The way you onboard a new hire can have long-ranging impacts from how well they learn foundational information about your company to how long they’ll stay in their seats. A positive onboarding program can set you apart from the competition and create a loyal and engaged workforce but it won’t happen by accident. If you want your new employees to really internalize your content then you need to make the process more interesting than just reading through an employee handbook. Make employees really feel like part of the team by creating opportunities for them to learn about their colleagues and share details about themselves. This might seem easier said than done, especially if onboarding is happening virtually, but that’s where the following 6 strategies come into play. Just because onboarding might be happening at a distance, doesn’t mean it can’t still be fun.
6 strategies to onboard new hires
What can you do to make onboarding more effective for your new team members? Let’s explore 6 different options:
Play the question game: We know that workplace friendships increase employee engagement and lengthen an employee’s tenure at a company but it can be tricky for new hires to break into the team. One idea to help new employees learn more about their colleagues is to bring some structure and some fun to the process. At TAB, new hires are paired with older employees in 15-30 minute increments. Both employees are given an ice-breaker type list of questions to ask each other with the goal being to get through as many questions together within their time limit. Questions can be a mix of work-related topics and personal topics such as, “Where was the last place you worked?” followed by “What’s the strangest food you’ve ever eaten?” This gets colleagues talking, and hopefully laughing, together as a way to get through the awkwardness and tension that can come with joining a new team.
Create scenarios: Let’s face it, onboarding can be dull. The first day of starting a new job can feel like you’ve been bombarded with company facts and policies. Overloading new hires doesn’t help them retain knowledge or understand content. Providing a bulleted list of facts isn’t going to have much staying power in an employee’s mind. At E-Learning Hero, however, they pair onboarding with storytelling by creating scenarios and characters to help elevate mundane training. Instead of reading through stacks of papers, employees follow characters through different scenarios where the solutions require content from the onboarding material. This gives employees a more interesting way to learn and lets them work through real-world problems rather than trying to memorize a handbook.
Lunch roulette: Hands up how many people have started a new job only to make it to lunch and realize they have no one to eat with? It’s easy to feel out of place as a new hire when you’re not sure how to get to know your team members better. Warby Parker decided to fix this problem by creating “lunch roulette.” It’s an app that randomly selects two groups of 4 people from the organization to have lunch together once a week on the company’s dime. Each person selected is pulled from a different department so employees are constantly meeting new people. Now, this idea is great if you’re headed back to the office but even if you’re staying remote you can adapt the concept. Instead of physically going out to lunch, set up virtual lunches with randomized groupings of employees and use a food service like Uber Eats to provide the grub. This gives new hires a chance to meet people in a group with less pressure and allows departments to mix that might not have had the chance otherwise.
Send them on a scavenger hunt: The idea of building a scavenger hunt into your onboarding program isn’t revolutionary at this point but there are still ways to make it fun. Over at MHS Homes, they’ve dialed their scavenger hunt up a notch by hiding clues about their employees within the company’s intranet directory. New hires are given a single clue about the people they are supposed to find such as, “Who is obsessed with owls?” or “Whose father had a hit single?” Then they have to look through the intranet to find clues about who each person is, learning heaps about all their colleagues in the meantime. This idea is easy to do in a virtual environment and non-disruptive in an office. It’s a simple way to help employees learn more about each other without putting anyone on the spot.
Conduct entry interviews: This idea comes from Thrive Global and shouldn’t be confused with an actual interview. The entry interview happens after an employee has been hired sometime during their first week. The goal of the interview isn’t to uncover skills or abilities as it would be during the hiring process but rather to learn more about who the new hire is and how to best support them. Arianna Huffington shared one example of learning a new hire treasured taking her daughter to work at 7:30 am but at a previous job had always had work calls booked at that time. It was an easy fix with her new manager that resulted in a much happier employee right from the start. By taking the time to learn details like this about your new hire you can shape their employee experience in a more positive way which will hopefully result in a long-term employee.
Compare assessment results: At McQuaig, one strategy we leverage in our onboarding approach is to use assessment reports to help learn more about other team members. Colleagues are paired together to compare any results they’re comfortable sharing to see how they are similar or different from their teammates. This way of sharing knowledge helps the team learn more about each other’s individual differences and identifies potential sources of conflict before they even arise. If you know a new hire has a particular work or motivation style right from day one, it’s easier to find an effective way to collaborate together. It also helps break the ice particularly between managers and new hires by providing structure to the “get-to-know-you” conversations and highlighting commonalities early on in the relationship-building stage.
Onboarding doesn’t have to be dry
Yes, there is a lot of content new hires need to cover during their onboarding process but that doesn’t mean you should just give them a stack of papers and send them on their way. Effective onboarding goes beyond rote memorization and provides different ways to internalize important knowledge. Whether you gamify the process or bring in co-workers to help there are many ways to make an employee’s first week or month feel engaging. And when employees are treated to a strong onboarding experience, they are more likely to stay in their seats longer giving employee retention rates a boost. The bottom line is, successful onboarding matters and that’s going to take some time and effort. So give your employee onboarding process another look and see if there are any areas that could use a bit of an update.