Lessons about employee onboarding: A Ferris wheel owner’s experience

Sep 22, 2020 | The Employee Journey

Lessons about employee onboarding

Imagine for a minute that you make a living by owning and running a Ferris wheel at a fairground…

Hurray! The candidate has got to the front of the line, the next available cab is theirs. They’ve invested a lot of time and effort in this and now it’s time for them to get the reward. They’re excited, maybe even a little apprehensive. They’ve never ridden this ride before, will it meet expectations? Is it really going to be as enjoyable as it seemed from the queue? What are the other people on the ride going to be like?

Their journey is about to begin.

Now you’re really centre stage. It’s up to you to help them onto the ride, to give them the relevant briefings, to reassure them, make them feel part of the Ferris wheel family. This is no moment to get distracted. Rushing through this part of the journey could have unwelcome consequences down the line. Take your time. Ensure they’re comfortable and have everything they need from you before they begin their first rotation.

Now’s the time to banish any pre-ride jitters. The ride’s about to begin. Follow their journey as they experience the thrill of riding the wheel >>

That’s a great story but… how does this apply to my business?

In the business world, onboarding new employees isn’t really much different, although a good onboarding experience will last longer than in the Ferris wheel world – ideally the duration of their first year.

Before their first day

Your aim is to make sure you, they, and their new colleagues are ready for them to start. Typical tasks include:

  • Setting up their work station, computer, email, mobile phone
  • Arranging the schedule for their first day and week
  • Sending them a welcome pack of gifts, swag, and maybe even policies, procedures and paperwork to read and sign so that this can be all wrapped up before their first day
  • Inviting them for lunch or drinks with you, their mentor/buddy or teammates before their first day so they can start to build a rapport with them in advance
  • Email the company, or team, with details of the new employee – start date, role, responsibilities etc. so that everyone knows to expect them

Their first day

Your aim is to spend time with them, to allow them to get a sense of the role and colleagues and ultimately ensure they come back tomorrow! Typical first day tasks include:

  • Welcoming them to the company – taking the time to meet with them, thank them for accepting the job offer, checking they received the welcome pack
  • Orientating them – Showing them their work station and nearest facilities, introducing them to key personnel – the leadership team, their new colleagues – whilst reassuring them that they’re not expected to remember everyone or everything just yet!
  • Explaining what your expectations are for the role. What you expect them to be achieving and by when. Who you expect them to work closely with. How their performance will be measured.
  • Walking them through what their first week, month and year with you will look like
  • Socialising with them – taking them, and their team out for lunch or drinks to allow them to build up a relationship outside of the work environment.

Their first week

Your aim is to make time for them, to build up their knowledge and to ensure they want to come back next week. Typical first week tasks include:

  • Spending time with their colleagues, understanding what their role is, how their roles relate, what their areas of expertise are. Maybe even shadowing them for a day.
  • Learning – about the company, the role, the systems, the processes, the jargon.
  • Understanding how their role relates to the goals and vision of their team and company

At the end of their first week, be sure to check in with them – how are they finding it? Do they have any questions that haven’t yet been covered? How does the company/role meet (or not meet) their expectations from the recruitment process? What are their expectations for the next few weeks? Have they identified any training needs?

Their first month

Your aim is to ensure they feel like part of the team, identify any additional training needs and to ensure they want to keep coming back. Meet with them to:

  • Review what they have achieved in their first month
  • Discuss your (shared) expectations for the following months – goals, objectives, deliverables, results 
  • Find out how well integrated into the team they feel
  • Check how they are progressing with training – have they identified any areas they would benefit from more training in?

Now might be a good time to send out a survey to gather feedback about their recruitment and onboarding experience, whilst it’s fresh in their mind. This allows them to provide valuable feedback which you can incorporate into future recruiting and onboarding experiences.

At the end of their probation period

This is your chance to meet and talk more formally about how they are progressing in relation to the expectations set out on their first day. Think of it a bit like an informal performance review.

If they have ‘passed’ their probation period, then be sure to mark and celebrate the occasion.

If the probation period has been extended, make sure everyone is clear on expectations for the extension period and arrange more regular check ins to review performance against these expectations. Show that you’re invested in their success with you.

At regular intervals (quarterly) during their first year

Your aim is to regularly check in with them, to nurture the relationship and to ensure they are happy with their progress. Like at the end of their first month, you should meet with them to:

  • Review what they have achieved since your last meeting
  • Give feedback relating to performance
  • Discuss your (shared) expectations for the following months
  • Check in with regards to training
  • Ask for feedback

Their first year anniversary

Don’t forget to celebrate this occasion. How you do this varies greatly from company to company depending on company culture. You may send an all-staff announcement. You may arrange a celebratory lunch, or after work drinks. You may buy them a gift. However you choose to do it, the important thing is to recognise the date.

In summary:

When it comes to employee onboarding, your job is to give each rider everything they need to set them up for an enjoyable ride – a thorough briefing, hints and tips about how to get the most of the ride, reassurance you’re available as and when they need you. After this brief time together, you want them to comfortably head off with the security of knowing they’re safe and they made the right decision.

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