Onboarding Tips from a Dog Named Mickey!
Yes, you read that right. Let’s talk about onboarding (new dogs and new staff!). Employee onboarding is a key factor in the satisfaction and success of a new employee. Treating this stage of the employee’s lifecycle as unimportant would be a huge mistake.
When you invest your time and effort to familiarize a new employee with the requirements of their role, the players they will be working with, and your company’s culture, it makes things easier for all and can also prevent incurable outcomes down the road. Believe it or not, a small dog was the one who recently reminded me of these management lessons and got me gathering a list of realistic onboarding tips.
This past weekend, my husband and I became foster parents to Mickey, a 12-year-old, male Jack Russell terrier. Having a dog around is not new to us, but having Mickey in our home has certainly not been routine. We needed to learn about his needs, preferences, and worries in order to make him feel welcome and comfortable here. We also needed to establish clear and consistent guidelines for being a house guest in a positive, respectful way. Though it might seem like an unlikely scenario, it turns out these exact steps are equally ideal for employee onboarding!
Each person is different; understand that changes the specifics of your onboarding every time!
You might think onboarding a new employee is like riding a bike: once you know how, you can always do it again. But the terrain changes enough each time that you can’t take anything (or anyone) for granted. For example, just because one dog gets along well with cats doesn’t make the same true of another.
In this case, Mickey hadn’t had exposure to cats. Being in the house with our two felines is a new circumstance for him, and while we think he’s mostly curious, we don’t have enough history to really know for sure. When one of our cats peeks into a room with Mickey in it, Mickey calmly observes, then wants to check them out.
His small movement towards the cat quickly escalates to a chase, and the ensuing frenzy of paws and claws racing through the house is not in anyone’s best interest. Preventing that dynamic before it becomes a habit or a game is our goal and that means being vigilant–not just in day one or two–but for weeks to make sure no one forgets the rules. It’s not a hard process to undertake. But it does require time, effort, patience, and consistency.
Onboarding is not a one-time event.
It’s key to reiterate that onboarding in not a one-time event. This process might last for weeks or months — depending on the person, the role, and the organization. The more complex the situation or the more training needed, the longer the onboarding should become. Don’t get lulled into thinking all is in place too quickly, especially if no obvious problems exist.
Check-in frequently with the new employee and talk about how things are going. Provide a buddy and/or make sure the manager is keeping tabs. Listen for “I didn’t know that!” or “I wish I had known that!” as signals for deeper involvement.
The strength of your onboarding program determines the speed of success.
In today’s busy work environments, I often hear from hiring managers that want new team members to “hit the ground running.” But that doesn’t happen on its own, even if the new employee comes with years of experience in the position or industry. They are new to your organization and that changes everything!
The stronger your onboarding program, the more of a reality fast success becomes. Your goal is to provide every opportunity for the person to succeed, and that means offering as much information and guidance as you can so they become familiar with the people and environment. Once that happens, new ideas, creativity and risk-taking can begin, but don’t set them up for failure by not providing a strong foundation from which to flourish.
In Mickey’s case, learning to live with cats won’t happen overnight. He is already learning fast, even as a senior dog (such a good boy!). But he’ll make some mistakes, as we all do. Bringing him back to our ground rules in a positive manner will go much farther than leaving him to figure it out on his own. Working alongside him gives us all a much better chance that he’ll figure it out faster and in the way we all want for him and the cats.
What are you helping your new employee learn today?