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BusinessColumnistsJamie Herzlich

New hires often left in lurch by bad ‘onboarding’

Many companies put a lot of effort into hiring but fall short when it comes to “onboarding” — the process of training and integrating new employees.

A recent ADP study found that only 9 percent of managers feel their company handles onboarding extremely well.

Many businesses don’t have a structured way of welcoming new hires, which can cause a real disconnect between the employee and employer.

“Onboarding has really been neglected historically,” says Alex Outwater, senior director of product marketing at ADP’s Innovation Lab in Manhattan, which focuses on research and development of HR technology. In general, it’s “very ad hoc,” he says, and that’s a shame considering the first few days or weeks “are make or break.”

While the specifics of onboarding vary by industry, it’s really about helping “that employee feel comfortable, build a sense of connection and understand the culture as quickly as you can,” he says.

One mistake many employers make is having new hires spend the bulk of their first day on paperwork, when it should be more about socialization and acclimating them to the culture and work environment, says John Coverdale, president of The Center for Workplace Solutions, a Blue Point human resources management firm.

Optimally, as much paperwork as possible should be completed before the first day, he says. Larger companies may have an online portal where employees can access necessary forms, he notes.

But lacking this, get new hires the necessary forms ahead of time, suggests Coverdale, who also serves as faculty director of the human resource management program at Stony Brook University.

Perhaps even set up a YouTube video so they can get a feel for the company before they start, he notes.

John Robertson, president of The Sexy Salad Catering Co. in Hauppauge, says he hands new employees an employee handbook at the end of their final hiring interview, so they can review it before their start date. They agree on an onboarding schedule, as well as a training rate of pay.

When new employees feel ready to start at a full hourly rate, they inform Robertson. He asks them some test questions (“What’s our most popular salad?”) to make sure they’re ready.

A good onboarding process not only helps the employee acclimate better, but “helps you determine quickly whether this person is a good fit for our culture,” he says.

According to the ADP study, onboarding for the average new hire lasts seven days.

It pays to set up the new hire’s workspace in advance, including desk, phone line and email, says Chris Campisi, branch manager of Accountemps in Hauppauge, a division of staffing firm Robert Half. Help them get to know the people they’re working with, by setting up a welcome lunch or sending a mass email welcoming them, he says.

The whole process should be structured, with “a clear understanding between HR and their manager . . . on what needs to be accomplished,” Outwater says.

To see what areas need improvement, survey employees afterward about their experience, he suggests.

“Employees who are highly satisfied with the onboarding program are three times more likely to feel comfortable after their first day,” he says.

Fast Fact:

79%

Percentage of employees who say there’s room for improvement in their organization’s onboarding process.

Source: ADP

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