Let’s face it. Onboarding can be awkward. Not only is your new employee facing an unknown situation, but the team they’re joining is in uncharted waters as well. Some people thrive in uncertainty – but for others, it can be really uncomfortable. The healthiest thing to do is to take on the situation immediately, and that involves making sure the air is clear for your new hires and the teams they join. So let’s put everything out on the table and discuss the onboarding challenges that nobody likes to talk about. It’s like therapy for onboarding, and we’re going to feel a lot better about this afterwards.
The Dreaded Probationary Period
This is a major onboarding challenge, because it's common to only think of the probationary period as 3 to 6 months for a new hire to prove themself as being able to live up to the expectations they set during the hiring process. But from your new employee’s perspective, it’s also a timeframe in which the company demonstrates that it’s truly a place where people want to work. Either way you look at it, there’s always that lingering question: are they here to stay?
To help answer that question, the onboarding process should outline all expectations, from both sides, and keep track of whether those items have been met. Has the employee demonstrated a solid understanding of the processes required to do their work? Has the company provided the necessary support for the employee to do so? The more specific you can get, the clearer the answers become.
Pro Tip: If you're an entrepreneur & you're unsure how to get this all done, it might be time to hire your first HR person.
Fear Of Not Fitting In
Aside from being able to successfully do their job, there’s also a social aspect to onboarding. Will your new recruit get along well with their team, their manager, and other people in the company? The 10th element of engagement in Gallup’s State of The American Workplace Report 2017 is whether or not the employee has a best friend at work:
“… One stubborn fact about this element of engagement cannot be denied: It predicts performance… When employees possess a deep sense of affiliation with their team members, they are driven to take positive actions that benefit the business — actions they may not otherwise even consider.”
Clearly, the social connections that people make at work are important. No wonder both new hires and companies are worried about how everyone will get along! A tip for anyone who’s hiring someone new: have an idea ahead of time about who you think a new hire might get along well with, and set up a meet-and-greet. Having at least one person they can eat lunch with in their first week goes a long way to easing that discomfort.
Is There A Future Here?
I previously touched on the fact that a major onboarding challenge is the uncertainty about whether the company is a place that a new hire would want to work in. Generally speaking, if people find their workplace to be a positive environment, they’re inclined to stay. But for how long? It all depends on whether your new hire sees themselves progressing. It doesn’t have to be an upward progression – it can involve gaining knowledge in a different area of the business, becoming more specialized in an area that they really enjoy in their current role, or any other number of things. Regardless of what it is, there has to be some sort of future potential that motivates them to build their career within the company. With any new company, people will ask themselves: is this a stepping stone or the end goal? This question may not create as much unease as others, but it is one that should be talked about more. It is not too early to discuss future opportunities in the onboarding phase. In fact, it’s the perfect time!