Every once in a while, I enjoy a good horror story. I love the suspense, and the moments so cringe-worthy I have to look away. What I like best, however, is that it’s not happening to me.
But when I was doing some research about onboarding experiences gone wrong, I wasn’t amused. Not because the stories weren’t funny — believe me, they were — but because some of them hit a little close to home. I can still vividly recall showing up for my first day at a job with a newspaper, only to be greeted with, “Why are you here today? You start next week.” [After double-checking the offer letter, I confirmed that I had shown up on the correct date. Needless to say, they weren’t ready.]
And I’m hardly alone. According to a UK-based survey, 39 percent of employees said they encountered problems when starting a new job. While nearly half (42 percent) said they didn’t have a computer or laptop ready for them, 26 percent had a bigger problem: no desk.
But at least in those cases, the employees were expected. Sometimes, even that gets lost in the shuffle. Below are some anecdotes shared by Talent Point Consulting that paint a frightening picture:
“The very first day was great. But on the second, everyone (including my manager) was too busy to meet with me.”
“I was impressed when my company had my business cards waiting for me. Until I saw they were for Carla instead of Carl.”
“I took a job where I interviewed at the Headquarters location, but the role was in a satellite office. When I showed up, my name wasn’t on the building security list and no one knew I was coming. I spent 2 hours in the lobby waiting for someone to escort me up.”
“Due to a lot of red tape and bureaucracy, I didn’t have access to all of the systems I needed to perform my job for 6 weeks!”
Truly horrifying. Not just for employees, but for employers, who squandered a golden opportunity to make a good – or even halfway decent – impression.
“Smart companies know that engagement must continue after an offer is extended and accepted,” the article stated. The onboarding program should be a continuation of that experience, and a time during which “individuals become immersed in your culture, trained on your policies and programs, and assimilated with your team.”
It’s pretty hard to do that if people aren’t provided with basic information, or given a proper greeting.
Fortunately, there are organizations that have figured out the right way to assimilate new employees. During a recent podcast interview, Mathew Gaug described the experience he had when starting as CIO at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center last summer.
Less than a week after his family moved from Ohio to Indiana, Gaug’s three daughters were slated to start at a new school, which can be extremely daunting. Luckily, they already had a support system in place; Memorial had arranged for the girls to have a personalized tour of the school. The gesture didn’t go unnoticed.
“The people here didn’t just welcome me, but also my wife and my girls, to the community,” he recalled. “They were just as interested in helping me get acquainted and accustomed to a new role as they were making sure my family was getting situated with the town.”
The same welcoming spirit was present at Memorial, where the orientation process gave Gaug an opportunity to meet with all directors and executives throughout the organization, as well as their teams. “From top to bottom, everybody was so willing to show off their departments and how they help care for patients,” he noted.
From top to bottom, they did it right. All too often, the onboarding process is only partially addressed. For example, a new hire might feel very welcomed by her new coworkers, but the workspace isn’t set up. Or, she might have all the supplies one might need, but isn’t given proper introductions, or a tour of the facility.
And of course, sometimes there’s a double fail. In response to a Tweet I sent out, a colleague of mine related a story in which he showed up for a new role at 10 a.m. (having woken up at 4 a.m. to catch a flight), to find an empty reception desk. To top it off, his computer wasn’t ready.
He stayed with the company for just 7 months. (Frankly, I’m surprised it was that long.)
It just goes to show that these things matter. When an organization can’t be bothered to ensure a smooth transition, it can have lasting effects. On the other hand, when organizations go the extra mile to make sure people feel at home, even when they’re at work, it sets the tone for a successful relationship.
And that’s something we can all get on board with.