Functional Onboarding; do your new hires feel ‘at home’?

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Welcome to our fourth blog in a series of articles exploring the ingredients of effective onboarding. This article focuses on the importance of creating a ‘sense of belonging’ and how this can be woven into your onboarding process.

Some of the first questions a new hire will ask themselves on joining your organization are;

Dr. Abraham Maslow placed ‘belonging’ third in his Hierarchy of Needs for human satisfaction and fulfilment. His model highlights how important it is for individuals to feel that they ‘belong’ and fit in. There are many factors that will contribute to whether a new starter feels ‘at home’ in their new role, these include:

Whether the work they do is stimulating

Whether they feel accepted by their co-workers

Whether their work has purpose

Our observations:

Recently a client approached us with a specific onboarding challenge, they described the issue as; “We send our new hires off to ‘boarding school’ for a month but when they come back, there is no continuity, follow up or validation”.

Their primary dissatisfaction with this approach was that new hires learn a lot of ‘theory’ with one community (training/HR) and then apply it with a totally new community of colleagues. Therefore, establishing rapport and coaching relationships with their co-workers did not start until new hires had been with the organisation for several weeks.  This was leading to fractious conversations as the skill gap between theoretical knowledge and application became apparent.

Secondly, they recognized that it was taking too long for new hires to feel they were contributing and therefore discovering any sense of purpose, as little was achieved in terms of contribution in the first few weeks.

Finally, many new hires were reporting that trying to absorb so much information in the first few weeks without an opportunity to apply learning was overwhelming. Also, that the lack of workplace experience made it hard to contextualise. In summary, many new hires found the ‘boarding school’ approach un-stimulating, lacking in purpose and problematic for developing effective working relationships. An study from Bauer, T. PhD. (2010) stated:

Research and conventional wisdom both suggest that employees get about 90 days to prove themselves in a new job. The faster new hires feel welcome and prepared for their jobs, the faster they will be able to successfully contribute to the firm’s mission


Create a ‘mash-up’ of development and application activities to provoke stimulation

By using a blended approach of training, coaching, digital content and a mobile learning platform, the onboarding experience can include scheduled and self-directed activities. Feeling ‘in charge’ of our own onboarding encourages curiosity, pro-activity and decision making, which all foster self-confidence, encourage relationship building and provide a rich and varied set of experiences.

Secondly, provide tasks that have new hires applying and demonstrating their learning by inviting them to curate evidence (video, photo, reflection documents) that demonstrates application. This approach provides focused and specific coaching moments for managers and experts as the evidence is tangible. This encourages meaningful feedback and in turn, recognition for the new hire.

Therefore, combine learning activities with opportunities to apply new skills and knowledge, receive feedback and correctly adjust, before moving to the next ‘chunk’ of development. Stimulation will come from the variety of activities as well as the opportunity to learn through application.

Create opportunities for relationship building with co-workers

Most roles require collaboration amongst colleagues for teams to deliver their objectives, so consider how you can help your new hires develop a strong operational network from the start. Understanding their role in team performance and who they can turn to for assistance is crucial in feeling part of the ‘team’. This can include tasks to meet co-workers or find their buddy/mentor and introduce themselves or attend community events with their peers and co-workers that provide an opportunity for social interaction.

Activities which encourage coaching and feedback in the workplace also give the new hire reassurance, a sense that the organization cares and direction on how to contribute most effectively.

Create opportunities for new hires to succeed early and discover purpose

Personalize the new hire’s curriculum so that it is specific to their role and operational milestones. For example, a milestone for an engineer might be to correctly install one specific product. The knowledge, skills and tools leading to that milestone all focus on that one product, once this milestone is completed, then the next product becomes the new milestone.

Setting operational milestones supported by development strategies help the new starter recognize purpose in their role and the related success helps stimulate positive recognition and hence co-worker approval.

Through a blend of stimulating development activities, tasks that encourage networking, focused operational milestones and focused coaching you will provide an experience which fosters a sense of belonging and therefore a desire to contribute for the long term.

Want to improve your onboarding experience?

If you would like to discuss your onboarding requirements and how our onboarding Web App can help foster a sense of belonging for your new hires, connect them with those that are best placed to support them, as well as provide them with an enjoyable onboarding experience, please do get in touch.


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