best practices for Employee engagement begins with onboarding

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Posted by Doug Lubin

February 9, 2011

Economists and staffing vendors alike are issuing reports that say companies are finally ready to hire. Whether for full-time or contingent workers, as the market for talent heats up, and companies are threatened with the potential loss of key players, so too do the discussions about employee engagement and retention strategies.

But if you're just now thinking about how to engage your employees, you may be too late. Employee engagement begins well before the first "other offers" start trickling into your employees inboxes, and the first of your workers begin to accept new positions outside your organization. And even longer before the first rumblings of long hours and insufficient pay reverberate down the hallways.

Employee engagement begins with onboarding. And onboarding, contrast to popular belief, begins before your new employees arrive at the office on day one. A new hire's experience on their first day sets the stage (and their mindset) for the rest of their employment. To ensure a positive first-day experience for your new employees (contingent or full-time), and to lay the groundwork for an effective onboarding process, consider these best practices.

1. Engage employees early and often. It's important to make a good first impression with your new hires. Hiring managers should reach out and introduce themselves to their new employees via phone or e-mail well before the employee's start day. Also, send the employee any relevant websites, Intranets or forms they will have to fill out in advance, so they don't spend their first day sitting in a cube and filling out paperwork.

2. Use technology to engage new hires. If it's not possible to have new hires complete all paperwork prior to their first day, make the forms available online, so employees can complete this portion of the onboarding process more quickly.

3. Get managers involved with employee engagement. Train your managers how to onboard effectively. Give them a comprehensive checklist to help them walk new hires through the process. Managers should make employees feel like they are contributing and adding value to the organization as early as possible in their employment.

4. Create a strong internal social network to engage employees. Relationships are key to making employees feel welcome and valued. If your new employee will be working in house, arrange a comprehensive tour on day one. Assign the new hire a mentor or buddy to help them settle in, and introduce them prior to the start of the engagement.

Also make sure that the employee's first few weeks are populated with meet-and-greets with key leadership, clients, and business partners. If your new employee is going to make an impact, they need to know who the players are.

5. Engage employees in your company's cultural values. Introduce new hires to the company's cultural values and weave those values into conversations, one-on-ones, and team meetings. Again, start this early and continue consistently throughout the employee's engagement.

6. Establish clear performance expectations to engage employees. Give employees their job descriptions and written outlines of their performance objectives upfront. Schedule regular performance conversations to formally discuss how they are measuring up to those objectives. Don't reserve feedback just for scheduled performance discussions, however. It should be given frequently and spontaneously.

When it comes to onboarding and employee engagement, don't discriminate against your contingent workers. Despite their contingent or temporary status, contingent workers are still employees of your company, and you have a responsibility to ensure they are assimilated into your culture. Establishing a strong relationship with your contingent employee will build allegiance, which could result in future assignments with your company and strong referrals.

Effective onboarding can enhance employee engagement, increase productivity, and ultimately, lead to higher rates of retention. Don't take a sink or swim approach to onboarding your new hires. Start early and touch base often to give your employees the kind of employment experience they won't want to leave.
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This post was written by Doug Lubin, a successful Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) Practice Leader and Consultant, who brings over a decade of expertise building sustainable solutions for clients and partners.  Doug helps firms develop high performing talent acquisition and management strategies locally and globally.  Learn more about Doug.
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Topics: HR Strategies, Leadership & Management

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