Get on board with onboarding

Departments - From the Flight Deck


Small companies are having trouble recruiting, hiring, and retaining employees (onboarding in modern parlance) because they don’t know how to do it. That’s the assertion of Pam Butterfield, founder of Business Success Tools ( which helps businesses with one to 1,000 employees.

For economic and professional reasons, Baby Boomers stayed at their jobs longer than previous generations, allowing employers to postpone efforts to recruit replacements. Now, Boomers are exiting, forcing many employers to restart recruitment processes that haven’t kept up with the times.

Butterfield notes that Millennials, born between the early 1980s and early 2000s and now one-in-three American workers, expect more from companies before they will even consider interviewing with them.

“In the past, companies hired people. Today, people are hiring companies,” she writes. “They expect to be engaged and challenged where they work and to move on when they’ve learned all they can.”

Employers need to learn ways to onboard Millennials quickly to benefit from these tech-savvy, knowledge-hungry, and growth-seeking employees.

Onboarding is more than hiring an individual and putting him or her to work – it familiarizes an employee with the job, the skills to do it effectively, company culture, accepted behaviors, and how the work contributes to company goals. Its payoff is higher job satisfaction, better job performance, greater organizational commitment, reduced stress, and employees less likely to quit. Onboarding’s goal is to make employees proud of the company they have joined, to feel they belong and fit with the company’s way of doing things.

Butterfield emphasizes, “Successful companies have an onboarding process that fits their size, culture, and needs. Do an Internet search using the search ‘onboarding new employees’ to find excellent, free resources to help you get started with onboarding in your company.”

Improving onboarding takes a willingness to invest in reinventing how to hire and train people. Butterfield says it typically takes one to three years for a small company to improve its ability to acquire, develop, and retain the right employees.

To evolve hiring into onboarding, Butterfield recommends starting with small steps, such as making checklists for the position’s routine tasks. Create written instructions for more complicated job tasks; this helps minimize employee errors and yields consistent results.

Provide job-specific training, and establish a repeatable, in-house training program to help employees develop skills needed to do the job the way you want it done. This will reduce chances for mistakes and rework and help new employees learn procedures. Even if you don’t go as far as designing and implementing a formal apprentice program, developing a step-by-step training procedure will refine your processes for getting new employees ready faster. And devote some time to training the trainers – verifying consistency and accuracy in the information and procedures being taught.

Millennials have grown up with nearly constant feedback. If the new employee does not improve, Butterfield says you’ve spotted a potential flaw in your hiring process.

If you’ve had a challenge or success with onboarding your next generation of employees, please let us know. – Eric