The Workforce Series (5): Employee On-boarding

workforce blog seriesAs part of the Greater Mankato Growth Talent Initiative, GMG is publishing a guest blog series highlighting the programs, tools and resources that are available in our marketplace. This series can serve as a catalog or library for businesses to address workforce issues. 


For Your Consideration:  Employee On-boarding

Written by: Jason Bruns, Director of MN State Engineering Center of Excellence, Minnesota State University, Mankato

So, as l was driving back from deer camp, I was thinking of not only of the deer that I missed but what are some workforce resources businesses might not be recognizing? Tools that affect workforce retention, attraction and speed to productivity? That led me to think of the practice of Onboarding.

What is this practice of Onboarding? Webster says it is “the act or process of orientating and training a new employee.” That sounds easy but how many businesses are actually doing this? I mean, is the demand to meet short productivity cycle deadlines eliminating this process and its importance? Maybe there isn’t a current process in place? If there is a process in place, how robust is it? Could this be the reason for poor retention or the new employees are not as productive as soon as you would like? Is it like the old adage of what happens to marketing when the economy drops? Is the process just being ignored?

So, l want to practice some new employee empathy. They are nervous about starting a new job. What does this entail? There are new co-workers, processes, physical environment around them, plant tribal knowledge, different productivity metrics, etc.

Now, I for sure am not an HR expert but I believe it is valuable to review your Onboarding process for opportunities to address needs:

  • Do you really have a documented, standard work process/procedure in place?
  • When is the last time there has been a review of the Onboarding process?
  • Do you have a realistic expectation as to the productivity levels during the Onboarding?
  • If you have a mentor program, do you train your mentors properly?
  • Are there things recent hires have said were issues? Have you solved those problems?
  • Have you ever done an HR resource exchange with another company to see if your Onboarding process is effective?
  • Are you looking for or sharing best practices?
  • Is your process the same for office and shop employees? Should it be?
  • Have you recognized your tribal knowledge and found ways to explain it or make it easier to understand?
  • How do you get new employees comfortable quickly?
  • Would current employee picture flashcards help new employee acclimation?

These were just a few of the questions that ran through my head. When I would hire young engineers, I would require them to work on the shop floor in various locations. I told them to take a notebook and in the back of it, write the name of the people they met, along with interests and/or passions. With this information, they have a tool to build relationships with the people that matter the most in a successful business.

So, what does your Onboarding process look like? Will a positive Onboarding experience create more employee candidates (word travels)? Is it a toolbox tool that you might be missing or is it a process that is not as sharp as it needs to be for this challenging workforce environment?

Resource Materials:

I hope this has you asking questions, as it did for me.

Nevertheless, in the end, do you know what? That buck still got away….