Starting a new position is both terrifying and exciting. There is an old movie quote that paraphrased goes something like, “Beginnings are usually scary, endings are usually sad and it is what is in the middle that counts.” When it comes to starting a new job, there is a similar beginning, middle, and end. During the first 90 or so days on the job, you will go through an onboarding period that will help you get up and running in your new role. When it’s done well, the onboarding process will make you feel like you are being welcomed into a new community.
Think a moment about the different perspectives. Your new employer needs to convey both culture and structure to ensure you get on board quickly and know how to be successful. You as a new employee need to know who to turn to, how to get your questions answered and of course, how to be successful. Good onboarding can meet both of your needs.
The best onboarding experiences begin by setting the tone and culture of the organization. Do you understand the mission and your role in it? Do you understand company norms? These are the behavioral expectations colleagues agree to hold one another accountable to. You’ll hear things like:
- Work hard. Play hard.
- The customer is always right.
- Listen to understand.
- Practice honest feedback.
These expectations begin to show you the ways in which you’ll be expected to behave. Listen closely. These cues will help you understand the culture of the company.
The middle part of onboarding is the logistics. These are probably where some of your key questions lie. Do you understand your benefits, the retirement plan, IT systems, email requirements, personal phone usage, performance evaluations, technology, bonus structure, the employee handbook, time off, expense reports, promotions? Brainstorm your list of questions before you meet with HR because it is a terrific place to ask questions and get access to the resources you need. Plus, you look prepared and eager to understand. You may receive a lot of this information before your first day on the job. If so, make sure you have reviewed it and are prepared to ask any clarifying questions. Beyond the logistics do you understand three core components of onboarding?
- How will you add value to the organization? How will you be supervised and how will you be assessed?
- Where should you focus your initial relationship building efforts? Your team, your boss, your customer?
- What skills do you need to hone over your first year of employment? Where are your learning resources?
Once these questions are answered, you’ll still have much to learn about your specific job function over the next 90 days and beyond. Find great peers who have been in their roles a little longer than you have. Their insight into the organization will be extremely valuable.
The end of onboarding sets the stage for relationships. Much onboarding is conducted by an enthusiastic member of the HR team. Work to build a relationship with this person. You’ll have questions along the way. There will also be a formal or informal handoff as you begin working with your new supervisor. Continue the onboarding process in this supervisory relationship by being prepared and open to feedback. Consider coming with a list each time you meet with your boss that articulates the following:
- What you’ve accomplished and what stages various work is in
- Where you are stuck or confused
- Where you need some guidance
- How you are acclimating to the culture
- What relationships you are developing
- What you are thinking about and how you are feeling
Remember, put a lot of energy into these relationships as they are in the forming stage. As the old saying goes, go slow to go fast. Most of your learning will occur within the first year of a new position. The foundation you build now will allow you to succeed in the future.
Guest Blog Post by Amy Crippen, Agriculture Future of America