You signed the contract with a candidate. Now what?

by Jobbatical July 26, 2016

Do’s and Don’ts of Onboarding a New Hire

Recruiting is challenging work, and a good recruiter is like gold bullion. Yet a signed contract is just the first step. Now you need to onboard the new hire — and retain this team member for the long haul. And this can be the biggest challenge of all.

Did you know that nearly one third of people employed in their current job for less than six months are already job-hunting? Ouch.

Onboarding makes the difference. While some hiring managers may think onboarding has little business impact, it actually has a tremendous effect on the bottom line: companies that do it flawlessly can expect to nearly double their revenue growth.

Here’s what to do and what to avoid in order to keep your superstars:

Do make the new hire feel welcome

While strong leadership is important, your new hire will interact with coworkers eight hours a day. And unless this is a referral recruit, the new hire probably doesn’t know anyone on the team yet, except the manager who conducted the interview.

To help them feel welcome:

  • Introduce the new hire to the people he/she will work with, and share relevant tidbits in addition to their names and positions (“Josh is one of the most creative developers we’ve been lucky enough to hire. Ask him to show you how he tweaked our new app.”). Now the two colleagues have a talking point. Bonus: casual accolades help your existing team member feel recognized and appreciated, which boosts retention.
  • Invite the entire team to a first-day lunch to break the ice, or an after-work beer to connect beyond the job. While there might be one or two team members who’d be happy to do this anyway, the level of value increases exponentially when the team leader makes it part of the core culture for welcoming new hires.

Take a tip or two from Google. The global technology leader assigns every new hire a “peer buddy” who has the employee’s back. It’s a built-in mentoring program. This way, new hires won’t keep questions to themselves because they don’t want to “bother” their coworkers.

Google even sends the new hire’s manager a reminder to assign a peer buddy — and this reminder gets newbies up to speed 25 percent faster. (Notice how “peer buddy” sounds like “beer buddy”? Google has the finer points of onboarding down to a science. Just saying…)

Bottom line: the faster a new hire gets to know her coworkers, the faster the she can contribute to the company.

Do help the person learn their job

New Facebook engineers write and upload code their first day on the job. Talk about bootcamp! But it’s a fantastic way to learn:

  • It implies the workflow is easy enough to be picked up by a new hire, instead of requiring a N-week training period.
  • The new person helps the team grow by building mentors’ management and teaching skills, rather than spending the team’s time training them. Everybody wants to contribute as much as possible as quickly as practical, instead of slogging through a lot of documents without delivering results.

To prepare for the best ramp-up experience:

  • Document the process well enough that new hires can understand their role without extra help.
  • Prepare a small task before the new hire joins the team, such as Facebook’s live code challenge, so the person can contribute immediately.

A 5-point checklist of what to document:

  1. Login information for important internal portals/accounts
  2. External service(s) relevant to the person’s responsibilities (Google Analytics? Github? CRM?)
  3. How coworkers share knowledge internally (Wiki? Google Docs?)
  4. How tasks are allocated and tracked (Trello? Asana?)
  5. Who to approach with questions, if your company doesn’t have a “peer buddy” system in place.

Don’t withhold feedback!

  • Nobody’s perfect out of the gate. Even the best hire will need time to adapt to your business and systems.
  • Provide feedback that helps team members better understand one another.
  • Point out errors and suggest corrections; this creates growth.
  • Feedback from coworkers and managers helps new hires fit in with the team’s style and workflow.

Don’t keep someone who isn’t a fit

  • Managers dislike firing, especially after the time, effort and expense involved in recruitment. But sometimes it’s necessary.
  • A candidate who seemed “perfect” during the interview might not fit the team or culture once on the job.
  • After several rounds of feedback, you both may agree it’s not working.
  • Say goodbye promptly, review your recruitment process and start again. After all, a poor hire could cause more harm than an empty slot on your team.

Successful recruiting is only the first step in successful hiring. When you find the best people, help them contribute their best efforts to achieve the team’s goals, and their own personal best.

Originally published at on July 26, 2016.

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