Onboarding & Offboarding TipsNatalia Persin
Staffing changes are an inevitable part of business. Ensuring employees integrate with the existing team and company structure is vital for a successful entry. New hires need to be welcomed and exiting employees seen off amicably each and every time.
Although onboarding is an automatic assumption because new hires need to be trained before they can take on full roles, offboarding is an afterthought or purely incidental for many managers and companies. Once the official work relationship is severed by either party, cooperation, and communication of any kind tends to be written off as unnecessary.
If you want to build a strong employer brand and foster long-term external and internal relationships, the company needs to have solid onboarding and offboarding processes in place. It demonstrates care for employees as people even when they’re parting ways with the company.
Read on to find out all the other benefits the right onboarding and offboarding process can provide to a business. Follow some of the tips in this guide to make sure employees are well looked-after throughout their time at the company.
Onboarding New Employees
Bringing new people onto the team is challenging, but it can be simplified with practice. The onboarding process needs to have a backbone but still remain malleable if you realize something isn’t quite working.
But what is included in the onboarding process? How wide a scope should it have?
On one hand, it’s a general introductory phase that continues from the time a hiring agreement is reached all the way until the new hire is completely trained and ready to take on a role. It could take months or years to get out of this first phase.
Most of the time, it doesn’t take longer than about 90 days. That’s for situations where the new hire primarily needs to figure out the workplace culture and get acclimated with other protocols. Unless the role requires dealing with sensitive information or clearances that can’t be doled out quickly, onboarding new employees could occur rather quickly.
Here are some things that are typically included in an onboarding plan:
- Team Integration
Who will the new hire work with? Will they be part of a larger team or work in tandem with other divisions of the organization?
New hires might begin with the people who will be working alongside them and with the people who will manage them, but they also need to be introduced to all the people they are likely to come into contact with throughout a typical workday.
This is more than simple introductions and splitting duties. To really fit in with their new coworkers, new hires should have the opportunity to talk with their coworkers in a fairly informal setting. Naturally, not everyone will want to join for a round of drinks after work, but there should be some time to interact without immediate work.
Depending on the industry, just about every employee will need a laptop at the very least. Many creatives also need specialized equipment like cameras and tablets for drawing directly onto digital projects.
Other more generic equipment like desks and printers need only be partitioned and made available to the new hire. Nonetheless, it’s very important that employees are introduced to all the equipment they’re going to need during the early onboarding process.
Everything to do with remuneration and employee benefits should have already been discussed and agreed upon earlier in the hiring process, but the rollout of specific plans like health insurance or gym memberships still needs to be carried out before the employee is enjoying them in full.
For example, many employees likely won’t qualify for health insurance coverage or retirement benefits contributions right away. It might take a year or longer for the worker to see the beginning of any kind of retirement benefits, but their family members could be added to their health insurance plan much sooner. Helping the new employee accomplish this task is a great strategy for successfully onboarding new employees.
It may seem like a more abstract category for onboarding, but making sure employees understand the role they will play in the overall organization and what exactly they’re expected to accomplish is critical for their happiness and boosts their performance as well.
Poorly defined roles are bound to overwork the employees who perform them or send people on wild goose chases, second-guessing whether they’ve done their job well or completed it at all.
Ensuring expectations are clearly set during the onboarding process is how you carry a specific job description from the job application through to the onboarding process. Doing so will help the role operate as intended when it was still being designed by management.
- Time Frame
Onboarding new employees could take a few weeks or it could take months. Either way, the new hire should know what the success metric is so that they know what they’re aiming for. Part of this is to give them a sense of expectations and it’s also partly to reduce the likelihood of miscommunication.
From the outset, management needs to communicate how long they anticipate the onboarding process might last including any criteria that could prolong the official end. It should be clear how long the process has lasted in the past so that the new hire can plan for their short- and long-term future.
Don’t worry if you have a longer time frame in mind. Studies show that spending longer on a higher-quality onboarding process will create a more informed employee who is happier and better prepared to get their work done for a long time to come.
Tips for Effective Onboarding
Now that you know some of the most important general topics to address during the onboarding process, here are a few more specific tips for bringing new talent into the fold completely.
1. Start Early
The nice thing about onboarding is that you can always plan on it. Except for very rare occasions where new hires are already seasoned and at the top of their field, some degree of acclimation and training will be necessary.
That’s why it’s smart to get the new hire into the process as soon as you can. Once the employment deal has been worked out and an agreement struck, there’s no time to lose. The least you could do is send out some kind of questionnaire to get some basic information started.
Little details can be collected at any time and handed over to HR or whoever is in charge of coordinating the onboarding process. These are exactly the kinds of things you don’t want to have a new hire running around trying to figure out when they’re supposed to be learning how to do the job they were hired to do.
2. Work Across Departments
Onboarding new employees requires a coordinated effort from the IT, accounting, security, and HR, at the very least. All staffing changes call for this kind of holistic approach, but onboarding needs a degree of attention that’s a step above the rest.
This is primarily because new employees need help for a bit longer than other staffing changes. Internal moves are generally much faster and the offboarding process is more about feedback from the candidate and therefore doesn’t require as much coordination between departments.
When you’re onboarding new employees, you have to have resources for them and make sure they don’t hit any dead ends. Looking out for this problem will help the company and its internal teams work better together in other areas, too.
3. Automate When Possible
Algorithms and artificial intelligence are radically changing many aspects of the business world and onboarding is no different. Many IT tasks like permissions, access, and account creation can be triggered by other actions earlier in the onboarding process. Automation can also link these actions underneath one new employee account umbrella.
The problem most companies have isn’t insufficient automation but rather overusing automation without the proper monitoring or using AI in ineffective ways. Flashy software that allegedly sifts through huge numbers of job applications doesn’t always find the best candidates and may share biases of its creators, for example.
4. Build Permanent Resources for New Hires
Building a cohesive company culture requires shared cultural signifiers the same way broader cultures do. The earlier these signifiers are in place, the earlier new hires feel they’ve begun the onboarding process. Once people have made it past the onboarding stage, they have a common experience in the shared resources from early in their time with the company.
Beyond the shared company culture, permanent resources also make the training process more definite and easier to navigate. It’s kind of like paving a path – it helps ensure that everyone who goes through the process experiences it the same way.
In all likelihood, it will speed up the onboarding process as well. When people know where to go when they have problems, the problems are solved more quickly and easily. Plus, anyone who has been through the onboarding process becomes a possible guide when the resources remain the same for a long time.
5. Avoid Silos
Silos are areas of knowledge that are divided such that they are not available to everyone equally. When it comes to the onboarding process, HR employees and other responsible parties can become silos of knowledge if the process is split across too many people. It’s best to have a significant amount of the process in the hands of one party or at least comprehensively understood by them.
The reason this principle is hard to understand for many who try to design a more effective onboarding process is that specialization is normally a great thing. It helps people reach deeper levels of understanding and absolves them of distractions in other practice areas.
But in the case of onboarding, overspecialization can be harmful because it destroys easily accessible resources for the new hires. They can’t go to one person with any problems they might have. Instead, they could be forced to navigate a complex system of responsible parties that is opaque and unmanageable. That’s a bad look for the company so early in an employee’s career.
What is Offboarding?
Offboarding is the counterpart for onboarding when employees part ways with the company for whatever reason. There are small things that need taking care of, such as revoking permissions and locking employee accounts to protect the company from vulnerabilities. Stopping paychecks and coordinating the removal of departing employees from health insurance plans and other benefits are also important parts of the offboarding process.
Unlike other staffing changes, the offboarding process presents a unique opportunity to get feedback from the people who experienced what it was like to work for the company. They’re the most likely to understand their role intimately and have constructive criticisms and ideas about how things could be improved.
But the offboarding process is all too frequently ignored by companies who prefer to treat employees who are parting ways with the company like potential hazards. The kind of company that prefers to fire people on a Friday so they can decompress over the weekend is the same kind that will probably neglect to reach out for feedback.
There are some situations where the employee may not be in the mood or be unwilling to level with their former managers, but most of the time departing employees are just trying to better their careers or leaving for other reasons and have no problem sharing their ideas.
Sometimes they’ve been waiting for the opportunity to leave their mark for a long time and will jump at the chance during an exit interview. Although staffing changes may be a bit uncomfortable on a personal level, offboarding people in the right way can make everything run more smoothly.
Tips for Effective Offboarding
Most of the tips for onboarding correctly remain true for the offboarding process. But there are a few areas where management and other decision-makers should take special care when career changes and other circumstances drive employees to leave the company.
Here are a few of the most important offboarding tips:
- Communicate Clearly
Both remaining staff and departing employees need to be informed of what’s going on. This will help stop the rumor mill spinning wild tales and it will also make for a better-prepared team. Even if management is blindsided by personnel suddenly leaving, more transparency will keep the remaining staff feeling like everyone is still on the same team.
When plenty of notice is given, departing employees should also be well-informed about the offboarding process and what it entails in just the same way that they were during onboarding.
- Get Payroll Out of the Way
The most awkward discussion has to do with pay and benefits. How long will they last? What can the former employee expect?
Communication is key here just like it was in our first tip. But the more important aspect of this second tip is to rip the band-aid off and get everything finalized with payroll as soon as is feasibly possible.
Benefits operate on the same principle. This practice is good for the business as well – if an extra direct deposit accidentally goes through, the former employee has no excuse to keep hold of it if they were clearly and explicitly told when their paychecks would stop.
- Hold an Exit Interview
The best thing the company can do to maintain a good relationship with the departing employee and get some insight into possible shortcomings is to hold an exit interview before the employee leaves.
A few good questions for the exit interview include whether they felt clearly informed of their role, whether they were given the resources to do their job well, whether they would have considered staying or would ever come back to work for the company under different circumstances, and whether they ever tried to address any of their problems with other staff.
The exit interview might sound like a nightmare, but it can actually be one of the most edifying professional experiences for management and employees alike. The air can be cleared and people can speak candidly without any fear of repercussions.
Onboarding and offboarding should be a central part of the company’s staffing strategy. It creates a single narrative that runs all the way through employees’ personal careers with the company and it also ensures a cohesive and uniform experience for all employees as they begin to work, hold their position, and depart for greener pastures.
Use the tips in this guide to onboarding and offboarding to create the best possible experience for employees no matter what stage of their careers they’re in. The company will benefit just as much as the employees will in the long run.