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For a Successful Onboarding Experience…

Be Prepared and Make Time for New Hires
By DeeAnn Palin

I remember my first job after college. When I showed up at the Fortune 100 company on my first day, my new boss was out of the office; it was up to me to find a desk and phone I could use. When I got settled, I was handed a stack of papers to “enter in the system” and I went about assimilating from there. A memorable experience – for all the wrong reasons!

What was your hiring and onboarding experience like? More importantly, what kind of environment are you creating when a candidate or freshly hired new employee shows up at your place of business? Do they know what’s expected of them and are you confident that you’ve hired the right person?

Economic and business indicators say we are seeing some modest improvements in sales and business growth. With unemployment still more than 8 percent, it would seem you could hire a new employee rather easily. But there are challenges. First, after years of stalled employment, candidates and hiring managers are likely to be rusty in their selection and integration processes. In addition, there is a layer of unqualified technician candidates a company must filter out to select the best of the best.

As MHEDA employers, you have several resources at your hands – from your online job search/job posting site to the many assessment tools and templates at your disposal. Before your hiring managers jump into the process, encourage your team to step back and answer a few important questions.

Know What You Need

What personality traits will be successful in your environment? Some material handling employees work directly and often autonomously with customers. Some may work in a shop with team members. Others may be required to work in the field diagnosing or setting up equipment. It’s important to understand what your service commitments are with your customers; the way your team members work together; and the type of job you are hiring for, including any competency gaps that may need to be filled.

If you are hiring a technician, do you really need a master tech or could you create a mentoring process for a well-educated, responsible and professional technician who is newly certified? Who will this individual work for? Will this person be driving to or from the customer’s work site and will he or she need a driving record and background check?

Take inventory of the answers to these questions. While you may have a generic job description, you will find that each hire is an opportunity to reshape your team dynamics and the skill mix of the team; and to raise the bar in professionalism, technical abilities and the level of your customer expectations.

Get What You Want
As you become clear about your needs and the gaps you want to fill, you’ll be able to articulate this in your job posting and attract a high quality pool of possible employees. You will also become much clearer about what you need to learn from the candidates you allow to come into your company to interview.

Take time to become educated about pay and benefits. What will it take to attract the best of the best? What can you offer to make your company more attractive than the competition? Is it pay, career opportunities, tool allowances, tuition reimbursement and/or relocation costs? What do you need to con sider regarding continuous training and supporting certifications? What type of mentoring and onboarding would make most candidates feel confident that they can be successful working for you?

As you prepare for interviews, decide who, besides the hiring man ager, should participate in the inter views. Will one person prescreen before you bring the candidate in? How will you score the candidates to be sure you are being fair and objective? How will you debrief?

I typically recommend there be at least two interviewers. You may also choose to supplement the inter views with a personality or technical assessment, such as the Caliper tool endorsed by MHEDA. If you have a technical assessment, such as Wonderlic skills assessment or the Bennett Mechanical Comprehension Test®, use it. You may also want to ask specific technical questions or offer a specific case or scenario that the technician can talk through, physically approach or diagnose for you.

Review each of the final candidates’ resumes. Take notes. What technical skills does this individual possess? What don’t you know from reading the resume? If you don’t have a standard set of questions available for interviews, visit the MHEDA web site to get a copy of our handouts from the convention. Pick the five to seven behavioral interview questions that will best draw out the personality and work style you need, and use the same questions for each candidate you interview for your position. It’s usually the follow-up questions that will reveal what the candidate is really made of: “What did you learn from that?” “What was your thinking behind that decision?” or “In hindsight, would you have done anything differently?” The probing questions help you understand the way a person thinks and his or her decision process, as well as willing ness to learn. You want to be sure this individual has the makeup and style to be successful on your team, in front of your customers and with his or her leader.

For candidates you are very serious about, it may be worthwhile to host a second interview to see the candidate again when he or she is a little more relaxed. In addition, you can address any open questions that either you or the candidate might have, introduce them to additional stakeholders, walk the workspace and talk logistics, hours, tools, etc.

Ensure Success

It’s one thing to make the job attractive enough to get the best candidate to accept, but that’s only the beginning. Stay in touch with the new hire before he or she starts. Be sure that he or she knows the dress code, tool needs and any other necessary protocol before arriving the first day.

On the first day, it’s critical that someone is there to welcome your new employee. It’s easy to forget the simple things, such as introducing the new hire to the team, walking the workspace and explaining who does what and where to find things, even down to where to store tools and where the bathroom is. It’s always uncomfortable if no one offers to take the new hire to lunch. This is a great opportunity for the new boss or mentor to check in and begin to build rapport.

Each day for the first week or so, the mentor and/or boss should take a few minutes to ask how it’s going, check work, answer any questions and consistently add to the new hire’s knowledge of the company and job. When it seems the new hire has a basic grasp of the job and environment, extend the status checks to every few days or once a week.

After approximately 30 days, it will be time to do a more extensive evaluation. Schedule the time and engage the mentor and others to offer feedback. Ask how the tech feels he or she is doing. Evaluate the grasp of the job, how the new hire is performing in quality and task, and how he or she is fitting in with the team. Has the new hire arrived on time each day and maintained your standards of cleanliness? Is he or she following safety guidelines? Are all interactions professional and courteous? If the new hire is doing well, acknowledge progress and build a plan that is mutually agreed upon to continue the growth and development for the next 30 to 60 days.

Ensure the weekly status checks continue and that ongoing dialogue and development continue with the new hire. Expand the work expectations; teach and test.

At the end of 90 days, complete another evaluation. While a new technician will not likely be fully productive in a short time, you should see an accelerated growth path and significant progress. If all signs are positive, you may want to expand this technician’s autonomy and pay. Recognize the hard work, show appreciation for the accomplishments to date, and set new goals and challenges for growth.

We’ve all made the mistake of rushing to hire when a sudden opening happens, or dropping a new person into a job with no support system or ongoing calibration. We seem surprised when it doesn’t work out. Take your time to hire and onboard your technician. Hire a graduate from UTI or other local technical school, follow these simple, triedandtrue tactics and your success rate will go up exponentially.

DeeAnn Palin is vice president of employment services at Universal Technical Institute’s corporate head quarters in Scottsdale, Arizona (dpalin@uti.edu). To inquire about hiring UTI-trained technicians, please call 1-800-399-8317 or visit www.uti.edu/employers.