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The following excerpt is from Caroline Stokes' book Elephants Before Unicorns. Buy it now on Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple books | IndieBound or click here to buy it direct from us and SAVE 60% in this book if you use code CAREER2021 by 04/17/21.
An impersonal, draggingly slow onboarding process is an unnecessary elephant keeping your unicorns (aka star employees) from reaching their full potential. Think about the excitement you felt when you got the "yes" from your new hired man. Think about the excitement the new employee is feeling. Your enthusiasm and passion probably impressed you when you first met her. But now all that energy comes to a standstill.
You want to take advantage of your new hire's excitement and work to maximize it. You can do this from day one. Here are some tips to help make the onboarding process more personal – and a lot more enjoyable.
Related: Biggest Mistake You Can Make When Hiring For A Job (And How To Fix It)
1. Automate everything you can.
Nobody likes to waste time entering data repeatedly. Check out software to streamline your onboarding so new hires don't have to re-enter information they've already given you.
2. Make it memorable.
Just because you and your unicorn are now in a committed working relationship doesn't mean you should stop treating them with special care. How can you make your new employee's first day unforgettable? Does your company have a quirky tradition that puts everyone in a relaxed, silly mood? Are you anywhere near a particularly cool part of town that your new hire and teammates can go on a small field trip? You only have a first day on a new job. Do what you can to make your unicorn's experience special from day one.
3. Connect new employees to the team before they start.
Connecting with someone – even a marginal one – can ease anxiety before a new business begins. Is it possible for you to connect your new employee to their teammates via social media or another tool before starting? How can you encourage and motivate your current team to reach out to the unicorn before their start date? Be creative.
If done right (and not in a way that scares the new hire, existing team, or both) your efforts can do more than just make your unicorn feel welcome. If he feels more at home from the start, your unicorn will likely reach their potential faster.
Related Topics: Navigate Your Best Leadership Path Using EQ
4. Get started before you begin.
Let's take this previous suggestion a step further. What can be achieved before the start date instead of just connecting a new employee to their team before the first day? If you don't already have the technology that enables a quick and easy, automated "paperwork crisis", can you have your new employee fill out these forms before their first day? Just as a doctor's office asks new patients to fill out forms before their visit, you can get new employees to move their records out of the way before they start work. Other information that should be provided to the new employee before the first day is:
Employee Directory (with pictures!) Orientation mapInformation about the future mentorOffice location detailsThe best places to have lunch, coffee, groceries after work, dry cleaning, etc.
The more information your unicorn has, the more control it has over the process it will feel.
5. Ask for feedback.
Hiring managers should consider developing a system of receiving feedback on the onboarding process that serves two purposes. First, having open feedback about what works and what doesn't help you continually improve. Second, your unicorn will feel that their contribution is welcome from the start. Of course, this only works if you are actually interested in the new employee's feedback and communicate this openly. Most people are scared of criticizing anyone more than a brand new employee. However, the faster you can get to a place of honest sharing with your new employee, the faster you can achieve goals together.
6. Integrate coaching into your onboarding.
I once coached a new employee at a large tech company that had worked there for months without seeing the hiring manager. Everyone was plowing ahead with the best of intentions, trying to get their jobs done without actually establishing relationships. In such cases it is helpful if a trainer or another third party says: "Everyone stops!" I was able to fill that role and remind the chief people officer that the new hiring was an actual person! Without this official “get-together” time, this hiring manager might simply have viewed my client as a number in a table (“How much do we even spend on this person? Is he really worth it?”) Instead of a teammate whose personal success is critical to the greater success of the company.
Related: Are You Wasting Your Employees' Talent? Here's how to know
Everyone needs a coach in the first 100 days, although this will vary depending on your level in the company. CEOs need an executive coach. A mentor is a must for subordinate employees. The key is that all parties – the new hire, the mentor / coach, and the boss – come together and determine which metrics they will hold onto. What will the success look like in the first 100 days? How is it measured? In which areas does the new attitude need to grow and how can a coach help it get to where it needs to be? Then take time regularly – at least once a week – so that the new employee can hold meetings with her coach or mentor.
Can you imagine how connected and supported your unicorn would feel as part of the onboarding process with this system? Experienced professionals can often make the dangerous assumption that we have all done this before. The new attitude will be fine on its own and will be in touch when she really needs help. The “bigger” the job, the less importance is attached to onboarding. However, you cannot skip this crucial step. Employees with strong relationships at work are more likely to stay and reach their potential. The best way to help your unicorn feel supported is to show them from day one that their team has them back.
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