The link between on-boarding and engagement

Updated: 8 months ago
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I teach humanistic management and have a background in both the for profit and non-profit sectors. I am also on the USA chapter board for the International Humanistic Management Association.

I recently had an epiphany about on-boarding while discussing the on-boarding practices for Greyston Bakery – who practice open hiring – meaning – anyone who wants a job – gets hired. Their on-boarding procedures – reminded me of my volunteer management on-boarding procedures. And my volunteer management program was well regarded and I was loaned out to other organizations to help them set up and manage their volunteer processes.

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Eleanor Roosevelt once said (and I am paraphrasing) treat your employees like volunteers. There is a lot to be said for this.   In volunteer management circles – we have a document titled – the 7 sins of volunteer management. These “sins” relate to what needs to happen to successfully on-board a volunteer.

To put this “sin” list into positive terms a good on-boarding will.

1.    Explain the work that needs to be done (clarify job descriptions – roles, responsibilities etc)

2.    Explain WHY the work needs to be done.  (mission orientation)

3.    Provide the tools for the work that needs to be done (what they are, where to get them, how to use them – how to navigate the organization if they have a problems)

4.    Ensure the staff is trained on how to use the tools properly

5.    Verify staff know how to do the job correctly in real life – not just – here is the training go

6.    Follow up  - check in for a month to make sure work is being done and that staff understand priorities and that anything unclear in the training is clarified for future trainings or changed if it turns out that in real life – staff do it differently.

7.    Thank them as part of the follow up – again- to help ensure they understand the importance of the priorities.

Recently asked questions about on-boarding and their answers:

1.    What are your best and tested methods to on-board new joinees? Is it orientation, training, first day experience or any other(s)?
a.    The orientation MUST include information on why the work being requested is important.  An orientation to the history of the organization and the mission and purpose of the organization. Most of the motivation issues can be addressed if the onboarding includes the moralimperative of getting the work done. What happens if your company didn’t exist and the customers didn’t have you all to help them? Why does what you do matter?

Examples:  I was in Japan a couple of years ago and toured the Inax museum. They make toilets and other porcelain products and have for a couple of centuries. While we were there -  there was a new employee orientation training going on. They new recruits learned about tile around the world. The history of toilets in Japan. How porcelain is made, all about soils from around the world and the properties of soil and how it impacts the final product, how the company helped rebuild Tokyo after the Ginza fire and more. This wasn’t simply – a – we need you to make sales calls for us orientation. This was a several day immersion into the history of the company and all aspects of production.  Only THEN could the employees go on to do whatever it was they were hired to do.

Greyston Bakery has a similar on-boarding. They bring people in as a group – and orient them to the bakery. What is the bakery’s history? How was it founded. What are the principles that guided the founders? Who all are the customers. How do all the parts of the organization work together to get the brownies out the door and to whom and what happens if they don’t get those brownies baked.  It’s not simply a – we need you to do accounting for us. Everyone – EVERYONE is given an immersive week long orientation. And if they don’t complete it – they don’t move on to the production floor. This is why they can open hire. The people who stay through on boarding – WANT to be there and re committed to the project. This is similar to volunteer on boarding. You make it exclusive – something that has to be worked for – and the people who rise to the challenge – are great.

2. Do you have any different onboarding methods depending on the position or department a candidate joins?
No. You should not have different on-boarding methods. Everyone should go through the same orientation.

3. What on-boarding methods, even thought to be great, aren't as effective in driving engagement and why?

If you don’t include information on why the company exists, who the customers are and why it is important that your organization exist to solve whatever problem you are solving and how the company is organized and how the parts of the organization work together to solve those problems - your employees won’t necessarily understand all that and they are more likely to just view their own work in isolation – which is not very motivating and it doesn’t encourage collaboration or motivation. Understanding how a person’s work impacts other employees – is VERY motivating. Most orientations – cover the job- legal requirements and little else.

If you are interested in learning more - let me know - I may just create a - how to on-board effectively program. 

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1 Comment

Anantha Padmanabhan  Srinivasarangan
Anantha Padmanabhan Srinivasarangan Jul 10, 2019 UTC
It's a fine line, but effective on-boarding can bring instant success to Organizations

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