Inspire a learning mindset

Departments - Words of Wilson

May 9, 2019

Words of Wilson features a rotating panel of consultants from Bruce Wilson & Company, a landscape consulting firm.

© filadendron | iStockphoto

Starting a new job is like learning a new computer program. There’s a huge amount of new knowledge and performance-related expectations to absorb while simultaneously becoming fluent in the language and jargon of the culture.

A general flood of information can take months to understand before new employees begin to feel productive. Without reinforcement and a framework for continuous learning, new hires are likely to become stuck on square one.

How many times have you started a new job and were told, “There’s a desk, your computer is on order, and here’s a stack of projects”?

I’ve discovered over the years that having an effective, progressive training process that focuses on optimizing a new hire’s potential dramatically decreases potential damage control. What’s more, it improves long-term culture fit, satisfaction, retention and loyalty.

Studies show a properly followed onboarding can improve financial impact. According to Michael Watkins, author of “The First 90 Days”, it can take new employees six months to reach the “breakeven point,” when the value consumed by the new hire begins to be overtaken by the value they produce. With the right onboarding approach, Watkins suggests time to breakeven can be accelerated by up to 30-40 percent.

1. Create a memorable welcome.

You’ve successfully screened, negotiated with and brought on someone who will help you drive your business forward. Regardless of role, all new employees need to feel welcome. Make sure to plan ahead so their appropriate workspace is organized according to function; set up technology, communications tools and applications; provide office supplies, company manual, marketing materials, onboarding paperwork, employee lists, organization chart, business cards, uniforms, vehicles – even where to park their cars; have their company tool kit ready and waiting for them with a personal note welcoming them to the team.

2. Develop an onboarding schedule.

  • First day hourly schedule: Lead office tour and introductions, and assigned time with each functional stakeholder. Allow time for HR paperwork not yet completed. Lunch out of the office (with company peers, not the boss). Don’t give much of a break that first day – make it an immersive experience. Cover (repeat from interviews) company vision, core values, annual and quarterly targets, etc. End that day with a brief 1-on-1 that lasts between 10 and 15 minutes.
  • First week daily targets: Set learning goals for meeting representatives from different operational areas and allow them to get familiar with their new routines. Pair them with a mentor or someone to shadow to promote team bonding and ask questions as they come up.
  • First month weekly objectives: Visits to branch offices, clients and/or training programs are options to include here. End of month 1-on-1 meeting.

3. The Firsts.

Show them you care. End each milestone–the first day, first week, first month and first 90 days–with scheduled 1-on-1s. Get to know them personally and monitor the impact of your interaction to ensure the process is achieving the desired results. Ask questions and listen. Strive for a 2:1 ratio of hearing their perspective versus giving your own. Together, develop objectives they would like to achieve at each of these milestones that mutually align with your company’s goals and plan for course corrections as needed.

Develop a personalized approach that works for your company and be consistent in rolling it out. Continually improving your onboarding program will reduce turnover, keep your employees engaged and productive and will result in winning the hearts and minds of new employees.

60 percent of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experience great onboarding. But the challenge is bigger than any one person or department. Whether office and managerial or field and clerical, the value of a structured onboarding program cannot be underestimated.

Onboarding is the perfect time to share your company’s brand story, core values, big picture vision and structured way forward. A great onboarding program sends the message that you value what your new employee brings to your team and that you are invested in their professional growth as a win-win. Or as Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Airways, answered when asked, what if you train them to succeed and they leave? “What if you don’t and they stay?”

Contact David Krysh at