What are the Six C’s of Onboarding?

How a Great Onboarding Strategy Improves Employee Engagement, Supports New Hires, Reduces Turnover, and Increases Productivity

Last week we discussed the employee lifecycle. This week, we’re going to do a deep dive into onboarding, why you should audit your onboarding practices, what you need to know to improve your onboarding strategies and, in turn, employee engagement, autonomy, and retention.

Dr. Talya Bauer wrote about the 4 C's of onboarding for SHRM’s Effective Practice Guidelines Series,. They have now evolved to six.

So, what are the six C’s of onboarding?

1. Compliance
2. Clarification
3. Confidence
4. Connection
5. Culture
6. Checkback

Though they might seem a bit self-explanatory, we think it’s important your organization takes time to understand each step and audit your own process. Each level builds on the one before it, and here are strategies to improve each step of your onboarding process.

1. Compliance is the basics, the legal paperwork, documentation, employee handbook, organization expectations, compensation package, and more. It’s ensuring new hires have the resources they need (computers, phones, tools, information) to get the job done. Every organization has to have this in place, or they’d simply not function. Streamline this process.
Strategy: Send all legal paperwork to your new hire before they arrive. Give them time to go over the forms and come prepared their first day with questions. Have their workspace ready to go with the technology, software, and furniture they need. Make sure their first day isn’t spent reading and signing forms, instead connecting (#4) with their new colleagues.

2. Clarification can help to reduce confusion, uncertainty, and frustration for new employees during the onboarding process. It’s the time the organization provides new hires with clear information about the company’s culture, values, and expectations.
Strategy: Clarify the roles and responsibilities of the new hire and their supervisor. This can include providing a job description, outlining key performance indicators, and setting clear goals and objectives. By doing so, employers can help new hires to understand what they will be working on, how they will be evaluated, and how their work fits into the larger picture. By providing new hires with a clear understanding of the company’s goals and vision, and their own role in helping to achieve those goals, employees feel more connected to the company’s mission. Moreover, clarify training and advancement opportunities to employees at this stage. Don’t only show them what is but open the door to what can be (and will be expected of them.)

3. Confidence refers to the new employee's feeling of being capable and competent in their new role. Do not underestimate the importance of a manager’s or organization’s role in reaffirming the value of each employee.
Strategy: Provide a clear job description and performance expectations. Don’t leave employees in the dark! Establish clear communication channels. Provide training and development opportunities. Give constructive feedback. Recognize and celebrate successes.

4. Connection refers to the social connections new hires develop during the onboarding process. Building a sense of belonging within an organization can have a significant impact on engagement, job satisfaction, and retention. This belongingness gives employees a sense of feeling safe, which is key for innovation, creativity, improved critical thinking, and collaboration.
Strategy: Create opportunities for socialization within work and outside. Assign a mentor or a buddy. Foster a sense of community within and outside the organization. Create opportunities for new hires to ask questions, seek feedback, and share their ideas through a thoughtful, strategic communication plan. Provide opportunities for professional development, so employees can feel more connected to their colleagues and the organization’s mission and goals.

5. Culture sets the tone. How well do new hires understand the organization’s stories, history, values, norms, and symbols? Culture is constantly evolving, as business is constantly evolving; however, the history of your organization and founding values are likely to be the same. Make sure your new hires know the history of your organization and how they’re part of its continuous evolution.
Strategy: Employers should clearly articulate the values that guide their decision-making and behavior, and they should communicate these values to new hires during the onboarding process. Leaders should model the behaviors that they want to see in their employees and should hold themselves accountable to the organization's values. Fostering open communication is essential for building a positive culture. Employers should create an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas and feedback, and they should actively listen and respond to employee concerns. Recognizing and rewarding desired behaviors can help to reinforce the organization's culture.

6. Checkback is the newest addition to Bauer’s evolving C’s of onboarding. This refers to onboarding feedback, following up with new hires to ensure that they have the support and resources they need to be successful in their roles.
Strategy: Establish a structured checkback process. If it matters, create metrics for it, so you can measure it and make improvements. Create a culture of feedback, encouraging new hires to provide feedback on their onboarding experience. As an organization, use this feedback to improve the process. Additionally, employers should provide regular feedback to new hires on their performance and progress, helping them to feel supported and valued. Finally, empower mentors and supervisors to take an active role in the checkback process.

Don’t risk alienating and losing new hires before they walk in the door. With a thoughtful, strategic onboarding practice, you have a greater chance at getting employees up to speed, adapting to the organization, producing quicker, and staying longer. This is good business.

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