Small businesses aren’t run like multinational companies, so why would they onboard like them?
While there are certainly best practices that guide the way new employees are onboarded, the process must ultimately be tailored to meet the size and nature of a business. One thing is for certain, though: all employers should have an onboarding strategy, regardless of the business size.
Not investing in onboarding is one of the biggest mistakes a small business can make. Employee turnover is difficult and especially challenging for smaller operations that have likely invested a lot of time and energy into recruiting a new team member in the first place.
Effective onboarding reduces the risk of new employees losing interest and leaving the company within their first year. This is well documented: a study found that out of 1,000 survey respondents, a third had quit their jobs within six months of their start dates. Out of those who resigned, 15% say a lack of effective onboarding contributed to their decision.
Onboarding is a way for small businesses to show they invest in their employees. New hires should never feel as though they’re just another cog in the machine, and this is even truer when joining smaller teams. When it comes to small businesses, each person brings a valuable talent to the table. Make sure new hires know that, and avoid making the following onboarding mistakes.
Onboarding as a Team Sport
Small businesses are just that — they’re small. But even if a team is only a handful of people, small businesses should dedicate a team member who can take the lead in the onboarding process. Too often small businesses make the mistake of just greeting an employee at the door, and then leaving that person to their own devices.
A new trend many businesses, big and small, are following is to outsource their HR departments or go with an automated onboarding system, which is a great first step. Keep in mind, onboarding must also have a personal component. After all, it is an orientation to the company, its culture, and a new employee’s roles and responsibilities.
Even if there’s a remote HR a phone call away, new hires should still have an in-house point-person for their first few months in the office. This can be a person with whom they can directly communicate concerns and questions. And while this person doesn’t have to be a full-time staff member, it is helpful to look for someone with HR experience.
Other team members must also be invested in welcoming their new colleague. In fact, introductions take on even greater importance in small operations, since full teams often work intimately on projects. Friendly greetings will go a long way in making a new staff member more professionally and personally productive.
Speaking of developing healthy workplace relationships, developing these connections should form the basis of a new hire’s first few weeks. One-off greetings on the first day are great, but new employees will also benefit from longer meetings with each member of the team. This will help them determine how your small team operates and will guide their contributions.
Another mistake small businesses make is to not extend the onboarding process to include introductions with key clients or customers. As a new employee, nothing is worse than flubbing an important first meeting with a client. Briefing hires on a business’ key customers will give employees the knowledge and tools they need to manage those interactions. It will also avoid possible humiliation for your business. Remember that new staff members are representing your company.
Workspace and Resources
How many people have started a job and been relegated to sit at a colleague’s empty desk because their workspace isn’t ready? Even if the answer is just one person, that’s too many.
New employees are eager, and small businesses need to harness that energy. Part of that means providing them with a workplace they can quickly call their own. Preparing a new hire’s desk and computer is one of the smallest and most simple tasks small businesses can take — yet it’s also one of the most important.
Ensuring new employees have computer log-in information, an email address, and access to a company intranet or other relevant information will mean they’re not running around on the first day asking a manager to unlock their computer. Have a few weeks before a hire starts? Get their business cards printed and have them ready on day one. Organize who is going to be doing their training and set the tools that they will need aside. Have prepared a first day guide for what equipment is needed: whether that means a uniform, tools, or equipment. Having it clearly written in a checklist format ensures that no one shows up on their first day unprepared.
It’s even suggested that businesses take the workspace preparation a step further and include a desk plant or welcome card. Chances are new employees will have first day nerves, and making them feel like a welcome member of the team is a way to help reduce that anxiety.
This is equally important for small businesses and big businesses alike. Establishing performance expectations and an employee development plan as the most effective onboarding task to engage new employees. Too many small businesses fail to check-in with their hires, on day on and on day 100.
Reviewing performance expectations early will provide new hires a benchmark for how their days should look over the first week, month, and three months. Small businesses are often lean and ensuring a new hire knows their responsibilities and workload will benefit their individual performance and the productivity of an entire team.
While many small businesses list being cash-strapped as one of the main reasons for not having an onboarding process, most of the above recommendations require no direct financial commitment.
So what are you waiting for? There’s no time like the present for your small business to begin better onboarding.
About the Author
Michelle Stedman is Vice President of Operations for BirdDogHR, with a background in corporate recruiting and agency staffing. A published author and frequent webinar speaker, Michelle was a District Manager for Kelly Services leading a large team of recruitment professionals as well serving as a corporate recruiter for a Fortune 100 company.