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Service Business Onboarding: How To Build A Bulletproof Training Process

FieldPulse | September 4, 2016

Do you have a system for getting new employees up to speed? If you don’t, your turnover rates might the be product of more than just ‘bad luck.’ Onboarding is the process of introducing new employees to your business and integrating them into both the professional and social work cycle, and if you do it right your business efficiency will dramatically improve.

In this article we’re going to show you how borrowing this tech-sector technique can help your service business thrive. Companies that use these techniques enjoy higher workplace satisfaction, lower turnover rates, and reduced stress.

What Is Onboarding Really About?

Onboarding isn’t just a fancy term for workplace training. A proper onboarding sequence also establishes workplace relationships and expectations, so new hires know how to interact with the existing team. Technical training is definitely a part of it, but the scope of onboarding is wider.

The most important part of the onboarding process is helping the employee understand what their job is, where they fit into the work hierarchy, and why their work matters. The ‘what,’ the ‘where,’ and the ‘why’ behind their position. There are all kinds of academic texts and HR manuals written in legalese that explore those concepts further, but those three facets are what we’re going to explore here.

Something to keep in mind here as we talk about the onboarding process is how it can make your life easier. Replacing an employee can cost up to 20% of that employee’s salary in training and hiring costs, and the new employee’s reduced efficiency during their settling-in process negatively impacts future profits. If you have high turnover rates or your new employees aren’t learning their jobs quickly enough, you need an onboarding process.

Defining Job Scope

Accurate job descriptions protect both the employer and the employee, and you should know how to write them. Firing someone for not meeting a work expectation that isn’t listed in the job description and/or contract can be illegal, and expecting an employee to thrive in a position they don’t understand is misguided. Even when the scope of the job sounds simple — a pool cleaner cleans pools, right? — making it explicit is easier for everyone.

Job scoping extends beyond the hiring process, too. During the first week of onboarding, focus on giving your new employees a guided tour of their duties and make a point of defining the limits of their position. Make sure they’re comfortable with what they’re supposed to do and the process used to bring in the right people for the things they shouldn’t be doing. Make sure they’re comfortable in their position, and use that initial time to figure out what they need training on.

Don’t just cover their run-of-the-mill duties, either; make sure new hires know what to do when core staff are sick or on vacation, and give them an action plan for emergencies. Many companies use flowcharts to detail emergency action plans and non-standard situations, and keeping a folder of them on-hand can save you a headache.

Setting Social Expectations

Throwing a bunch of people from mixed backgrounds together and expecting them to ‘figure it out’ is a recipe for disaster. Take the time to integrate your new hires with your team, and make it easier on everyone.

New employees should know who they’re working with, who they report to, and how the workplace hierarchy functions. They should know who specializes in what, and who they should talk to if they need help with something. Take the time to introduce them to the people they’re working with, and make sure your current employees know more about the new hire than just their name.

If the new employee is given a cold reception during their first week, or they feel like they’ve been thrown into a competitive social environment without a map, they’ll struggle to fit in. Make sure to have a schedule built for them that gives them a chance to work with their coworkers, and schedule a check-in with them a week or two after hiring so you can address any issues that come up before they become problematic.

Setting Work Objectives

Independent and self-motivated employees are happy employees, and happy employees are productive employees. Once your new hires know what they have to do and who to do it with, giving them clear objectives and an appropriate amount of autonomy will keep them working smoothly. This is the exit point from the short-term onboarding process.

Financial motivations aren’t enough for most employees; they need to connect with the values the company is based on. Giving them a quick speech about customer satisfaction and community commitment won’t do that; you need to give them milestones, and check in with them as they achieve them. Help them to set personal performance goals, and reward them for reaching them.

This objective-based approach helps new employees transition from training to real work, and it helps them anticipate what they need to do in order to succeed. Start out by giving them easy objectives, such as a certain number of service calls in a week or handling certain call types independently. Once they hit full productivity, make sure to give them the recognition they deserve and emphasize that they’re a part of the team.

Most employees don’t know what’s expected of them, and that can lead to stress and anxiety. By making the expected productivity curve explicit (but not punitive), your new hires will feel more comfortable in their positions. Combined with the rest of the onboarding process, it will get them up to speed quicker and lead to a more engaged workforce.

There’s a lot of material online about onboarding that’s aimed at large businesses and companies in the tech sector, but the core idea is applicable to the entire workforce. By creating a consistent and thorough process that introduces new hires to your team and alleviates the typical forms of workplace stress, you’ll be able to save money on turnover costs and maintain a more productive workforce.

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