You only get one chance to make a good first impression. Just because someone has accepted your job offer, doesn’t mean you’re in the clear; they could still quit if you don’t meet the expectations you set in the interview process.
From their very first day (and even before then), go out of your way to make new hires feel welcome and like they’re already part of the team. As they battle the anxiety of being in a new work environment and the learning curve of starting a new job, knowing that the company wants to see them succeed will confirm to the new member that they made the right decision to join your team.
3 Best Practices for Onboarding Blue-Collar Employees
The first thing you need is a plan. You’ve put all this effort into hiring them, you’re excited to have them join the team, and the company really, truly needs their contributions…so don’t wing it!
An onboarding plan is not “Fill out paperwork, give them a tour, and send them to job shadow Bob for the rest of the week.” Yes, the plan should include those things, but it needs a lot more than that, and it’s going to take more than a day or a week to fully onboard the new employee.
Having a plan also forces you to deliberately think about what a new hire might be thinking or feeling. It’s easy to forget how it feels to be new to an organization, so putting together a plan helps identify what a new person won’t already know and needs to learn.
A few best practices:
1. Assign a mentor or “buddy” to new team members.
This person becomes the new hire’s go-to for questions about company culture, social norms, and the general ins and outs of their daily work. This person should be carefully selected, since they act as both an example of the ideal employee, as well as a steward of the company culture; how they talk and react to the new hire will be hugely impactful on their overall experience. The “buddy” system works well because not only does it foster relationships and help the new hire feel like part of the team, it also takes some of the onboarding workload off of the manager’s plate.
2. Check in with new hires early and often—at the end of their first day, first week, and first month at a minimum.
The point of the check-in is simply to provide a structured venue for questions, concerns and dialogue. Is it what they expected? Are they enjoying it? Do they have concerns? Do they need more resources or training? It’s hard to get it right every time, so the check-in gives you a chance to course correct if you’re not meeting the new employee’s expectations.
The check-in also demonstrates that leadership cares about the individual and hasn’t already forgotten about them. Just as important, it creates psychological safety with an open feedback loop where their thoughts, ideas, and opinions are valued and welcomed.
Lastly, you want to make sure to get their feedback on their onboarding experience so you can use it to improve your process for the next hire.
3. Ask for a referral.
New employees are at their peak level of excitement, so leverage that enthusiasm by asking who they know that could also be a good fit for your company. A new hire also has an untapped network of people who you may not have previously been able to reach in your recruiting efforts. People like working with their friends, so there’s a good chance they’ll be happy to refer.
New hires could leave just as quickly as they started if they don’t feel welcomed or supported by their manager and teammates, but it’s also important to keep a close eye on new hires to make sure they’re acclimating to the work and the culture in due time.
Regular check-ins during the probationary period are essential for spotting signs of assimilation, or a lack thereof. If someone ends up not being a good fit, you want to know early on before they drain your culture, ruin your equipment, or lose your customers.
And, of course, if they’re doing well, you want to let them know that it is appreciated and that you’re glad to have them on the team.