This is the second part of my conversation with Dwayne Britton — Lead, Sales Effectiveness at Zalando Connected Retail — about employee onboarding. If you have not read the first part yet, I invite you to check it out here.
This part is dedicated to success. Today I will uncover what Dwayne considers mistakes when creating onboarding programs and how to avoid them.
What is the most important thing for you in order to make onboarding successful?
In my experience, it's customization. Customize your onboarding as much as you can. I use an established onboarding program but customize/personalize it as needed.
Our companies hire diverse people who have different learning styles and facilitation preferences. Some may have unique scheduling needs. Some may be new to your industry, some may be more of an expert on the topics than you are.
They are all individuals and, ideally, they feel we are working with them as individuals while onboarding. If you can get a sense of employees' needs and their experiences, you can meet them where they are. It makes people feel considered and cared for.
What are the top mistakes to avoid when creating an onboarding?
#1. Not setting participation expectations nor soliciting feedback from the first day.
It's important to cue a culture of performance and feedback by deliberately asking for it from the start. I work to create a safe space for people to candidly share their hopes, needs, and expectations upfront. In return, I share ours.
Reinforce these behaviors as they arise by recognizing new hires for showing up powerfully. I try to never miss an opportunity to acknowledge someone when I think they deserve recognition — even during onboarding. It is important to celebrate great work, contribution, and 'playing at a ten' from Day One. I have yet to meet someone that does not appreciate recognition — as long as it is shared in a way that is meaningful to them.
#2. Not addressing potential nervousness or worries.
I've been lucky to work at great brands that strive to eliminate hiring bias and employ diverse talent — not just with solid experience — but with great attitudes. Still, it is normal even for experts to worry about whether or not they can meet company expectations.
We all can experience imposter syndrome during our career journeys. In your onboarding, bring it up and lay the foundation to dispel it. We watch a short TED talk on the topic and have a candid discussion about expectations. It's powerful to hear new joiners open up about imposter syndrome once we clear and hold space for them to share.
The intention is that they walk away from that talk feeling confident they are absolutely in the right place at the right time, they are the right person for the role, and we are there to support them as they slowly take on more and more responsibility.
Have you ever known a new hire to leave following an unsuccessful onboarding?
Sure. In my experience, I think it was less about getting a successful onboarding and more that the reality of the work was revealed during onboarding. The experience the new hire was stepping into wasn't framed well enough during hiring. And expectations weren't successfully reset during onboarding.
So people leave because their expectations do not meet the reality?
Sadly, yes. People might leave if they were missing clarity about the role or if they were not given a realistic picture of what the day-to-day work entails. They also may have romanticized the role they accepted. Maybe they did not ask enough questions to get a sense of how the role actually functions. They may not have the self-knowledge to even know what questions they should ask.
Some might leave a new role if they discover that the day-to-day work conflicts with their core values. For example, someone who values creativity and entrepreneurship may walk away if they discover that all strategy is developed by their line manager and they will largely be executing someone else's ideas.
It is a kind thing to be very clear with people about the environment they are coming into. It should be done on the first day of their onboarding.
Interviewer: Tania Divnych, Marketing Partner at Workademy.