Onboarding is one of those concepts that gets oversimplified as often as it gets overcomplicated.
As we pondered this problem we got to thinking, what is it about the number 5? There’s the 5 senses, the 5 love languages, the 5 Ps, the 5 Ws, the Jackson 5, the 5-second rule…As humans, we seem to be drawn to 5. It’s a solid, handy number — a hand does have 5 fingers, after all — that often perfectly encapsulates an otherwise complex procedure or set of characteristics or rules without oversimplying things.
Fortunately, onboarding has a “5” of its own: the 5 Cs.
Each of the 5 Cs is something a new hire must learn during onboarding. Let’s run through them together:
- Compliance encompasses legal and policy-related rules and regulations.
- Clarification means communicating expectations around job performance.
- Culture comprises all the beliefs and values—formal and informal, spoken and unspoken—that contribute to the environment of a workplace.
- Connection is how an employee understands and relates to the workplace via relationships and channels of information.
- Check back refers to a manager’s responsibility to meet with the new employee periodically—during the new hire’s first 30, 60 and 90 days.
Every one of the 5 Cs is essential to making an employee feel welcomed, comfortable, and valued, and productive at their new job. To master onboarding, you’ll need to master the 5 Cs. Let’s drill down into each one and see how you can optimize your approach:
Compliance is the first step of onboarding, and it’s a critical step—and we’re not just saying that because we’re a compliance company. In many ways, how you address compliance sets the tone for how an employee understands their job and their employer’s priorities. Your goal should be to communicate that a) employees are always expected to do the right thing—because it’s the right thing, b) it’s easier to do the right thing than the wrong thing, and c) employees who do the wrong thing will be caught and disciplined or terminated. Make sure to introduce employees to your policies and have them sign off on important paperwork such as confidentiality/NDA/non-solicitation agreements, and state and federal forms (e.g. I-9, W-4, and withholding forms). Compliance also includes training: make sure that employees understand how to use your compliance system (e.g. to report incidents of harassment, manage consumer complaints, and so forth).
To clarify expectations and uncertainties around an employee’s job, you’ll need to ask questions. A lot of questions. From questions about safety to equipment to job performance, here are a few you’ll probably want to consider:
- “Have you signed your job offer?”
- “Have you completed all company forms (e.g. deposit information, benefit and 401k information, emergency contacts)?”
- “Do you have the tools you need?”
- “Do you have access to the building and understand access restrictions?”
- “Is your workspace fully set up (including computers, phones, software access, and necessary supplies)?”
- “Have you been given a tour of the facilities, and can you find your way around?”
- “Do you understand your role and goals?”
- “Have you reviewed and signed your job description?”
- “Have you discussed with your manager the competencies you’ll be evaluated on?”
- “Are you familiar with your department’s mandate and goals, and how your goals contribute to achieving them?”
- “Has your manager established a regular schedule for discussing your progress and performance?”
Most of us can only completely understand an organization’s culture through experience over time. That said, there are a number of steps you can take early on to give employees a positive first impression and make them feel at home in your organization. First, make sure each new hire receives and reads through the employee handbook. A handbook is a great way to introduce an employee to the organization’s mission, vision, and values, as well as its products and services, market, and competition. The handbook can also lay out key initiatives, such as your anti-harassment, safety, and fair lending initiatives. In addition to these existing values and programs, the new hire should understand the organization’s structure and goals for the coming year—so that can start contributing immediately.
Although we think of connection as a natural outcome of finding the right “fit” at an organization, there are a number of concrete steps managers can take to forge powerful connections with employees early on. For instance, an email, letter, or welcome video can go a long way toward making new hires feel connected to their workplace. New hires should also be introduced to their teammates and managers and leaders in their department, as well as any important contacts outside their department they will need to interact with time to time. You may also want to consider assigning each new hire a “buddy” who can help them acclimate to the organization.
Finally, don’t assume that your job is over after the new hire’s first day or week at the organization. In the face of actual work, even the most robust, welcoming onboarding process can fade and become a distant memory for an overwhelmed employee. With this in mind, make sure to regularly check in with each new hire by setting up check-in meetings 30, 60, and 90 days out.
By following the 5 Cs, you’ll develop the basis for an effective onboarding program. But ultimately, great onboarding depends on great people. In our next article in this series, we’ll explore each person and department’s role—HR, managers, leadership, and colleagues—in the onboarding process.