When I first heard the term “on-board,” I thought it referred to boarding animals for travel to a different place — like Noah, on-boarding animals to his ark.
It doesn’t, of course, and its meaning is similar to “orient.” So why do we even need a separate term, with one so functional and readily available. Orienting in the workplace is, after all, introducing someone to the ins and outs of their new organization. It covers the policies, benefits, job descriptions and the like. What else could we need need?
The difference lies in what the terms connote. On-boarding an employee covers much more than the traditional orientation program; it’s about engagement. On-boarding is welcoming new members to the team, imparting cultural values and creating excitement for the work from the get-go. From day one, the new employee — no matter their entry level — is engaged with every aspect of the organization.
Employee orientations are declining; on-boarding is on the rise. Why? What is it about on-boarding that is so popular and effective?
On-boarding begins with a warm welcome letter from the business owner; it should let the new employee know what’s happening in the company, what the culture is like, what he or she will be doing and an agenda for the on-boarding process. The nitty-gritty of a new job — filling out forms, literature on company policies and benefits, etc. — should be taken care of before arrival, to allow the process to be as engaging as possible. In smaller companies, on-boarding can be very informal, with a personal meeting with the owner and key personnel.
Arrival activities should be exciting and personal; they should leave the new worker feeling engaged with the work, values and team, so productivity can begin on day one.
Some elements of a successful on-boarding process are:
A welcoming message that explains the on-boarding process and
engages the new employee before their first day.
A face-to-face welcome from the CEO that motivates the new employee to begin contributing right away.
A demonstration of how the company culture works.
A clear explanation of the new employee’s responsibilities.
An efficient and unintrusive process for filling out forms and introducing
A timeline that extends for weeks or months, including progress checks to see how well the new employee is integrating and contributing.
In short, on-boarding is a creative process that fully engages a new employee and instills the same energy and excitement of a commencement — one that never ends.
It is a great process that supports long-term retention and empowers each employee to feel to design and succeed in their own career.