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Onboarding process : Staff development from Day One

07/10/2022 2022/10

Every employee has experienced the onboarding process at some point: The application phase is over, the interviews were promising, and after the contract has been signed, it's time for onboarding. At this point, many question marks and uncertainties already arise. However, from the employer's point of view, this situation creates great potential for trust-based onboarding and the long-term retention and development of new talent. 

Definition of onboarding process

Every onboarding process of new colleagues is an individual challenge, which can, however, be implemented efficiently and purposefully with the appropriate preparation. In the onboarding process, it is important on the one hand to prepare new team members professionally for the new position, in order to fulfill the requirements of the filled vacancy from the entrepreneurial need. On the other hand, this process also combines the social-emotional issues that make up the company with the personality of the new team member. This demanding overall package describes the term "onboarding", which defines that a person is integrated into a company by means of suitable measures, i.e. welcomed "on board".

However, many onboarding processes do not take into account that onboarding is already the prelude to personnel development. A new team member may have been selected who, on paper, already has some required competencies, but when someone then arrives at the company, it is important to see how well these existing competencies match the requirements of the environment. 

Likewise, the focus at this point should already be on employer branding. With a one-time effort, the future onboarding process can be handled easily and quickly through standardized training, and at the same time the company values can already be communicated promptly and uniformly. 

The advantages are obvious: colleagues feel that they have been welcomed and integrated, which increases motivation and thus productivity at this early stage of employment. Termination by a newcomer becomes less likely. At this point, the employer is aware of its responsibility to integrate the person more as an individual than as a "work unit" and to create a long-term, productive "collaboration" through an investment of time and effort.

Definition of a standardized onboarding process

Every company has its own structures, processes and challenges. The abundance of topics to be communicated from the first day of work is therefore unlimited and many employers are therefore unsure how to integrate new colleagues quickly, efficiently, meaningfully and actively into the existing company structure. Often the new employee is not informed about the colleagues, existing peculiarities of the cooperation or team structures, does not know how the IT works and is badly "lost", i.e. does not feel well met.

This does not have to be the case. Through a one-time analysis of existing processes, specific technical content that is the same and repeated across the company can be efficiently and uniformly conveyed through standard training ergo a standardized onboarding process. In summary, this may initially sound like a lot of effort for the mere provision of seminars, since it must be systematically defined which topics can be meaningfully standardized in the company. But professional support can reduce this effort and even uncover internal "blind spots." In the long run and from an employer brand perspective, this results in very great advantages. To gain insight into the direction in which training can develop in the onboarding process, the following questions, for example, should be asked (e.g., in employee surveys): 
 

  • What do new team members absolutely need to know in order to feel confident?
  • What uncertainties have new colleagues often had to contend with in the past?
  • What content are all employees repeatedly confronted with?
  • Which questions are often asked by current team members (e.g. about collaboration)?
  • Which managers have already been trained on similar topics (despite different departments)?
  • Do internal colleagues already have experience with these trainings?
  • Can the company draw on expertise with certifications? - These often include that trainings have to fit exactly into the framework that is needed for standardization.
  • Which questions were asked often and repeatedly during onboarding? - The answer may indicate a deficit in the implementation of the onboarding process. There is also the possibility that incomplete internal knowledge management is uncovered. This means that internal connections that are obviously unclear were not clarified and are also not clear to current employees, which is why they are now even more confusing for new team members or are presented in a misleading manner.

If the answers to these issues are specifically addressed, resources can be saved in the long run. It is also important to consider what every member of the company needs to know in order to find his or her way internally and externally. Internal topics can include compliance training, for example, which is intended to make people fit to deal with each other in a value-oriented manner. If the focus is on the external corporate environment, customer relations training can provide confidence in dealing with customers. Responding to customer inquiries by phone or making a personal appearance at trade shows are situations in which it is better to have prepared employees than to send out unsure colleagues. Every employee should consciously act as a brand ambassador and be trained accordingly.

In addition to the individual requirements of the companies, there are legal regulations that require regular updates and documentation. For example, companies must regularly update their employees on topics such as occupational safety, anti-discrimination (AGG), data protection (DSGVO), corruption prevention and information security. Through certifications or audits, additional special content must be taught. If companies already have experience with this, the knowledge about conceptual design or implementation can be used to quickly derive simple training courses. This results in less coordination effort for the existing team, since there is clarity about the content and processes of the training. In addition, the facilitator is interchangeable, so managers, for example, have the opportunity to teach flexibly. Of course, additions to the content are allowed if they make sense and enrich the overall concept. The more often the training is conducted, the more the content will mature with the help of the knowledge of the trainees. Valuable resources are already hidden here for internal knowledge management.

The onboarding process according to what points - the framework? 

The basis for the onboarding process is the corporate structure and philosophy, which must be communicated. Building on this, the existing team structure, the job or position orientation and its goals are framing factors. It is now the task of the HR department and the manager to pick up the new employees and update them accordingly, so that they can arrive both professionally and emotionally. Here, every company is given every freedom. Ultimately, it should be clear what needs to be communicated and by when, so that the new colleague can work confidently with the right tools and the correct strategic objectives.

Design, content and structure of the onboarding process

The goal remains to get newcomers "ready to work" quickly, sensibly and effectively. Through individual and personal exchange with the new team member, it is first necessary to find out what prior knowledge or information is already available. This allows an individual work basis to be derived, which makes it possible to save unnecessary duplicate knowledge transfer or resources earmarked for this purpose (employees involved) and to establish a uniform understanding in a targeted and timely manner. In order to align this knowledge with the company's information, close cooperation and exchange between managers and the HR department is indispensable.

Through communication (starting as early as the hiring interview), prepared resources such as organizational charts, information about the corporate environment, clients, products, the market situation, and current challenges must be shared with the new person in a trustworthy manner, as must information about the role strategy. From the beginning of the onboarding process, this transparency is necessary to create trust, to bring along and involve the new colleague  "with a clear view". This "naturally" creates a feeling for the corporate culture and for important professional issues. On an emotional level, each person who is comprehensively woven into the system will be able to take care of his or her own projects more quickly. 

Process and implementation

It is best to give all new team members a rough idea of how the onboarding process will work before the first day of work. An onboarding plan (plus relevant contact persons) can provide space for appointment blocks and questions, convey trust and security, and create clarity right from the start. As part of the pre-planned onboarding process, standard mandatory training (occupational safety, data protection, etc.) and optional training on the company, compliance or specified technology now take place.

 After the first few weeks, a practical effectiveness test reveals whether there are any deficits, e.g. in tool application (example: Excel training) or in technical topics (e.g. sales approach, product or technical knowledge). One can now define the individual training needs and initiate them in the short term. In terms of time, the agreed probationary period can provide a sensible framework for this part of the onboarding process. 

In addition, it is never too early to point out perspectives. It increases motivation if employees have a specific professional goal to work towards or in which direction they can develop within the company. This often requires special further training that can be planned together with the manager at an early stage. These do not have to be implemented in the short term, but it is good to know the perspective.
Various colleagues from different departments will help to place their own team topics in scheduled rounds of introductions and offer them as information. It makes sense to invite several new team members to such events. This creates an atmosphere at eye level, allows for many questions that do not have to be answered twice, and complements the knowledge of many people with one meeting (swarm intelligence). For particularly simple and repetitive topics, you can also think about recording the events to conserve resources.

Conclusion

The advantages are obvious. For a professional implementation of a standardized onboarding process, it is necessary to conduct an individual analysis of the existing corporate environment. Structures that can be developed, expertise, documents or experts for these topics might already exist. External consulting is the best option for an accompanied execution and unbundling of these processes. With the help of an unclouded professional view by, for example, our experts, your ideas can be implemented and expanded in such a way that new and existing colleagues grasp standardized topics more quickly. Just as we can help you implement simple processes so that resources can be conserved or saved. Systematic training coordination supports the professional induction and provides orientation for newcomers and supervisors.

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