5 Effective Steps for Easy Onboarding

20 07 2010

Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down with over 40 corporate recruiters from more than 30 companies that are Fortune 500, 100, and privately held. Some of the top recruiting forces in the nation, possibly the world, participated in conversation around the topics of hiring trends, employer branding, and onboarding, to name a few. Each company approached onboarding a little differently, but there seemed to be an underlying theme with everyone’s strategy.

Onboarding, or “on-boarding”, is a business management term used for the process of helping new employees become productive members of an organization. In general, onboarding can be defined as the process of acquiring, accommodating, assimilating and accelerating new users into a system, culture or methodology. Some may call it New Hire Orientation, but it’s so much more!

As I listened to each company’s approach, I put together a short list of ways to get the most out of the onboarding process. Five ways, to be exact – important to both the employer and employee.

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate! For some, the onboarding process can last up to 9 months as the student graduates from college, transitioning into the workforce. Keep communicating with them on a regular basis. Notify the manager that that the candidate has accepted the offer. Ask them to reach out and start building the relationship. Don’t just drop them off at New Hire Orientation, saying goodbye and good luck.

2. Get the forms out of the way and orient more in “orientation”. Nobody likes spending their first week filling out forms for HR. You hired the person because you want them to work for you, right? They can’t do that if they’re filling out W-2’s, direct deposit paperwork, or if they’re worried about where to park on campus. If they’re not worrying about whether or not their check will be sent to the black hole, they’ll pay more attention to the training.

3. Provide alternative training opportunities. We’re in the 21st century. Nearly everyone has a computer (or two or three) and we know how to use it. If we have the opportunity to complete some of the training (operative word is “some”) ahead of our official start date. Let us get past the basic training, coming to our first day on the job prepared.

4. Mentor me. Assign mentors to all new hires to help with personal and professional development. It’s a great opportunity for both the mentor and mentee! New hires can learn from the experience of their mentors. Mentors can gather fresh, innovative insight from new hires (sometimes referred to as “reverse mentorship”). Whatever way you look at it, there’s a benefit! Mentorships don’t always have to be all about the job. Feel free to ask your mentor/mentee about life, their experience, or advice. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know!

5. Connect. It’s that simple. Help new hires connect with special interest groups, affinity networks, and those that have just finished the training program. It’s a great way to show them that there’s a place for everyone in your organization, allowing them to network with others who have been successful. Find optional ways to connect your employees during and after work hours. You’d be amazed at the rapport that is built over a cup of coffee when it’s not all about work.

Feel free to add your comments below. If you have a 6th, 7th or 8th way to make onboarding easier, let me know! It’s a collaborative effort.

As always, thanks for reading.


10 Simple Ways to Succeed in Your New Career

6 04 2010

Congratulations to you! You made it through the career fair, passed both the phone interview and face-to-face interviews and now have been offered the job you’ve been waiting for.  You may be thinking, “I got the job!  Now what?”  Your first year on the job is critical to the foundation of your success.  Some employers call it onboarding, utilizing a structured development plan for each new hire.  Others simply put you through a basic orientation, leaving the rest of the work up to you.

In every new career, there are a few ways a person can position themselves for success.  Here are 10 simple rules that I’ve learned along the way:

1.  Ask Questions – asking a question is something that almost everyone has trouble doing as a new hire.  We have the mindset that we are expected to know everything on the first day on the job.  FALSE!  Ask questions.  If you don’t know the answer, don’t make one up.  Instead, say “I don’t know, but can get that answer for you”. 

2.  Find a Mentor – finding a mentor(s) will help you understand the business better, learning from another person’s perspective and experience.  Ask them questions about how they got to where they are today, what their stumbling blocks were, and how they overcame those challenges.  (For more on mentorship, check out a previous post here: The Importance of Finding a Mentor)

3.  Set Goals – setting goals, both professionally and personally are key to one’s success.  After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?  I would suggest setting 12 month, 2 year and 3-5 year goals that are challenging, but realistic.  Adjusting your goals throughout your career is common. 

4.  Know Your Job – knowing your job first before stepping outside of your comfort zone will help build your credibility.  Before you jump into a new venture and take a big risk, make sure that you know your job (not just know, but do) better than anyone else. 

5.  Be Respectful – be respectful of others’ ideas.  If someone has a better idea than you, acknowledge that.  A little humility and transparency goes a long way.  Don’t be afraid to stand up for your ideas, but if someone has a better one, let them know you know it is.

6.  Pay It Forward – it sounds cliché, but pay it forward.  Don’t just ask people to help you, ask how you can help them.  We seem to focus on the bad things that happen rather than the good things.  When something good happens, pay it forward.  Smile at someone you don’t know or do something nice for a complete stranger.  You’ll feel great afterwards and people will remember you!

7.  Thirst for Knowledge – never stop learning.  Be a lifelong student.  There are lots of articles, blogs, websites, books, seminars, classes and leadership forums that will help you learn more about things that interest you.  Many employers offer leadership development classes for employees so that they can continue to polish their management style.

8.  Be Authentic – be authentic.  Be authentic to everyone, all the time.  Maintain your personal brand and don’t try to be someone you aren’t for the sake of keeping up appearances.  If respect and honesty are part of your management, you should go far.

9.  Build Your Network – never stop networking.  Some people think that networking ends once you land the job.  It can, but how will that help you the next time?  Build your network, maintaining contact with your peers, coworkers, and mentors.  Keep up with your contacts, letting them know what you’re doing and how you’re progressing. 

10.  Add Value – add value every day.  Come to work with a great attitude, enjoy what you do, and do it to the best of your ability every single day.  Ask your coworkers and managers how you can help them.  Give constructive feedback and help your team with changes for the better.

As I have requested before, pass it on and pay it forward.  If you know someone that would benefit from these tips, please help them out!  Sometimes, it just takes an act of kindness to get them kick-started and on their way to success.

This concludes my very first 4-part blog series, Landing Your Dream Job.  We’ve covered how to navigate the career fair, how to prepare for the phone interview and pass with flying colors, steps for interview success, and finally, how to succeed in your new career.  I hope you’ve found this information useful and are well on your way to landing your very own dream job.  Feel free to connect with me via LinkedIn and Twitter.

Subscribe to my blog (right side of the page) to be the first to know when a new post is available.  As always, thanks for reading.

The Importance of Finding a Mentor

23 02 2010

What is the importance of having a mentor?  Does everyone need one?  Should a person have more than one?  These are all questions that I have asked in the past and continue to hear from students and professionals to this day. 

Before we get started, I wanted to share with you some of the terms I’ll be using.  This should help you better understand According to Wikipedia, mentorship refers to a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The receiver of mentorship was traditionally referred to as a protégé, or apprentice but with the institutionalization of mentoring the more neutral word “mentee” was invented and is widely used today.

In my opinion, there are really three main benefits of mentorship:

Learn from Career Experience

As a mentee, the professional growth that mentorship fosters is amazing.  Mentors are there for you.  Ask them how they overcame certain challenges, perhaps a work-related challenge that you’re facing at the moment.  People love to talk about themselves, especially when they know someone else is benefitting from the knowledge being shared.  It’s also a great way to ask your mentor how they got to where they are today.  Find the commonalities with them, and learn how to implement your strengths to get ahead and climb the corporate ladder. 

While you’re building this relationship with your mentor, remember that you’re also building your professional network.  Keep them in the loop with your career aspirations and goals.  Having someone in your corner as a referral can give you that added edge you’re looking for. 

Learn from Personal Experience

Some of the best conversations that I’ve had with my mentors over the years don’t necessarily fall under the umbrella of “career advice” and haven’t been tied to a specific company or industry.  Instead, it’s been the life lessons that have been passed on to me that I believe I cherish most.  Hearing stories about life, love, and family continued to help me develop as a better person.  Have you ever talked to someone on the bus, train or airplane?  It is truly fascinating how people will share things with perfect strangers.  That’s the best part of the human race – we’re conditioned to see the good in everyone and want to nurture them. 

Life is too short to go through it scared to talk to anyone or to avoid meeting new people.  My advice is to get out there, reach out, and just be nice.  A smile goes a long way – it’s made me some of the best friends I have today.

Network Across Business Lines

When most think of mentorship, they automatically think of someone in their field or line of business.  While that is beneficial to an extent, breaking out of your professional circle of comfort can bring a much better understanding regarding other industries, business, and fields of study.  By breaking outside of this circle, you have the opportunity to connect with others who may see life and business differently, bringing you a unique perspective that you didn’t have before. 

An Important Part of the Onboarding Process

Many businesses around the world, Fortune 500 or the small business started by a local entrepreneur, recognize the importance of mentorship.  Companies like PepsiCo, Inc., Walmart Stores, Inc.,  Aflac, Inc., Wells Fargo & Company, and Bimbo Bakeries USA all have programs in place that use mentorship as part of the onboarding process.  When a new hire starts their career, a member of upper-management is assigned to them to help provide leadership and guidance not only as a mentor, but as a corporate ambassador.  Wouldn’t it be great to have a professional relationship with someone who’s “been there, done that”? 

I have been very fortunate to have had many different mentors in my professional career.  Some are in my line of business (now HR and Recruiting, but formerly Broadcasting) and some are outside my realm of general knowledge.  No doubt, the advice and guidance that I have received from leaders (including my peers and competitors) has proved beneficial in the advancement of my professional career and personal growth. 

“Giving is better than receiving because giving starts the receiving process.” – Jim Rohn

This quote holds true in just about everything, including mentorship.  While you’re at the receiving end of advice, guidance and experience, remember that your mentor is also gaining experience from you.  Whether it’s a fresh, creative perspective on something, or new technology, in any good relationship, you’re giving just as much as you’re receiving.  A friend put it best when she said “I don’t know that I would be where I am today without my mentor. I’ve grown professionally, personally, and spiritually. Everyone needs that special person!”

So, go ahead.  Find your mentor.  Ask questions.  Learn from them.  Add value.  When you make that connection, it’s something that will stick with you throughout your development both professionally and personally.

Please feel free to add your comments below – I would certainly value your input.