Who’s Your Onboarding Champion? It’s Not Who You Think!

Introductions

Employee onboarding is a function typically handled by Human Resources and managers. It starts with orientation, paperwork, and introductions, and ends with the employee’s smooth transition from awkward newbie to fully-integrated team member. Onboarding programs are designed to get new hires up to speed and follow up with regular check-ins and evaluation. 

But who has the greatest influence on employee onboarding? 

You may be surprised.

The Cheering Section

My onboarding experience began before the interview. I was scheduled to meet with a panel of 12 strangers with rounds of questioning scheduled to last an hour. I was obviously nervous. When I arrived I walked tentatively up to the front desk. There was Brian, with a great big beaming smile. I still had 5 steps in front of me before I reached the counter, and he said, “you’re here for the interview, right?” He was expecting me. He directed me down the hall to the interview room. As I started to walk away I heard Brian shout out, “good luck!” I looked back, and there was smiling Brian, giving me an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Thumbs up.

A first impression is literally that—a first impression. That encouragement from a stranger set the tone not only for the interview but set my expectations of what kind of place this was to work. And I wanted to work with people like Brian.

The Welcome Wagon

It was my first day on the job. I signed into the computer with my brand new login and began orienting myself with shared drives and folders and a small pile of emails. Sitting there, in my freshly minted inbox, was an email from Emily. “Welcome to the team. I can’t wait to meet you!”

Who’s Emily? She’s just another supervisor like me. 

As much as it means to get a welcome from your new boss, I found it was that much more meaningful to hear it from a coworker. I hadn’t even met her yet and I already felt like I had a work-friend in Emily. Man, I thought, I’m really going to like it here.

Happy hour with coworkers

The In-Crowd

It finally sunk in that I was part of the team when I got invited to hang out after work. Cue Matt. Loud and gregarious, and everyone’s best friend, Matt was great at introductions and dragging us shy folks into the fun.

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but just being invited can help people feel included. For me it meant people actually knew name and wanted to get to know me. 

The Support System

Ruth was the coworker who always had my back. We started diets together, we shared cat stories, and we got together for the holidays. When she brought snacks to work she always had something dairy-free for me. Ruth made the team feel like a family.

Whether it’s bringing in treats or checking up on how your sick doggie’s doing, these social interactions are the bread and butter of employee onboarding. It’s workplace friendships that make employees feel at home and make the tough days a little easier.

Work friends

Real employee onboarding sometimes goes on behind the scenes. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have structured check-ins and team lunches. What it means is that your company culture and the people that you hire set the tone for future onboarding. Be strategic with who you choose and recognize the onboarding champs you already have.

—Written by Nina Ottman

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