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Careers: Onboarding

I recently returned from a conference of MBA career services practitioners and corporate representatives where I sat in on a session on onboarding delivered by a representative from Whirlpool. The session got me thinking about my own experiences as a new employee. When a new employee accepts an offer, most companies will have a plan for his or her pre-arrival, first day, first week, etc. Other companies don’t have a plan at all. And speaking from personal experience, not having a plan is not good.

I recently returned from a conference of MBA career services practitioners and corporate representatives where I sat in on a session on onboarding delivered by a representative from Whirlpool. The session got me thinking about my own experiences as a new employee.

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When a new employee accepts an offer, most companies will have a plan for his or her pre-arrival, first day, first week, etc. Other companies don’t have a plan at all. And speaking from personal experience, not having a plan is not good.

I remember my first job out of college. I showed up for work in a new suit ready to take the world by storm. Nobody knew who I was or that I was starting that day. Hard to believe the company folded about two and a half years later.

I’ve also been lucky enough to work at an office that had onboarding pretty much down cold. They had everything in place when I arrived and better yet, they weren’t surprised when I showed up (or if they were, I couldn’t tell). During the first week, I met with my new boss to talk about my role, and my performance objectives and expectations. I met with each member of the team to get an understanding of their roles and key processes. They had a structured training program in place and a detailed orientation manual; both of which helped me get up to speed in a hurry. I was also assigned a mentor. My only regret was that I wasn’t able to skip the three hour mandatory OSHA training session.

Whirlpool took onboarding a few steps further. They arrange a “new employee welcome” conference call and provide access to a roommate website and comprehensive information on relocation logistics. Does all that extra work really matter? According to them, it does. They sited research in their presentation that suggests new employees are 69% more likely to be with a company after three years if they experience a structured orientation program.

They also look at every interaction with potential candidates and employees as an opportunity to build their brand. They put a lot of time and effort into ensuring each applicant has a great experience throughout the entire process. During the session, Intel, Target, American Airlines, and Campbell’s Soup also shared similar best practices. How many of us can say we share the same strong commitment? In an earlier entry, I talked about the importance of something as basic as following up with candidates to let them know their status.

Don’t take onboarding for granted. Developing a structured process for new hires will help them hit the ground running when they join your organization. And based on the research mentioned earlier, it will also significantly increase the chance of them sticking around for years to come. If you see someone roaming your halls in a new suit with a confused look on his or her face, introduce yourself and make that person feel welcome. It also doesn’t hurt if you point out the coffee maker.

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Shawn Graham is an Associate Director with the MBA Career Management Center at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (courtingyourcareer.wordpress.com).

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About the author

Shawn Graham partners with small businesses to create, implement, and manage performance-driven marketing strategies. His knowledge base includes media relations, business development, customer engagement, web marketing, and strategic planning.

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