Onboarding Components — Year One

February 15

Hiring is starting to increase as we are slowly making our way out of the recession, and this means that emphasis on the first year of employment for all new hires should be analyzed and targeted. When people use the word "onboarding" it often has different connotations, but the word normally refers to the time of offer acceptance clear through to the end of the first year of employment. Within that first year of employment are three major components that include orientation, preceptorship and mentorship. Although all companies have some form of orientation, many are lacking in the other two areas.

The initial component of onboarding is often quite tactical and regimented. There are forms to fill out, tests to take, tasks to perform, papers to sign and various hoops to jump through. Much of this can be done prior to Day One by having a strong onboarding website and this will then yield a more open, engaging Day One. Orientation normally consists of some classroom time where the new employee is introduced to many people, regulations, protocols and procedures. Once the classroom agenda is complete, the new employee goes to the hiring department and is normally partnered with another employee for their department orientation. Regardless of job title, this is often the first onboarding component and can vary in length from a couple of days to weeks.

The second component in the onboarding cycle is preceptorship, and this is the interaction that bridges classroom theory and professional practice — a functional process. This includes more of a formalized process that is time limited in scope and a preceptor works with the new hire in an instructional or supervisory role. The most efficient preceptor programs are those that include training for the preceptor and a role that includes being an educator, facilitator, role model and evaluator. The preceptor should be an employee that has the right knowledge, skills and attitude before they even attempt to train the new employee. Being a preceptor is time consuming, as it does take longer to teach and supervise someone's every move than it does to just do it yourself. Therefore, only select people will be your star preceptors. When employees function in this role, they should be rewarded in some way- whether that be with a higher salary when precepting, time off, or even positives toward clinical ladders or their performance appraisal. Some type of kudos should be given.

The third component of onboarding is mentorship, and these programs are meant to build bonds and increase the overall employee engagement — a relational process. Just like preceptors, mentors should be employees that want to be in the role and strengthen bonds that are deep and meaningful. A mentor is normally in another department and not tied to any of the clinical or day-to-day action of the new employee. Their purpose is to align the professional goals and resources in the company processes, support and social/cultural areas.

A mentor is an advisory role where an experienced, highly regarded, empathetic person guides another individual in the development and reexamination of their own ideas, learning and personal and professional development. This person is confidential and offers a social relationship along with a role that counsels, guides and facilitates development. This partnership occurs outside the line manager/employee relationship and is by mutual consent of both parties. Mentorship programs are career focused, not job focused, and work just fine even when crossing job boundaries. Most formal programs last through the first year of employment but often the bonds are deep and the relationship continues on an informal basis well beyond the first year.

A mentor normally occupies a leadership or senior level position and knows the organizational structure, policies, procedures and politics. They are interested in sharing and know when to intervene and when to pass on certain wisdom and coaching. A mentor truly gives of one's self.

In addition to the three onboarding components already discussed, it is also important to evaluate the new hire experience during that first year. This can best be done with surveys or a one on one discussion at three separate times during the year. Approximately 60 days after hire is an optimum time for the first connection, as this is the time to ask questions about the hiring process that the new hire recently experienced plus the initial orientation and onboarding. Connecting again around the 6 month period is another key time to begin evaluating employee engagement, and finally at 12 months to continue evaluating engagement, job satisfaction and future goals and direction.

As we head into 2011 and begin to see turnover rising and more workers feeling comfortable to make an employer change, our focus on new hires will increase. Recruitment of these needed professionals is only the first step and we must remember - Successful onboarding equates to increased retention and productivity!

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