Building Trust and Engagement with Effective Onboarding Communication

You never get a second chance to make a great first impression.

When it comes to introducing new hires to your company culture, the onboarding experience is a huge opportunity to communicate your mission, vision, and values from day one. Employees who feel connected to the company's "why" bring more of themselves to work, are more productive, and more loyal.

Too often, companies settle for mundane orientation (paperwork, "here's the coffee maker," etc.) and think they've got an onboarding program. You can do better!

While sorting out those routine tasks are important for your new hire to become a productive member of the team, they do absolutely nothing to  nurture engagement or communicate the uniqueness of your company culture.

SHRM's New Employee Onboarding Guide offers some key questions you should answer and operationalize to give new employees that great first impression you're after:

  • When will onboarding start?
  • How long will it last?
  • What impression do you want new hires to walk away with at the end of the first day?
  • What do new employees need to know about the culture and work environment?
  • What role will HR play in the process? What about direct managers? Co-workers?
  • What kind of goals do you want to set for new employees?
  • How will you gather feedback on the program and measure its success?

Start Building Trust on Day One

Have you gone through a corporate training program that was held offsite that included several professional peers going through the same program? During the training sessions that lasted for several weeks, the head trainer spoke to the training class as a whole throughout the entire training period. However, did the head trainer ever pull you aside to determine how you were progressing through the training program?

Onboarding and training is the ideal time to establish the level of trust that puts new employees at ease. If new employees believe that you have their back, they are more likely to go all-in with your company. The attrition rate for onboarding and training can soar higher than 50 percent. Building trust through effective communication should lower your new employee attrition rate.

Provide Clear Direction

New employees want to know how to get from point A to point B. You give new employees direction during onboarding by describing the many ways members of your team can move up in your company. During training, providing direction is especially important during role-playing sessions. For example, a restaurant management training session that includes role-playing might ask each trainee to handle a customer complaint. The job of the training team is to give advice on how to handle customer complaints, as well as point out when a trainee succeeds in assisting a role-playing customer. Providing direction during training can help boost the confidence of every new employee.

Resolve Conflict

Conflict comes in many forms for new employees that go through the onboarding and training process. For onboarding, conflict can arise with the technology used to move a new employee through the process. For example, filling out onboarding paperwork by using an onsite Wi-Fi connection can lead to slow page downloads. An effective communicator stays on top of the progress of a new employee going through the onboarding process.

During training, conflict can arise between a new employee and a veteran employee, as well as between two trainees. Remaining calm and finding common ground are the keys to resolving conflicts through effective communication techniques.

Improve Engagement

Going through onboarding and training is like attending the first day of school. Trepidation runs through a new employee’s veins because of the fear caused by the unknown. As a human resources professional, it is your job to alleviate the tension many new employees have during onboarding and training. Making new team members feel at ease goes a long way towards improving employee engagement.

Encourages Team Development

You can promote teamwork until you turn blue in the face, and some, if not most of your employees will simply ignore your cry for team building. Effective communication during onboarding and training fosters the development of teamwork. Explain the importance of teamwork for your company during the video portion of onboarding, and then encourage teamwork by meeting with new trainees after every training session.

A Boost in Productivity

Rallying new employees during training to embrace teamwork is much more than an emotional appeal for unity. Teamwork also boosts employee productivity, whether it is a 20-year pro or a new employee that is still in training. Effective communication that encourages the development of teamwork is an essential component to increasing productivity.

Finally, effective communication during onboarding and training is the key to building lasting professional relationships. By using active listening skills, providing timely and relevant feedback, and helping develop skills that improve performance, new employees can build professional bonds with other team members that remain strong for years to come.

Topics: employee engagement, communications, onboarding