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What is a good onboarding process for a new employee at a startup?

Onboarding is the process of integrating a new Colleague to the organization. Onboarding process is the first interaction of employee post selection and hence it is very important to have it right because

- It helps building motivation in new joiners.

- It helps in achieving retention goals.

- It helps boost productivity and performance.

- Onboarding process talks about the company's culture. So it's important not to leave negative impressions on the colleague.

- Onboarding is a very good long lasting Employer Branding Tool. If a colleague is integrated well, they are always going to speak about it in their social circle.

Even though there are many benefits of developing good onboarding process for organization, this is often neglected or the process is not viewed and developed holistically. Onboarding is a great tool for any HR professional to make value added difference for an organization.

According to me, It is good to have an onboarding specialist or dedicated HR SPOC for Onboarding as the process begins from the moment an employee is selected till he is productive in his role. Hence the process has below steps:

  1. Pre-Onboarding

  2. Day of Joining

  3. First week Plan

  4. First Month Plan

  5. Plan till probation period completion / first 3 months

A. Pre-Onboarding: This should cover all steps involved in keeping candidate excited about joining and making his movement to your organization smooth. I always recommend to have a check list:

a. Employee Communications:

- What an Employee need to know before joining an organization? Generally it has a communication plan like company newsletters , articles and news releases, introduction to leadership team, invite for company meetings / Town-hall, required documentation, logistical information, information on courses to be enrolled, trainings that employee shall be attending, benefits, Collect all needed documents a week before joining.

b. Assets Preparation:

- IT requirements, Network requirements, if any dispatch of assets in needed - prepare for same, Workspace requirement, In the remote working scenario facilities like Chairs / tables needed by the colleague from company.

c. Internal Stakeholder Communication:

- Inform managers on the date of joining, Ensure there is a training plan by managers to induct the new incumbent in the team.

B. Day of Joining: Day of joining is very important to create a lasting positive impression. There are numerous activities that an HR / Onboarding team can do on the day of joining.

a. Make the documentation and access to tools process easy and swift:

Remember all the document's soft copy are already submitted before joining. On the day of joining, documentation process should be limited to just signing the Employment letter and giving accesses to all tools. Startups often do this mistake of making the employee wait for couple of hours on the first day till they get all accesses. This is waste of time and resources.

b. Welcome the new colleague:- In the remote working scenario, this is challenging but still not impossible. Aim to personalize Welcome. Arrange for a team meet online ; send a welcome card and flowers at home or send a lunch package; do a virtual coffee meet.

c. Make sure you have a good communication plan:- Collect colleague's bio and some interesting facts for Welcome Email / Communication. Best way to do so is by preparing a form through which you can collect all the information, you can always revisit the responses at later point. Platforms like Workplace, Yammer, Slack are great communicating, networking and collaborating tools apart from emails.

d. Make trainings fun:- Training on like code of conduct, policy, compliances, handbook, etc.. is very tedious for a new colleague to read. Hence, aim to make it fun and easy with ways like story telling technique or interactive online portal or quiz sessions online or a token of appreciation on completing the trainings on time.

C. First Week Plan:- You need to have a strong plan of first week for the new joiner to ensure retention.

a. Colleague Interaction: There are several touch points of new colleague in the organization. Help new colleagues with list of contacts (You can create an excel and share with all, new employee can save the contact relevant to them). It is important to have schedule on calendar for discussions of colleague with the below stakeholders because in the fast paced startup environment, meetings might get missed / forgotten.

- Manager:- First week manager should be spending a scheduled time with colleague to discuss the role in detail, expectations, training plan, goals, performance management, introduce to Buddy / Mentor / Line Manager / Skip Manager / Team etc..

- Buddy:- If you have developed a buddy program, make sure Buddy spends quality time in first week to introduce him to the working environment, culture, tools, etc..

- Mentor:- If you have a structured mentoring program for new joiner, first week is great to introduce colleague to their mentor. (Meeting with mentor should happen post the meeting of colleague with manager)

- Line Manager / Skip Manager:- First week is great time for the line manager (Manager's Manager / Business Head) to have a meeting with new colleague in the function. This meeting is an introductory meeting so one can keep it crisp and sharp with a touch of humor.

- Meeting with Team:- It is important to understand who does what in the team. A good camaraderie in the beginning always helps colleagues work with trust

- Meeting with HR / Onboarding SPOC:- Touch base meeting to collect any pending documents, explain about the insurance policy or company benefits and how to avail the same, etc...

b. Tour of the Company: Many startup companies have started operating from office, however, some might still be following the remote working scenario. In any case, let the new employee know about the history, values of the organization. You can share a presentation / document / video. Share the Employer Branding materials. Include them to the relevant hobby groups, Diversity and Inclusion group, internal committee such as Fun Committee, Philanthropic groups, etc..

D. First Month Plan:

a. Conduct a Feedback Session: A meeting between Colleague, Talent Partner and manager to give platform to the colleague to share his thoughts, concerns; to Manager to share progress on colleague's performance.

b. Surveys are important to get anonymous reviews: You would like to measure the success of the program. Employee Satisfaction (ESAT) surveys are great tool to get the rating , feedback to understand gaps and work towards improvement.

c. Goals and Training programs: Touch base with colleague and support in enrolling in both mandatory / voluntary training programs. Ensure Goals are set and Personal Development Plans are made. Remember If it's not written, it's not formulated. Startups often ignore this and goals are verbally discussed. While verbal discussions are good, penning down helps to track the progress, have a visible outcome and discards assumptions during performance management discussions.

d. Induction Plan:- Through the above steps, we have introduced colleague to company culture, values, manager, team, buddy / mentor but it is also important for every colleague to connect with the vision of company, know how other departments / functions operate to make the organization's vision a success. Hence a good induction plan can have

1. A video or live session by CEO, MD, CFO and CHRO:- Talking about Vision, Values, Major Achievements and Upcoming Plans.

2. Introduction videos / live sessions by department heads:- Explaining the functioning of the team / department.

3. Session with each department SPOC (if you have buddy program, buddies can conduct this session):- Share interesting success stories, answer any questions colleague might have post seeing the videos.

4. Session with Talent Partner: All the relevant information is covered in above steps, this time should be utilized to introduce, help colleague to understand why they are so important for organization, and answer any doubts / questions colleague might have.

Shooting video and using it as part of induction saves time of all stake holders and moreover, honestly speaking traditional style of presentation is very boring. Of course, Step 2&3 can be combined and Business Head can take a session depending on the time.

E. Plan till probation period completion / first 3 months:- First 3 months are crucial because as per my observation, if an employee is retained in the organization for first 3 months then retention chances of that employee for the year are higher. Have a regular connect once in a month to ensure the syncing process is smooth. HR Business Partner plays a crucial role in analyzing the Risk and Potential of the colleague.

Metrics of Success for Good Onboarding Plan:

  1. Attrition in first 3 months of joining - Track Voluntary and Involuntary attrition.

  2. ESAT Score - Use ESAT surveys to arrive at ESAT score

  3. Rating in the first performance review - If there is a probation policy then how many colleagues are completing the probation successfully is a good way to determine how onboarding program has helped to increase employee Performance and hence productivity.

  4. Risk and Potential Analysis with Managers - Analyze the flight risk and performance potential of the employee post completion of 3 months.

Hope this gives enough information to develop a good Onboarding Program. If there are any further questions, feel free to comment / write to me.

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