The Stages of On-boarding

On-boarding, also called organizational socializing, is the process of giving a new staff member the necessary skills, corporate knowledge, and behavioral standards to integrate into the team. Done well, on-boarding can make new staff feel comfortable quickly and get beyond the social awkwardness that accompanies being new. Done poorly, and a great employee may just walk out your door, or worse, may stay not caring what they do or how well they do it.

smiling girl

I’ve always viewed on-boarding as a staged approach. By that I mean it is a process accomplished in sections, not as one long task. Here is one way to break it down:

Stage 1: First two weeks of employment. Here the employee learns about company history, where important things like bathrooms and fire extinguishers are (you are incorporating safety training for every new employee, right???), lunch schedules, break room etiquette (I once worked in a place where staff considered food on a certain counter up for grabs), phone protocols, etc.

Stage 2: Second week of employment and following (yes, it overlaps with stage 1). This is the stage where the employee starts to learn the broad overview of their job duties and begins to integrate with their new team. At some point in stage 1 or 2 it is a great practice to let the new employee hang out with their team over lunch or some other social event that doesn’t involve the pressure of work. Social integration at this early stage really matters in the long-term life of an employee.

Stage 3: As the employee integrates socially with their teammates, stage 3 begins to occur on its own. I like to call this the engagement stage. Previously the social aspects of their new position distracted the employee. Now the nervousness is over and they really begin to focus on learning their new job duties. Increase training and place more responsibility on the new hire. They will stay in this stage until they complete their training.

Stage 4: The new hire has arrived at full integration with the team and their colleagues and managers consider them a valuable asset. At this point they are training for professional development, not to learn their core or ancillary job skills. Side note: release new employees who don’t make it into stage 4 within a reasonable amount of time given the job. “Reasonable” will differ based on the duties required in the job. A phone rep will have a much shorter allowable time than a fire fighter.

No matter which stage they are in, tailor training and schedules to it and guide them to the next stage. The worst thing management can do here is take an employee through the stages without a written plan. The employee will feel lost, not knowing what is next or what they should do, and end up lowering their ability to succeed. If you don’t have time to write a full plan now, sketch an outline. Next time you hire, add a bit more detail. The time after that, refine it. At least you will have some type of guide and it will get better and better every time you use it.

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