You’ve been in full-blown interview mode for weeks, maybe even months!
You outlined a position, created the job description, gathered resumes, compiled a list of the most qualified candidates, rattled off interview questions like a BOSS, and ultimately found the perfect person to fill the most significant needs of your business!
The good news is: all that effort, planning, and hard work paid off! You’re about to bring on a new team member to help propel your business into the future!
But the work doesn’t end once your new hire signs on the dotted line.
In fact, THIS is the most pivotal part of expanding your team:
Now, it’s your job to set your new hire up for success.
But if you are a solopreneur or run a small team, this responsibility will most likely fall to you. So you need a solid plan to onboard successfully.
Even if you delegate onboarding to a manager or supervisor, at the end of the day, it’s up to YOU to make sure it’s happening and happening WELL!
Because after all the effort and energy, you want to make sure this new team member STICKS.
That bar is set pretttyyy low. I know you can do better.
Onboarding tends to be an afterthought.
But now you know it needs to be a priority.
Don’t worry. You can do this WELL even if you don’t have an entire HR Team behind you!
Taking the time to plan and prepare an intentional onboarding process will ensure your new hire feels supported, guided, and ready to help you and your business SOAR!
In this blog, I’ll teach you how to create a purposeful onboarding experience to acclimate your new hire. Plus, it’s a process you can use over and over again in the future to work smarter, not harder!
Onboarding is the process of introducing new hires to your team. The goal is to get them set up, trained, and ready to go so they can be successful in their new role within your business!
Your onboarding process should be intentional, organized, and planned. Avoid flying by the seat of your pants or relying on memory alone to prepare your new hire for their position. A purposeful onboarding experience sets the tone for your entire working relationship. It can be pivotal in your new hire’s longevity and satisfaction at your company.
Don’t wing it when it comes to onboarding! Instead, be strategic.
So many bosses get this essential piece of the hiring process dead WRONG!
Most of us have worked for that boss who constantly exclaims, “oh yeah, remind me to talk about THIS REALLY IMPORTANT THING later!”. Leaving essential information to chance and relying on memory alone is a surefire way to drop the ball and let down your new hire!
The following guidance will help you plan and prepare all of the essential information your new hire needs while also cultivating relationships. They’ll transition from the onboarding experience feeling connected to their team and to the mission of your business.
The time between your new hire saying, “yes” and their actual start date is precious! Use this time to make a plan and get ready. In each section of this post, I will walk you through the essential pieces of your onboarding process. So that you can plan ahead and feel prepared to create a meaningful, productive experience for your new hire.
Before we dive into WHAT to include in your onboarding process, it’s important to know that you will want to add each of these pieces to a master onboarding schedule. Each of these pieces should be considered and planned for BEFORE your new hire arrives. You want to be able to present information intentionally and manageably.
Your onboarding schedule should include:
As you move through this blog, you’ll essentially create a brain dump of everything you will cover.
Then, you will return to your schedule a map out WHAT will be covered WHEN so that all relevant information is addressed.
It’s a matter of presenting the information at strategic points and dripping it out in a way that will be easy for your new hire to digest and implement so they don’t feel like you’re tossed them into the deep end without a life vest!
As you read through this blog and prepare your onboarding SOPs (standard operating procedures), bucket these tasks and consider milestones you can put in place to help your new hire progress through their onboarding process.
I find it is best to have your strategy mapped out on a calendar. Or schedule it so you can make sure you’re doing the right thing at the right time. This will also keep you in-tune with pacing so that you can make adjustments as needed in the future. For example: maybe next time you dedicate more time to a certain training or a topic you thought would require a whole week, could actually be done in just a few hours!
Look at all of the pieces and consider the significant milestones you want to map out for your new hire. Onboarding doesn’t just take a couple of weeks; in reality, it is an ongoing process.
In each section of this blog, I’ll challenge you to consider WHAT tasks, procedures, or information you want to talk to them about. Once you have these key pieces defined, you’ll add them to a calendar to dictate WHEN it would logically and strategically make sense to introduce them to these ideas.
Onboarding extends beyond just the first few weeks. You’ll want to consider how to layer new information at the appropriate milestones so that your new hire doesn’t feel overwhelmed or lost!
Take it further and outline a specific calendar for your new hire. A schedule will help you ensure they are on track and give them the structure they need to focus their attention as they acclimate.
As you plan the onboarding schedule, be mindful of how you deliver the information. We often bring people on and want them to jump into tasks immediately. After all, we typically hire because of a capacity need and have projects we want our new team members to tackle ASAP! However, throwing them right into the thick of it is the quickest way to overwhelm your new employee and set them up for failure. Ultimately you’re ensuring that they WON’T deliver the results you were genuinely hoping for because you rushed them into it.
With this in mind, take a step back. Spend the first bit of onboarding building the relationship (so meaningful), setting expectations, getting into a good, solid communication space to develop trust and clarity, and opening a clear communication channel.
Let’s explore each of the pieces of your onboarding process you’ll want to consider and plan for your new hire!
Think through all the essential things your new hire will need to hit the ground running on day one!
Consider what happens before they start, from the day they sign the contract until their official start date (whether they’re logging in remotely or coming into the physical office).
Remember: Your employee experience is just as necessary as your client experience. Make it count!
Prepare things in advance like:
Try to anticipate anything and everything they will need so that once they arrive time isn’t wasted scrambling for the essentials. Preparing these pieces will ensure that once they arrive, you can focus on the core pieces of their onboarding process like training, meet and greets, and relationship building.
Let’s put it in context.
Can you relate to this experience?
You’ve accepted a new job and have been eagerly awaiting the first day. You arrive, ready to dive in, only to find no one is ready for YOU. It can be frustrating to start a new job only to find yourself twiddling your thumbs unable to actually DO anything because you’re still waiting for simple things like email addresses, logins, or other permissions.
Many of us have been there, done that. Don’t let this happen under your watch!
As an employer, you know that not having the essential pieces ready on day one can stall progress and make it challenging for your new team member to start learning. When you wait until the last minute, the onboarding process can be clunky, chaotic, and overwhelming– all things you DO NOT want your new hire to feel right off the bat (or ever)!
Instead, take the time to prep these core pieces upfront so your new hire can move through the onboarding process smoothly. You’ll save time in the long run and help them feel grounded, organized, and supported. Plus, your efforts will go a long way! Your new hire will see how genuinely excited you are to have them onboard and how much you value them and respect their time and their role on your team.
Their first day on the job shouldn’t be a bombardment of tasks and to-do lists. The onboarding process should also focus on building relationships and making sure your new team member feels welcomed, valued, and appreciated. Be sure to receive them intentionally.
This onboarding time kicks off your relationship! So, you want to be thoughtful about how you welcome them to your team. Depending on your work environment and culture, you may choose to:
No matter what you choose, going the extra mile will go a long way and lay a strong foundation for your working relationship.
As we organize the onboarding process, it can be easy to get swept up by the minutiae of tasks, logins, and tiny details. So often we forget about the big picture! YOU know the direction and vision of your company, but does your new hire?
Now is your opportunity to bring your new team member into the fold of the company.
Share with them:
What is the big picture?
When they’re heads down working on tasks, your employees need to have a context to understand how they’re contributing to the company and what is truly the driving force behind the work you do.
Take time to outline, share, and discuss the company mission, vision, and core values. The best employees understand where the company is going, their role, and how they contribute as your team collectively works towards that future vision. As you introduce them to new tasks, processes, and expectations they’ll be able to learn in CONTEXT and see how these actions weave into the fabric of your creative business. Plus, when people feel more connected to the mission behind their work, employee retention and work satisfaction increase! It’s a win-win!
With the big picture in mind, your team member is primed and ready to learn about the nitty-gritty details of their role! Now that you’ve introduced them to your company as a whole, it will be easier for them to see how their efforts and work fit into the larger scheme of things.
Before you can map out a training plan, get clear on the information your new team member will need to learn. Luckily, you’ve already mapped out this role’s general duties and responsibilities when you created your job description. Now, it’s simply a matter of fleshing everything out as clearly as possible.
For each responsibility, you’ll want to clearly define the following information with as much detail as possible:
COO TIP: THIS IS WHY YOU NEED SOPS (Standard Operating Procedures) even if you’ve been a solopreneur up until this point. If you have SOPS in place, you probably have most of the information you need! As a result, you can simply hand off the details and let them ask questions. Other tasks may still require a walkthrough or training. A great way to systematize this is to create onboarding videos! You can check-in after your new team member watches to answer their questions and ensure two-way lines of communication are open.
Don’t assume your new hire will just “figure it out” when it comes to communication.
Whether you have a large team or a small team, your new team member will need to know the best ways to communicate internally (within your team). But also externally (with clients and on projects) and in specific scenarios. Plus, they may need training in specific communication platforms if they aren’t yet familiar.
Each of these different forms of communication requires training. Otherwise, your new employee will likely feel like new meetings and procedures are popping up left and right while they’re trying to get settled.
Be sure to share all the communication expectations upfront so they know what to expect. This will allow them to budget their time appropriately and get into a communication rhythm within the team.
COO Tip: Take it even FURTHER for your new hire and make sure to clearly define WHO needs to be communicated with, HOW that communication should happen, and WHAT they should be communicating about regularly.
Let your new hire know about recurring meetings. Don’t spring these on them as they pop up on the calendar.
Be sure to invite your new hire to these recurring calendar events on the shared scheduling tool your team uses.
Carve out time for meet and greets! Onboarding shouldn’t focus exclusively on training and absorbing new information. A big piece of being successful in any new job is feeling connected to your co-workers, knowing each team member’s role, and understanding how each person supports the work of the others.
If you have a team hierarchy, you’ll want to ensure that your new hire understands who they report to and if they have any direct reports.
This step is where Org Charts and RASCI charts can come in handy! Org Charts outline the chain of command, while RASCI charts define the project or task-specific responsibilities.
Schedule time for meet and greets to build those relationships. Even if it’s just time for you and your new hire to get to know each other. Relationships are at the core of everything, so prioritize this in your onboarding process.
Don’t forget about client-facing opportunities! Depending on how much client interaction this role requires, you may schedule client introductions.
These meet and greets will help your new hire learn about each specific project and get to build new relationships.
If your new team member is the new point person on a project this is ESPECIALLY important! Make sure that both the new hire and the client are clear about this for a smooth transition.
If the point person has not changed, make both the team member and client aware of the new person’s role and any expectations around what they will and will not be handling or communicating. Be sure to talk about communication, messaging, and relevant specifics of the project to set a positive, clear tone for their work together in the future.
Clarity is KEY!
You may not want to hear it, but you NEED to know…
Capacity goes down before it can go up.
It is natural to assume you will reduce your workload by handing off tasks and responsibilities to your new team member. While this will someday be true, the upfront workload may reduce your capacity during the onboarding process.
Naturally, you will need to take on additional tasks in addition to your regular workload. Be prepared for this, and plan your time and calendar around these onboarding responsibilities.
You will want to be mindful about taking them through this experience without dropping the ball on your responsibilities outside of onboarding such as client-facing work or CEO tasks.
Set aside time just for onboarding. So that you can give your new hire the time and attention they need without neglecting the other parts of your business.
You will have less capacity than usual for a while. However, you’ll eventually feel a TURN as they become more independent and take on more responsibility. Hiring and training a new team member is not an “expense.” It is truly an INVESTMENT of time, money, and energy for a future return.
Don’t just set it and forget it. Onboarding is not a one and done process. Instead of ghosting your new hire once the initial onboarding process comes to a close, set check-in rhythms especially as they start to tackle tasks and work more independently.
Typically, you’ll want to set up check-in intervals at: one week, two weeks, one month, three months, six months, and annually. Then, you can transition into your regular review rhythm (quarterly, biannually, yearly, etc.) if that is something you do.
During check-ins, listen intently, support, and empower your team member. Reassure them that you are on the same page, and make sure all expectations are clear and well established.
COO Tip: As a bonus, you can improve the onboarding process through these check-ins by looking for patterns based on the questions they ask or areas of struggle so you can improve moving forward.
Creating an onboarding process takes a lot of upfront time, energy, and intention. However, the good news is that you shouldn’t have to re-invent your onboarding plan from scratch every time you have a new hire.
Once you’ve established your process, this should be an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) that you can repeat over and over again as you continue to grow your team. Your Onboarding SOP will include all relevant resources, sign-ins they need, training tools, and checklists. Onboarding should be an established process in your business that you can refine over time.
Yes, you may need to tailor the onboarding process to the specific person or role, but your SOPS will let you plug in what you need and ensure that the essential items are always addressed. Onboarding is a core piece of your business. You’ll want to make it sustainable to cut down on productivity loss every time you take someone on. When onboarding is well established as a system in your business, you can iterate, reflect, and update in the future.
Growing your team is a HUGE step for any CEO. You should feel proud of your progress and prepared to own your role as BOSS with the tools and confidence you need to successfully lead your team members.
I know that the hiring process can be intimidating. That’s why I’ve created a wealth of resources specifically for creative entrepreneurs who are considering growing their team or outsourcing contractors. Be sure to explore these past blog posts to support you in this process now and in the future:
Even if you don’t need it now, you will need an onboarding process one day, so save it to Pinterest!