A Tale of Two Employee Onboarding Experiences
By Mike Raia Posted January 9, 2017
Experts have long said that the way an employee is brought into a company, those first few weeks, are critical to long-term success. Unfortunately, many companies still onboard poorly or have no onboarding process at all. Below, we attempt to illustrate what victims of a bad onboarding program go through and how it impacts their opinion of the company and their chances for achieving success.
"Hey Joe - Thanks for returning my call."
"Yeah, Bill, been meaning to get in touch to ask about your first week went at the new job."
"That's why I reached out - I quit! In fact, I called the recruiter at your new firm and asked if I could still accept the offer they made when you and I were both looking last month. I want to make sure things worked out OK for you because last week is not an experience I want to repeat."
"Wow, tell me more - I've never heard of anyone quitting the first week on a new job!"
"Well Joe, everything seemed fine when I let them know I would be signing on. HR sent me forms to fill out and we agreed I would start last Monday. I showed up bright and early, and Colleen from HR met me in the lobby, got me some coffee and we sat for a while and reviewed benefit enrollment info and the highlights of the employee handbook." After that, she took me down to the marketing department where I would be working - to meet my new manager."
"That's when it all started to go bad. My manager, Ted, the guy who really sold me on the position, was not there. Colleen asked a few folks nearby, and they couldn't agree on where Ted had gone or how long he was planning to be out of the office, they just knew he was traveling."
Joe was incredulous. "What did they do, just park you in your cube after that?"
Bill laughed. "Cube? There was no cube ready for me on Monday. Colleen needed to get back to an HR staff meeting so she just dumped me in a break room to sit out the rest of the day. Everyone in Marketing seemed to be busy with deadlines, so other than a quick hello, no one gave me anything to do or any info about the projects that are in motion."
Joe shook his head. "Surely Tuesday was better?"
Bill replied, "It took everything I had to motivate myself to go back. Colleen or someone in HR must have pulled some strings, because there was a desk for me the next morning, not far from the rest of the Marketing crew. The desk looked empty, but I opened a drawer to find a stack of old reports, bent paper clips, and more than a few pretzel crumbs. I had to clean that desk out myself. Then I wandered around looking for supplies. Managed to get a few pens and a yellow pad so I could at least look busy.”
“At 11, some guy from IT swooped in and dropped a clunker of a laptop on my desk. The keyboard was so filthy and there was a crack in one corner of the screen. I guess someone forgot to order me a new one. It booted up, but the guy raced off before I could ask for my network credentials. After lunch, I figured out where IT was, and managed to get that info out of them, along with my email address and instructions for setting up the phone account on my Cisco phone. There is other software I need but no one told me how to log a help desk request, so that never got done."
Joe said, "Wow, I am surprised you didn't resign on Tuesday!"
Bill said, "I was tempted, believe me! On Wednesday, I spent most of the morning figuring out who could help me obtain a parking pass and a badge to swipe into the building. Then I hid at my desk and tried to look busy. On Thursday, there was still no word on when Ted would be back. I asked everyone in the department if I could help them with ANYthing, but they had no clue what project Ted wanted me to start on, and they seemed so stressed that they couldn't carve out any tasks for me to help with. I was terrified that some higher-up manager would notice me sitting around looking so un-busy. That's when I decided to hand in my notice on Friday. So please tell me that your first week wasn't like this because I just can't go through this again!"
Joe shook his head and said, "That's crazy! On my first day, my HR contact met me at the door, and the morning went pretty much like yours. But she also had a printed agenda and checklist for my whole first week, showing me who would be giving me departmental and project-orientations at specific times."
"There was also an appointment with an IT technician, who arrived at my clean cube right on time, with a fully loaded, brand-new new laptop and company cell phone. He also had a checklist with all the steps he needed to complete to set me up to work. The IT tech walked me through my first login to the network and email, enabled my access to nearby network printers, showed me how to use the VPN, and helped me set up the VoIP Phone. As he was leaving, he walked me to the facilities person who printed my badge and parking pass for me.
Bill said, "That's the way things should be done!"
Joe continued, "By the way, my desk was pre-stocked with pens, paper, post-it notes, tape, a stapler, all the stuff I needed to get to work. My manager took me to lunch, along with three people I would work closely with in the coming weeks. We worked out my task list. Each task listed the team member I should contact for help. We scheduled morning and afternoon check-ins for me for the first two weeks so I was never left unsupported. The first week, a different coworker took me to lunch each day so I got a chance to get to know people on the team."
"They are really committed to helping people settle in quickly. At the end of the week, an HR manager stopped by with a survey form, asking me if there was any aspect of the first week that could have been improved."
Bill grinned and said, "I hope that is their standard process for new employees."
Joe said, "As a matter of fact, it is. I found out that HR uses workflow software to setup a customized onboarding plan for each new employee. It kicks into gear as soon as HR gets an acceptance letter. I was intrigued and asked to see the software in action. I’m pretty sure it's something we can also use to run the workflow for marketing event requests. I pitched it to my manager, who loved the idea, so I'm going to start working on that next week. Apparently, it's pretty easy to setup a workflow after you have figured out how you want the process to run. I can already think of three other ways we can use it to streamline our work."
Bill said, "Thanks, Joe, this has really calmed me down a lot. I'm really looking forward to Monday. I’d love to see what you’re doing with that workflow software after I settle in."