During her session, “Onboarding for Better Employee Engagement,” at the 22nd Snow & Ice Symposium, Amy Tincher, human resources manager for Rocky Fork Co. (New Albany, Ohio) spoke about the struggles of acquiring and retaining new talent in the industry amid low unemployment.
The days of using the “fear, family, finance” benchmarks to hire are not in line with today’s rising demographic: millennials: “Those contributing factors are not driving millennials,” Tincher noted.
Tincher challenged attendees to rethink the concept of onboarding new employees.
“Onboarding is your first impression to your new employees,” she said. “It’s not what you do, they can look that up on your website. It’s who are you, what makes you unique.”
Tincher noted that the onboarding lasts long after the first day of employment. Generally, the process is easily up to a year’s time frame and is everyone’s responsibility.
“It’s from the owner to the receptionist. Everyone on board has to be invested. If not, it’s not going to work.”
The idea of onboarding, Tincher said, should be unique to the company’s culture and employee identity.
“Onboarding is not a unilateral step, as a thing you can do as a company, and expect it to fix all your problems,” Tincher advised. “The ideal candidate is not the reality. You need to know the characteristics of who is working at your company, who is successful and how to capitalize on that.”
Understanding the “who” in who you employ
Tincher said it’s vital to understand the details about employees to grasp the reasons for working in their organizations. She broke down the thought process in terms of dimensions: Organization, External and Internal.
Organizational dimensions are described as work location, management status and seniority. External dimensions are factors such as geographic location, income, patronal status, religion; while internal dimensions are age, race, ethnicity, gender and physical ability. All of the dimensions are centered around that employee’s personality.
“Knowing these qualities in your employees is a great way to incentivize for rewards and benefits, and know what your identity and culture is like,” she said.
A company’s onboarding program should not only acclimate the new employee to the organization but also engage them with the goal of retaining them for the long-term.
“Keeping the people you have is easier and more cost effective than having to find replacements.”
Familiarize the new employee with “who” your organization is. Share what they can expect from working with your company and what you expect of them.
“Research and conventional wisdom both indicate an employee has about 90 days to prove themselves in any organization,” she said. “The faster someone feels prepared and welcome in their position, the faster they will be able to be a productive member of your team.”
Tincher pointed out that onboarding requires a consistent degree of check in and follow-up that shows your engagement and investment in their success.
“Engaged employees can positively affect your company’s profitability, customer service and reduce your company’s turnover, she said, adding that engaged employees can improve safety ratings, and reduce accidents and absenteeism.
Onboarding is directly tied to your retention rate, which is the most important reason to have a solid program.
“If you have properly acclimated and engaged your new employee throughout their first year of employment, retaining them is the reward,” she said. “It absolutely affects your bottom line, and puts you in a position to take on additional work.”
The Psychology Behind Onboarding
Tincher explained that there are four major levelers — related to both job roles and social environment — that organizations can use to help new employees maximize their onboarding success.
“There is a lot of social anxiety when arriving at a new job,” she said. “You need to be cognizant of that and make them comfortable as possible.”
• Self-Efficacy. To the degree that a new employee feels confident in doing the job well, he or she will be more motivated and eventually more successful than less confident counterparts.
• Role Clarity: How well a new employee understands his or her role and expectations.
• Social Integration: Research has long found acceptance by peers to be an indicator of adjustment.
• Knowledge of and fit within an organizational culture: Understanding an organization’s politics, goals and values are important indicators of employee adjustment.
Length of process
Tincher concluded the session by stating that, unfortunately, most onboarding processes don’t last six months. Mother Nature is sometimes the cause of it.
“The snow industry is one of the most difficult things to teach employees. If there is no snow, it’s really hard to show someone how to do it.”
She stressed during the onboarding process to actively get new employees involved during a year’s cycle. “If you don’t involve them, they will have zero investment in making this work for your organization. Show them that it matters to them, Tincher said.
Companies, she said, will have to decide for themselves how long their onboarding process will last and what outcome and goals they want to achieve.
“People want to know that they are a part of your success,” Tincher said. “The only way for them to know is to share in that.”