfully) a thing of the past. Onboarding an employee, only to wait a full year before checking in sets him or her up for failure. After all, you can’t expect someone to succeed without the necessary tools and knowledge. Onboarding doesn’t stop after the first day or week; managers should take the time to set goals for the first 30 days, the first 60 days, the first 90 days and more. Regular check-ins help build employee confidence and offers real-time feedback to max out potential.

Sure, most onboarding isn’t great, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It takes more time than you might be used to, but perfect onboarding results in more confident employees who are more likely to stick around for the long haul. Ditch the handbooks and use a human-based approach to banishing bad onboarding once and for all.