By Ethan Penland, Director of Admissions Services
4 minute read
As we start a new year, so do many new professionals in enrollment management. That also brings the responsibility of onboarding new staff.
The onboarding process can easily set the tone for what is to come for that individual, along with their early successes as a part of your team. Whether you are new to leading a team or have been leading for a while, I wanted to share a few tips and perspectives that can assist you in making the onboarding process a better experience for your new team members, and the team they are joining.
- Do some reflection – Do you remember your first day? Overwhelming or confusing? Maybe you were excited but nervous? It is easy for us to overlook our experiences when we first joined the team, especially after being on the team for quite a while. Reflecting back on your own experiences will help you with planning the onboarding of your new team members.
- Have an adjustable template – When someone new starts, do you ever feel like you have to think about what all you need to cover in training? An onboarding template is great to help with remembering what is essential for new hires to learn. An onboarding template can have identified areas and topics that are needed to be covered in training, and have an outline schedule that you can appropriately adjust based on the time of year. A great place to start with identifying topics needed for your onboarding template is to include a recent hire and someone that has experience in a similar role. They can give you various perspectives beyond what you are hoping to include.
- Identify a primary lead for onboarding – Many leaders like to have direct oversight of the onboarding process of new hires, but that can quickly occupy a lot of time, along with limiting the ability of other team members to contribute. Identifying a team member who can oversee the training process and progress of the onboarding can be extremely helpful for leaders. It creates a peer-to-peer learning opportunity, it establishes a mentoring relationship between individuals, and it allows you to step back from the process and see the onboarding from a broader perspective instead of in the weeds on each training topic. Plus, it gives purpose, responsibility, and the opportunity for that team member to display their leadership skills.
- Make onboarding a team effort – Encourage your primary lead for onboarding to include others from the team to assist in the various training topics. This approach allows your team to contribute in ways they are comfortable or confident, allows for introductions to be made, and the new team member is able to learn more from different perspectives.
- Recognize the need-to-knows for the present – It is commonplace to want to rush the onboarding process by giving everything at once to the new team member, especially when your team has been stretched thin, but that is overwhelming and not productive. The key is to identify where you are at in the recruitment cycle and prioritize the topics from the onboarding template that you believe are most essential to learning at that given time. This helps you and your team in the present while also not hindering the new team member’s confidence by feeling like they have to know it all at once. From there, you can scale your onboarding as you move through the cycle and the new team member’s confidence grows.
- Establish your accessibility for checkpoints – Whether your accessibility is for the new employee, the team member leading the onboarding, or both, recognize their need for your time and support. For the new team member, set the tone early that you are a resource for their success by going to them and asking questions about their onboarding progress, what are they enjoying learning, what is still uncertain or challenging, and how are they feeling so far. For your primary lead for onboarding, ask them are they feeling overwhelmed or comfortable with the onboarding process, how can you contribute to their success of a successful onboarding, and ask what adjustments can or should be made moving forward.
- Set the tone early for trust – Too often, new team members believe we, as leaders, want to hear that everything is going well or that they are retaining it all. Of course, that is not the case. We want to hear the challenges and what they are really feeling. A part of the onboarding should be a period of time to get to know the new team member as a person and not just as a professional. Be willing to be vulnerable and share more about who you are as a person. By doing so, you are establishing a trustworthy relationship that they are able to confide in you of how they are feeling throughout the onboarding process and beyond.
- Collect feedback for future revisions – No onboarding is shaped the same way every time, and it shouldn’t be. Each employee learns differently, is starting at different paces, or picks topics up differently than others. That said, how can you continue to improve your onboarding process? Get it straight from the sources–the leader who led onboarding, the team members who assisted in training, and the new team member. Take the information shared with you and apply it to your onboarding template for the next round of onboarding.
I do hope, whether you are hiring now or in the near future, that you are able to find passionate individuals who are ready to support the mission of your institution and the mission of college access. Take time to reflect on the points above for how to make your new team member’s onboarding experience the best it can be. And one last thing, recognize that training should never just be when someone joins a team. It should be an ongoing process.
If you found this helpful, please share with someone who you believe could also benefit. If you try any suggestions from above, let me know how they go. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. While you are at it, follow me on Twitter!