I’m always looking for ways to improve our business. No matter how much you know, you can learn more. No matter how successful your company, it can be better. I look everywhere for knowledge, advice, and inspiration. Learning doesn’t just take place in a classroom.

meeting Coach KerrSo, when my family was fortunate enough to spend a day with Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr, I wasn’t necessarily surprised that I learned something I felt I could apply in my work life. We were touring the team’s facility after lunch and my father asked Coach Kerr how he integrates new players to the Warriors.

Coach Kerr said it’s important to bring them on board and ensure that they feel welcome and comfortable while getting acclimated to the team culture as soon as possible. He explained, “My staff and I spend more time with our new players than our superstars, whether they are an NBA veteran we traded for or our newest draft pick. In fact, I expect my veterans to help integrate new players.”

When I heard these comments, I immediately saw the applicability to the business world. Every new hire starts out with great promise, but a significant percentage don’t work out and companies find themselves having to hire again. What Coach Kerr reminded me of was the critical importance of the onboarding process. Whether it’s an NBA player or a software developer, making sure that a new “team” member feels comfortable and welcome is important. Properly acclimating them to the company, culture, and their role can make a big impact in terms of success and retention.

What’s troubling is that most employees expressed dissatisfaction with their company’s onboarding process. In a Gallup survey, only 12% thought their company did a good job. That leaves a lot of room for improvement!

What can we do to create a more robust and effective onboarding process?

  1. Recognize that onboarding should happen for more than just the first week. A week is not enough time for someone to fully get on board. Good programs cover the first 90 days and some extend longer, even the full first year. You’ll know how to tailor it to fit your company, but keep in mind that the extra time can make a real difference. It’s natural that at the beginning there will be more activities and contact than later on in the process, but ending too soon often leaves employees feeling uncertain, unsure, and even unwanted.
  2. Make sure your onboarding goes further than just payroll, passwords, and badges. It’s obviously necessary to get people on the payroll and complete all those other tedious tasks, but that’s not all there is to onboarding. Your process should include the personal touch. Consider assigning a more seasoned employee to help show them the ropes and regularly check-in to see how they are feeling. It might be once or twice a week for the first few weeks and less frequently as time passes. Having a “buddy” to ask questions and get guidance from can help a new employee learn what’s expected of them and feel more comfortable sooner about everything from client deliverables to where to get good coffee.
  3. Make sure management and team leaders focus on new employees. Your process should include senior leadership and team managers. Most new hires are at the entry or more junior levels and they may not have exposure to senior staff immediately through the performance of their regular duties. The best processes include some official welcome and some ongoing contact with senior staff. Develop a process that includes interaction with senior management at the start and periodically after that. This goes a long way to helping a new team member feel connected to the company. It also helps them learn more about the company beyond their role, team, or even department, giving them a big picture view of the company and its goals.
  4. Pay attention to “internal” new hires. The term crossboarding refers to the process for employees who transfer within the company via promotion or job change. It may not be something you’ve thought about before, but you should. Although a current employee knows your company and is obviously already on the payroll, they are still taking on a new role or moving to a new department. Smart companies recognize that this type of change is most successful when employees are given support during this time. They still need to learn the nuances of their new position or team. Applying a similar onboarding process with the appropriate activities and touch points can make things go even more smoothly.

The day with Steve Kerr was wonderful, from the tour of the Warrior’s facility to getting some unexpected business advice! I want to thank him for reminding me of this critical process that we all struggle to implement effectively. Whether it’s onboarding a permanent hire, a consultant for a discrete project, or an NBA superstar, making sure that they understand your organization’s culture, their role, and what’s expected of them is the key to success.

The best onboarding processes go beyond the standard paperwork and first week focus and include personal interaction and ongoing support, from peers and leadership. It treats the new employee holistically and gets them on board practically as well as culturally and emotionally. A great onboarding program can make a difference in your company. After all, it’s a big reason why the Warriors have been so successful; I’m happy to take a page out of their playbook!

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