Employee Orientation: Are You Onboarding or Waterboarding Your New Employees?

From Webster’s dictionary:

Onboarding: “The process by which a new employee learns the ropes and gets settled.”

Waterboarding: “An interrogation technique in which water is forced into a detainee’s mouth and nose so as to induce the sensation of drowning.

Finding and retaining top talent has never been harder for small businesses. Research indicates that if an employee is going to leave your company, the majority of the time it will be in the first 30 days and it is due to a misconnection between what the employee expected in the new job and what actually occurred.

As a result, more companies seem to be focusing on employee orientation and making the first 30 days for a new employee as positive of an experience as possible. The term most commonly used for this process is “onboarding”.

In my experience, while these companies’ intentions are good, the resulting experience for the new employee is less of an onboarding and more like waterboarding. The new hire is practically tortured starting on their first day and it just gets worse as time passes.

Let’s look a little closer at both of these experiences for two new employees: Bill with Exceptional, Inc. and Sally with Torture Corp.

The week before Bill’s first day, he receives a personal note card from the CEO in the mail welcoming him to his new job. The same day, his wife receives a beautiful fruit basket from the same CEO welcoming her to the Exceptional, Inc. family, as well.

That same week, Sally hears nothing from her new CEO. She does receive a postage due envelope with a 40 page employment agreement from legal that must be initialed and signed in triplicate within 48 hours. The document is in some language closely resembling English, but Sally is not 100% sure.

On Bill’s first day, he pulls into the company parking lot only to find a personalized parking spot in front of the office with his name on it welcoming him on his first day. As he walks in the office, he immediately notices a large banner on the wall that says, “Welcome Bill”. The receptionist moves quickly from her chair and greets Bill by first name and escorts him to his new office.

On Sally’s first day, she is unable to find a parking spot and ends up parking across a busy street. Her car will end up getting booted in this unmarked lot, and Sally is practically run over while trying to cross the street. When she enters the office building, Sally is immediately detained by security for not having proper security identification. She would have been fiercely interrogated had it not been for the friendly parking lot attendant looking for his $75 “boot” fee. The receptionist ignores Sally at the front desk until she starts pounding loudly on her desk with her shoe. It appears that nobody was expecting Sally to show up for work today.

When Bill gets to his new office he is amazed how nicely the spacious room is decorated with pictures, a few plants, and an executive desk. There is a brand new computer on his desk and of course a box of freshly printed business cards. This feels like home…

Sally is left to find her own cubicle in what seems like a maze of temporary workstations. She is leaving breadcrumbs behind her just in case she decides to leave the office abruptly. Finally, she finds her desk, more like a television dinner stand, on a deserted floor. There is very little lighting and loud music from the gym next door. This feels like…hex.

On Bill’s desk is a note from his manager welcoming him on his first day and an invitation to join him and the team for lunch. There is also a detailed schedule for Bill’s first day of orientation. His new computer works beautifully, and the internet service is lightening fast.

There is no note on Sally’s puny desk. Just dust. She has no computer. Instead of business cards, there are a few leftover pads of post-it notes. She ends up having lunch alone in a dingy employee cafeteria. Nobody seems to know she’s there.

A very friendly representative from Human Resources conducts Bill’s new employee orientation. It includes a very interesting video introduction to the company and he receives several gifts from his peers. What a nice welcome…

Sally’s new employee orientation is done online with Siri’s automated brother Suri. There is an outdated PowerPoint presentation with endless slides making little or no sense. She is then commanded to review the 100-page employee manual page by page with great attention to detail.

Which company is yours? Exceptional or Torture? Properly onboarding new employees require detailed planning and a commitment from the top of your company to providing each new employee with a most positive experience upon joining the company.