In Conversation With Talya Bauer, Cameron Professor of Management, Portland State University on Effective Employee Onboarding Model & Checklist
Talya Bauer (Ph.D., Purdue University) is the Cameron Professor of Management at Portland State University.
She is an award-winning researcher working in research areas across the employee life cycle including recruitment and selection, new employee onboarding, and coworker and leader relationships which have resulted in hundreds of journal publications, funded projects, and book chapters.
She has acted as a consultant for dozens of government, Fortune 1,000, and start-up organizations.
Her work has been covered in The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, Fortune, The Washington Post, Business Week, Talent Management, USA Today, and on NPR’s All Things Considered.
Q- In your opinion, how important is Onboarding Process for new hires?
The Onboarding Process for new hires is critical. It can be a make-or-break process. Research shows that effective onboarding programs are associated with better job attitudes, higher referral rates, faster time to become proficient in one’s job, better performance, and lower turnover intentions as well as actual turnover.
When offered the possibility of such amazing bottom-line results, organizations would be foolish not to take advantage of moving past the sink or swim mentality that has been so pervasive in the arena of onboarding in the past. Systematic onboarding takes time, thought, and effort but once a robust onboarding process is established, the return on investment is high.
Q- How can HR managers proactively manage onboarding and, how can new employees help facilitate their own onboarding process?
Proactivity is the key word. For organizations, taking a proactive approach toward onboarding means ensuring that everyone- not just HR managers and staff are responsible for effective onboarding processes. Hiring managers should be involved. Peers should be involved. All sorts of organizational insiders should be involved in helping to ensure new employee success. New employees also have a big responsibility to be proactive.
My research has clearly shown that those new employees who engage in proactive behaviors such as actively listening and asking questions, engaging in social activities at work, and seeking feedback are more successful than those who take a more passive approach to being new.
Q- What are the 3 levels, and your 5C formula for successful onboarding of new hires?
I originally developed the 4 Cs of Onboarding and shared those in my SHRM Professional Practices “Best Practices in Onboarding” where I laid out a number of onboarding levers. These have since evolved into the 5 “Cs” of Onboarding: compliance, clarification, confidence, connection, and culture.
Compliance refers to things that must be done when new employees start. Things like getting paperwork completed, the badging process, and provisioning tasks like equipping new employees with computers and phones as well as a workspace. Clarification refers to how well new employees understand their roles and performance expectations. Confidence refers to how much new employees feel like they can do the job well and tackle new challenges. Connection refers to how accepted and valued new employees feel. Culture refers to how well new employees understand the norms, values, stories, and symbols of their new organization.
I now include the critical importance of the 6th C which is Checking back. It’s easy to think assume onboarding processes are effective but if you aren’t checking back in with new employees and those they interact with to see if the processes are actually being followed and if they are still being regarded as effective, it isn’t possible to truly know the quality of your program. For example, you might think your buddy program is helping new employees adjust more quickly to their new roles.
But, if you actually survey them, you might find that they are actually being given outdated information which is hindering the organization’s ability to engage in world-class customer service. Once you know, you can do something about it.
Organizations differ in terms of their onboarding levels as they vary in their onboarding programs’ ability to leverage the 6 Cs. Organizations that are primarily focused on compliance and clarification are at the Passive Level 3. Organizations focused on compliance, clarification, and some of the other Cs are at the High Potential Level 2 and those who are helping new employees with all of the Cs are Proactive Level 1 organizations.
Q- How do you prepare colleagues for the new employee and what should be on an onboarding checklist?
Nothing could be worse than a new employee arriving and no one is prepared to greet them and welcome them into the organization. Not having the basic tools they need for success such as their workspace and computer ready for them on the first day can be another problem. These are basics. In general, onboarding checklists are important in terms of thinking through what should be done by when, and by whom.
Research shows that the trajectory of success for new employees starts from Day 1. Some best practices to consider for the 5 Cs include helping new employees maximize success by engaging in Onboarding Best Practices:
- Compliance. New associates need to learn specific rules and procedures. The most effective way to do this is to get them comfortable with the other Cs below so they are receptive and able to focus on learning.
- Clarification. Be consistent with onboarding practices for new employees. Have an onboarding plan in place and enact it every time.
- Clarification. Ask new employees about questions they have on Day 1 as well as a week later when new questions may have arisen.
- Culture. Make sure the organization’s values and culture are projected in how you treat and greet new associates. Stories tell who you are.
- Connection. Remember that new associates are anxious to make a good impression. Tell them how happy you are to have them join your team. Doing this early on has a much bigger positive impact than waiting until later.
- Connection. Make the first day special for new associates. Meet with them, make sure someone takes them to lunch, and that the atmosphere is welcoming. Research shows this connection matters for success over the long run.
Q- How do you develop a potential training program for new employees?
Onboarding is so much more than the first day or first-week orientation and training. Indeed, for many jobs, it can be a process that lasts through the first year on the job. However, that doesn’t mean that the content of training new employees isn’t also really important. The key is to focus on designing, implementing, and evaluating how each training activity helps enhance at least one of the 5 Cs of Onboarding.
Has compliance primarily been dealt with either before the first day to leave room for active engagement on the first day? Are there activities designed to help new employees feel connected to others at work? Is the training clear in terms of job responsibilities and timelines? Is their confidence being enhanced by the training and general onboarding process? Are new employees learning about their new organization’s culture? Within your own organization, many activities and approaches might be successful but being sure to zero in on the Cs of onboarding will help you remember to create a robust program.
Q- Any final words?
Creating, implementing, and monitoring world-class onboarding doesn’t happen on accident. The great news is that you can carefully and thoughtfully curate an onboarding process that sets up new employees for success and helps your organization thrive at a time when organizations are facing huge obstacles in terms of employee retention.
Thank You, Talya!