Training Program, Workplace

Onboarding, first impressions and Lean

I thought about the use of lean in areas out of the manufacturing floor the other day when I was browsing Linkedin. I got across a post in which somebody was explaining all the goodies that a group of new employees received. The welcome pack included a company-branded backpack, coffee mug, drinking cup, and polos with the company logo! The cubicles had the basic office supplies and a laptop setup with a working email account. They also received their access credentials listed on a closed envelope. I was happy for them, but mostly I felt jealous.
Many companies fail miserably at onboarding,  I worked for one of them.  I had to go find a good chair, notepads, pens, a stapler, and other basic things.  I received my cell phone after two weeks, with no set-up for emails or use within the company’s private network.  I had to configure the phone myself.  Also, I had to ask around to make a list of the applications I need, request the access and then install them myself.  This reminds me that I also had to create a backup of my computer and installed the mirror image on a new one. The original computer I was given was more a paperweight than a laptop.  In case you wonder, yes the company had an IT department.
The first day on the job, there are a couple of basic things that should be ready for you. The example I mentioned at the beginning was very successful with that part.  It is a nice first impression, but that is not all that matters.
As per SHRM, new employee onboarding is the process of integrating a new employee with a company and its culture. It includes getting a new hire the tools and information needed to become a productive member of the team. From this definition, what I described is only part of the process.
The orientation introduces the company mission, vision, and values to the new employee. The orientation includes the company policies, regulatory paperwork, and benefits packet. The employees’ introduction to their department is through onboarding. This is when they get to know their job and their co-workers.  The supervisor should walk the employees through the area and introduce them to the team.  He/she has to make sure that the entire team understands the position of the new hire and how it relates to others.  Introduction to key stakeholders for their job and to support personnel is necessary.  An important part of onboarding is a meeting between employee and supervisor. The meeting is for setting expectations and establish job tasks and responsibilities.  This meeting is a good moment to decide on dates and times to have one on one meetings. Periodic meetings are critical to check on their progress, needs, and concerns.
At the end of my first week at the job on that company I mentioned, I had serious doubts about whether I will stay long.  The orientation was excellent, the onboarding wasn’t and for me, that was a bad sign. I am not alone, about 20% of employee turnover occurs in the first 45 days. Something may be wrong with the way we welcome new employees.
Lean seeks to create more value for the customer. For the onboarding process, the customer is a new employee. What is important for new employees? What do they need? What problems they have with the actual process?
Part of the problem with onboarding is that the process is unclear. A good tool to see the actual steps to complete the onboarding process is process mapping. It is a good tool to identify opportunities, what is missing and what need improvements. Use a Future State Map to visualize the process after improvements implementation.
Some tools that will help to close the gap between actual and future state rea the following. We can use 5 Why to find the root cause of the problems encountered by the new employees. Onboarding is a process shared by various departments. To distinguish the flow and responsibilities a swim lane diagram is a perfect tool. Countermeasures for those problems often need standard work and visual management. When parts of the process have delays waiting, cross-training comes handy. Training on the work and cross-training will develop a flexible workforce.
New employees should feel from the first day that they are welcome. The backpack, polos, and others are a nice first impression, but it is more important to create a good onboarding process.  Lean will help to create a customer-oriented efficient process with minimal waste.

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