Communication essential: onboarding

We’ve been reading a lot about how companies are preparing for labor shortages–from millennials who plan to quit their job outright to the cleverly nicknamed ‘turnover tsunami.’

But today I’d like to shift from talking about losing employees to gaining them, specifically your onboarding program.

Has there ever been a better time to reevaluate your onboarding program? It might be the lowest-hanging fruit on the internal comms tree as there is. Why? Well, we’ve come through a lot in the last year–and I’m not just talking about the pandemic. This is the time to embrace the fact that your company might not be the same as it was nearly 15 months ago.

I started thinking about this while I was listening to a recent HBR IdeaCast podcast. Episode 788: The Career Rules You Didn’t Learn at School. From the podcast summary:

Gorick Ng, career advisor at Harvard, talks about his early struggles to understand workplace norms in the way that his (mostly white, middle- to upper-class) peers did. While they’d been taught how to network, angle for promotions, and ‘speak the language,’ he was left to figure it out on his own.

Now, this podcast is largely about how he helps people level the playing field and focus on the teachings from his book “The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career off Right.” He covers that, yes, there is such a thing as a stupid question as well as his three C’s, i.e., what your co-workers and clients will be asking themselves about you: Competence, Commitment, Compatibility.

What I’m suggesting is can we use Ng’s teachings to audit our company, our onboarding and, more importantly, our culture, to discover and squash any ‘unspoken rules’ so everyone comes into your organization with an understanding of what’s expected and how to work. And, maybe more importantly, eliminating that thinking from the existing workforce.

The threat of course is that these unspoken or assumed rules may be more unspoken than ever before in this virtual environment. Which is one more reason to evaluate your onboarding for things people may have no idea about–but others assume they will or should.

The good news? The audit should be easy–everything’s on the table. The hard news? The work that comes from the audit won’t be easy. But when you consider the payoff–engaged employees, clear expectations and empowering the organization to make onboarding everyone’s job (not to mention retention in general)–the upside is huge.