The Fatal Flaw in Nearly Every Employee Onboarding Checklist

Posted by Juliette Kopecky on Dec 15, 2016 11:28:06 AM

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Just Google the phrase "employee onboarding checklist" and you'll be bombarded with advice for welcoming a new staff member for your organization. Sources as diverse as the Harvard Business Review to email marketing firm Constant Contact to the Society for Human Resource Management all recommend a pretty standard array of best practices for employee onboarding: have the new-hire fill out critical paperwork, have their workstation ready when they arrive, introduce them to coworkers, and take them to lunch.

Nearly all of these checklists recommend a lengthy monitoring period for the new employee, with HR check-ins at the end of their first day, week, month, and quarter. These checklists assume you'll dump a truckload of information on your new employee in their first few days, and then check up on them days and weeks later to see how much (if any) of this data was retained or useful.

The first thing missing from each of these new employee onboarding checklists is patience. Hiring managers, recruiters, and human resources staff should look at decompressing the onboarding process as much as possible. The speed of information delivery must match the speed at which your prize new employee can absorb all the help you're giving them. Otherwise, new employee orientation risks becomes a source of disorientation.

You need an onboarding campaign, not an onboarding crash-course.

Consider the following changes to your employee onboarding process:

1. Breakup the paperwork. 

New employees must fill out a dizzying array of forms and documents in order to enroll in payroll, benefits programs, security credentialing, and a host of other critical functions. These forms don't all have to be filled out the first day. Wherever possible and practical, space out the deadlines for document completion so your new employee's first week on the job isn't spent as an unofficial human resources intern.

2. Disassemble the employee handbook. 

Everything from holiday schedules to dress codes to social media policies to corporate mission statements are jammed into little printed handbooks (or PDF files) that employees are expected to peruse and memorize in their non-copious spare time during their first few days on the job. Instead of dumping a handbook in a new-hire's lap and hoping it gets read, try delivering a section of the handbook each day or so over a the course of a few weeks so that it becomes a regular part of the employee's schedule. That way, they have an actual chance of retaining the information your HR department so dutifully assembled.

3. Space out the introductions. 

One of the time-honored rituals of an employee's first day on the job is the tour of the office wherein the new-hire is introduced to a parade of faces and their associated names and job functions. Very few of us can remember who we met on our first day at work, let alone what they do. While the office tour is absolutely valid for acclimation, a good onboarding campaign will schedule regular re-introductions of new employees to critical staff members. Over the course of their first few weeks, a new-hire should have met not just their everyday peers, but have a grasp on who department leaders are (and what their departments do), as well as who to go to for help with HR issues, technology problems, or simple facilities complaints (like a lack of toilet paper in the bathroom).

4. Make onboarding happen online (where everything else happens). 

Forward-thinking organizations are adopting messaging apps like Slack, HipChat, and Microsoft Teams to replace siloed communications tools like paper documents, phone calls, and emails. It's time human resources—particularly employee onboarding—caught up. If you want to build a culture of online communication, it should start from Day One with a notable share of onboarding information-delivery occurring in these communications apps. There's no better way to avoid the dreaded stack of new-hire forms, or mind-numbing hours of orientation videos and seminars. 

You can try out the onboarding innovations above with Talla's Intelligent Onboarding Assistant. It allows you to schedule onboarding campaigns within messaging apps like Slack and HipChat.

Install on Slack

If you're ready to build a true, patient, 21st-century onboarding process with modern tools and decompressed techniques, Talla's Onboarding Assistant is where you must start.

Topics: Future of Work, Human Resources