This conversation with Great Performances Group team member Kellie Auld was an opportunity to explore an area of management and human resources that is consistently undervalued and overlooked: onboarding and orientation.
[Clemens] Kellie, thank you for doing this interview. Can you give us a bit of background about yourself?[Kellie] I have been working in human resources for about 18 or 19 years. Prior to that, I worked in training and development as well as police communications. I’ve been consulting in human resources for 5 years – and have thoroughly enjoyed where the consulting has taken me.
Healthy Workplace or Sink-or-Swim?
Lets dive right in. People use words like hiring, recruiting, onboarding, orienting, and familiarizing (‘famming’) pretty interchangeably. What are onboarding and orientation and how do they fit in to the rest?[Kellie] Well, there are definitely differences in all of these things but the more consistent employers are in their recruitment, hiring, orientations and onboarding; the better they will find their businesses are meeting their objectives. The workplace will be healthier as well: they’ll see less unhealthy conflict and less time lost.
What are the values of onboarding and orientation? Are they different?[Kellie] Yes, orientations and onboarding are different. Orientations are typically the first few days someone comes into the company. Most places aren’t too bad at introducing new employees but where they often fail, is in forgetting that employees need more than a few days to learn.
Think about how many times you’ve heard people say they had to ‘sink or swim’? We need to know more than when it’s payday! Who are some of our clients? Who does my job connect with and how? What are things expected of me and who should I be asking for information? Even someone who has experience with the skills they were hired for won’t know the way ‘you do things around here’. If you want to create a healthy workplace, you need to be inclusive and you need to ensure everyone is comfortable with his or her duties – not leave them to sink or swim.
What role does all this play in developing a healthy productive workplace?[Kellie] I believe one of the keys to creating a healthy, productive workplace is in letting everyone know what their contribution is to the business. Why does their job exist? Giving people a voice, recognizing them for what they do, and being respectful. Most people I speak to tell me they want to be recognized – not necessarily financially – but with feedback and recognition. Onboarding is all about creating an environment that allows for giving and receiving feedback – two way feedback. Asking, “What you need from us (as your company, as your boss, and even as your peer) and what do we need from you?” How do people know if they are doing a good job or not?
The Right Tools for the Job
Can you talk about some of the other values of onboarding or orienting, especially for existing employees, customers, the owners etc?[Kellie] Mostly what I’ve already mentioned – inclusivity, not being afraid of having different ideas – knowing what your role is and getting to know your customer’s needs too. Really having an understanding not only of your personal role, but roles of others and how important it is for everyone to work together to fulfill the goals and objectives of the business. The better you know your business, the better you can serve your customers.
Orientation and onboarding are all about an employee’s early days with a business. Are there long term benefits to getting this right?[Kellie] The long-term benefits are that people are doing the jobs they were hired to do and they know what a good job looks like, versus a job that isn’t meeting standards. When people are new to an organization, they have a different energy. More often than not, they are there because they want to be and they usually want to please. This is the ideal time to determine if a person is a ‘fit’ for an organization – and it builds pride of ownership. Who doesn’t want to work for a company that respects them enough to give them the tools to do a good job?
Do’s and Don’ts
Are you able to give us a few ‘do’s and don’ts’ around onboarding and orientation?[Kellie] Some very simple tips are to designate who is going to bring the new person ‘on board’?
Set the time aside to give them a good, solid understanding of the job. Where are things located? What is the proper way to answer the phone, put calls on hold, and transfer calls – I know – it sounds so simple – but not all phone systems are the same. Where do people go for lunch? Where are we allowed to park our cars? Where are directories or phone books for information? Who are our main clients?
Create a checklist so that everyone is brought in consistently – there is nothing worse that feeling like you don’t fit in – ask other employees what they needed when they first came. Especially if you have been in your company for a while – we have a tendency to forget what it was like to be new.
Checklists can be helpful as the person grows in their position – what is your expectation after the first week, the first month, and what will you do if the person is not meeting the standards you would like?
Return on Investment
Business owners have a limited amount of time for any task, even important ones. If they could take away one or two ‘must-do’s’ from this, what should a busy business owner commit to doing?[Kellie] The bottom line is – if you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over? If you want a healthy workplace, you have to work at it. No different than if you want a healthy body – it’s all about what you put into it.
Most people I know really want to do a good job. Give them the chance to do their jobs well.
As a consultant, I know how time can slip away and it feels as if there aren’t enough hours in a day. I have to do it all – my website, my bookkeeping, my marketing, developing training and delivering it (which means I’m out of contact) answering emails, phone calls, etc. I have on occasion brought people in to assist me – and guess what? I have to take time out of my over-crowded schedule to make sure it’s what I need and want. Otherwise, I’ve thrown away money and time.
So, think about that when you think of what you ‘must do’.
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