Tips and Tricks for Creating a Successful Onboarding Program

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It is well known that businesses are struggling to fill positions, some of which are open for several months before candidates are found. Credit unions tend to be more people focused. If staffing and retention are known problems, developing a program that provides staff with the necessary tools to do their jobs is critical.

Research shows that organizations that have a formal onboarding program are far more effective at retaining employees than those that leave it to chance. Without proper onboarding, employees are not set up for success and tend to struggle with execution, which can lead to frustration and discontentment. According to Forbes’ research on this topic, “while up to 20% of employee turnover happens in the first 45 days, 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experience a good onboarding process.”

Incorporating thorough training videos into a structured onboarding program provides new employees with the tools to immediately integrate themselves into your team’s daily work. My department developed an onboarding program that consisted of the following: a syllabus to provide an overview, process documentation, in-depth training videos with real-world examples, along with the ability to complete tasks independently during their first week of work.

When employees can contribute meaningfully from the start, their sense of ownership and confidence in their role increases exponentially.

How the need for an onboarding program came to light

Gaps in our dated onboarding program hit me square in the face in September 2021, when I took my first management position overseeing a department that handles several of our organization’s core functions. The pandemic and its aftermath had left the department short-staffed and overworked, which resulted in delayed order processing, a lack of timely responses, and frustrated internal and external customers.

Things were in such rough shape that I had to become an individual contributor to help the team execute daily tasks. Existing documentation provided some guidance, but I found myself constantly interrupting team members to ask questions about serious gaps in the documentation.

It was clear that we needed to add team members, but attempting to do so with our existing training tools would have been doing a disservice to any new employees. Thus, the New Hire Onboarding Program was created. My vision was to incorporate in-depth training videos which required tasking the longest-tenured employee with carving out time each week to begin updating documented processes.

How to approach building an onboarding program

The first step to developing a solid onboarding program is to compile a detailed list of all the department’s responsibilities. Once the key areas are identified, use this to organize all the items into chunks that will become phases of your onboarding program. The tasks within each phase should be organized in sequential order, explicitly stating the skills that employees should master throughout each phase of the program.

Once all tasks and responsibilities are organized in the appropriate phases, you have effectively created a timeline for your onboarding program and have developed the roadmap for the work that lies ahead. When beginning content creation, outline step-by-step instructions to complete each task.

To construct a quality video, have your playbook of steps to reference while recording your video. Once all the content is organized, you are ready to record the videos! We used Zoom for all our recordings. Speak through each step of the process while physically performing each task until that specific “job” is complete. It may take a few runs to be happy with your recording, but you will learn what does or does not work for you and can adjust accordingly.

Be sure to address each task in order, following the same steps until you have completed all items within that phase of your timeline. Prep, outline steps, record, repeat. Keep in mind that many onboarding programs will include a number of phases, each increasing in complexity. Complex processes, especially those that involve handoffs with other teams, require serious attention to detail to be successful.

What to consider when designing your program

During the design phase, break things down into manageable chunks. In other words, design a complete phase, create content, and record all videos within a respective phase prior to moving on to the next. If you fail to prepare and organize content prior to recording the videos, you will likely have to re-record multiple times.

While recording videos, speak through each step while physically performing them until the task is complete. Factor in extra time and resources for complex processes, especially those with interdepartmental handoffs.

Successes of our onboarding program

  • The creation of 50+ videos providing play-by-play verbal instructions with corresponding visuals.
  • Significantly less time spent on 1:1 training.
  • A massive decline in the number of disruptions from other teams.
  • Reduced time before an employee is considered completely self-sufficient.
  • The ability to assess progression and identify areas of improvement within our team.

Since implementation, we have successfully trained three new employees using our structured roadmap and videos. The videos are a huge hit and are still being used as refreshers for tasks that are not completed regularly. When the team discovers a task that was not captured initially, it goes into a “Need to Record” video queue that is stored in a shared location.

The most complex of all our processes is billing. As such, it is the last phase of our program. We are currently in the content development phase of our Billing Training Program, on track to go live in 2023. As mentioned earlier, complex programs require the most time and energy to develop. While some portions of the billing videos are complete, we have pulled in another employee as a resource and are cross-training him while developing the remaining content of the billing phase. Using him as a guinea pig is helping us to understand what areas are the most challenging and has given us the ability to finetune as we go.

Developing a robust training program was a big undertaking, but it was worth it. The advantages of having a dependable onboarding program are well worth the significant time and labor required to create it. Overall, training videos have streamlined our onboarding processes, getting employees up to speed much more quickly than the standard method of documentation that many companies use today.

I am proud of the onboarding program, especially as it provides peace of mind knowing that if a team member accepts another position or multiple people are out simultaneously, we have the tools to maintain operations.

Start off on the right foot

The way that someone enters your organization matters. If you wait until you really need the documentation, it will be too late. You may find yourself underwater and regretting not making it a priority. Protect your team from the headaches that turnover can bring by preparing before it arrives.

Many companies set up lunches with department heads, provide monogrammed organizers, and give tours of their facility. All of these serve to increase a new hire’s familiarity and comfort with the culture of your organization. But what about their familiarity with the work they will be doing? Aside from brief conversations with new co-workers, how do you make a new hire immediately comfortable with the work? Provide them with the tools to learn on their own. Show them how to do the work without pulling existing team members away from their duties. How do you accomplish that? In-depth training videos coupled with a well-defined onboarding process.

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