New Employee Onboarding for Small Businesses


With any new job, an employee gets to learn a different business, develop new skills, and build relationships. Small businesses often underinvest in new employee onboarding and miss the opportunity to help support an employee through this exciting life event. I recommend following one simple principle to build a solid foundation and symbiotic relationship with your next new hire.


Start with “the why”

Taking a chapter from the author Simon Sinek, starting with “the why” enables clearer understanding and better alignment with your new hire. By emphasizing the purpose from the beginning, you empower the employee to take ownership of this critical time in their profession. My analysis shows that, on average, it takes 3 to 6 months before a new hire is fully up to speed. Imbedding your new hires within the core business and not simply in their day-job, sets a foundation for accelerated learning and productivity. Begin simply by highlighting the key business inputs, key performance indicators, and how the two are interrelated.


Starting with “the why” delivers a few quantifiable benefits: it creates a higher level of employee satisfaction and engagement, it builds organizational alignment and consistency, and it aids in higher employee retention. I believe the upfront investment pays significant dividends within the first year.


How do you do this?


Frequent team engagement builds rapport, creates a safe environment and establishes a collaborative tone. In actuality, team engagement should start even before the new hire’s first day; offering congratulatory emails or phone calls sends the right message. Additional opportunities, such as formal mentorship programs and informal team lunches, deepen the relationship between the new employee and the team.


A full immersion with client interaction and a look at the operations offers the new employee the best explanation about the business and industry. By scheduling this time, the employee builds a solid understanding of “how the sausage is made” and “how we make money."


More importantly, site visits expose the new hire to the real-life, day-to-day challenges of the business and instill a sense of empathy and common purpose. Additionally, product and service testing allow the employee to utilize and understand the product or service from a customer standpoint. Later on, this experience will help strengthen future recommendations by a clearer understanding of the product and how it is consumed or utilized by the customer.


Peer-led training sessions continue to build team rapport and also allows the real experts to explain the business. Schedule these to further emphasize the purpose and the role of the department and be sure to supplement them with exercises and case studies.


Starting “with why” during onboarding helps to accelerate employee performance and instill a sense of purpose. A few key ways to deliver a powerful onboarding program is to: 1) Begin team engagement prior to even the employee’s first day 2) Ensure full immersion of the employee in the core business as a frontline employee and customer and 3) Incorporate peer-led training sessions that include the new employee providing their own insights and perspectives.





A version of this post originally appeared on my LinkedIn.

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