3 Overlooked Keys to Employee Onboarding

I’ve had quite a few jobs. The shortest tenure of my career was a single six-hour shift at a famous pizza chain. I was offered a job as a delivery driver. But when I arrived, I was immediately thrown on the phone and asked to take orders. The system was easy enough, so I decided to stick it out with the hopes of realizing my delivery driver dream another day. Next, I was tasked with making pizza with no training, just by following a big poster on the wall. To top it off, I didn’t know how to estimate pizza delivery time. I confidently told every customer that their pizza would be prepared, cooked and delivered in a blistering 20-30 minutes.

Looking back, if they onboarded me properly, I would have stuck it out. I hate quitting. I love pizza. But the intense lack of context was too much - even for a naive teenager. 

It’s not just pizza joints that struggle with onboarding. In fact, only 20% of organizations have a comprehensive onboarding plan according to SHRM Foundation research

Here are three overlooked aspects of onboarding (and how DocOps can help). 

Importance of Day One

First day the job. The schedule usually consists of locating the bathroom and HR forms. Or the agenda consists of “drinking from the fire hose” where employees are pummeled with an ungodly amount of information. This stems from a traditional approach from decades ago when there was less competition and no LinkedIn. Workers weren’t likely to leave a job within the first months, or even years. 

Today, experts say 20% of employee turnover occurs within the first 45 days. First impressions aren’t everything, but they matter. A first day experience will stick in someone’s mind, good or bad. There are several methods for improving the initial experience. 

  • Day 0 - Too many new hires are told they’re expected to hit the ground running during an interview, then handed a stack of HR paperwork on their first day. There’s a better time for such tasks - after the offer letter is signed, and before the first day. This way employees can take their time, avoid typos and actually think about their tax and retirement options. Meanwhile, employers boost productivity by shortening ramp up time. 

  • Focus on the Individual - Research published in the MIT Sloan Management Review found an onboarding process that focused on the individual instead of the company reduced turnover by 32%. Some employers conduct an “entrance interview” or do team bonding exercises such as a “two truths, one lie” panel. These are low-cost, low-effort actions that could increase the lifetime value of employees. 

  • Team Socialization - Research in the Oxford University Press showed those who form social networks at work learn faster and perform better. There’s unlimited options for accomplishing this. Marketing agency Percolate uses a “buddy system” where new employees are paired with a seasoned team member who can guide them through the mundane while providing a window for honest dialogue. Other companies facilitate social connections with a team happy hour or employee scavenger hunts. 

  • Community Involvement - Cornell researchers studied 230 software firms and concluded that social involvement in the community (and with coworkers) is crucial for employee onboarding. Do this by coordinating volunteer events with charities, and making the event schedule public.

DocOps in Action: Socialization and team culture improvements is a major benefit of discussion through document reviews. The roundtable setting provides a platform for everyone to contribute in a natural way. For new employees, reviewing a document with new team members is valuable exercise. Learn more about DocOps.

Documentation > Training 

For employers, training and onboarding are often grouped together. While it’s certainly part of it, this rationale overlooks something that resonates with every type of manager - self-learning. Employees should be able to learn on their own, at any time. New employees are often left to peruse around without clear direction of how to get better or at least more informed. 

You can have the best training system money can buy, with leading software and well-paid curriculum experts - but one thing you can’t control is how a given individual learns. That goes for the speed in which they learn and the preferred format. That’s why enabling self-learning is so important. An available database of documentation allows new employees to learn about their job, and the company culture. Studies on which form of learning is most effective have mixed results - it depends on the individual. 

Of course, just reading documents alone isn’t going to be that effective over time. 

The DocOps review workflow is designed so everyone is encouraged to read, write and share. Document reviews provide a diverse learning environment, and eliminate something that is proven to slow down learning - multitasking and distraction. 

Possible onboarding documents include: 

  • Team (or Company) Charter - A new employee would benefit from reviewing a team charter document which includes background & context, roles & responsibilities, team operations, budget & resources and more. A smaller company or startup could use a company charter document in the same capacity. 

  • Role Description - What better way to establish accountability and transparency for a new employee, his team and manager than to review a document which defines all components of the job. 

  • Software Usage Guide - Many new employees must use an unfamiliar SaaS product. Reviewing the how-to’s, settings and standards is much more effective than learning on their own. 

Ongoing Onboarding 

If 80% of companies don’t invest in a formal onboarding program, it’s likely an even higher percentage don’t think about onboarding after the first six months of an employee’s tenure. This oversight can lead to confusion or even resentment over time. 

Situations such as promotions, lateral transfers, when someone takes on a bigger team or when the company experiences a merger, downsizing, technology changes and more all require a fresh introduction. This can’t happen with just an assigned trainer and training material. 

The DocOps workflow solves this issue by leveraging a living database of information. There’s still a need for the initial creation of the document, but instead burying within a storage system, it’s owned by the whole team. Thinking about onboarding as an ongoing initiative instead a one-time task helps with employee engagement which impacts employee retention. Similar to above, ongoing document reviews could include role description and team charter documents for employees who switch roles or teams.