Laura Florin is an expert and accomplished people leader with more than 20 years of experience in leveraging people and resources to build strong teams at every level (not to mention being very familiar with the stay interview process).
Now working for Videri, a maker of energy-efficient digital displays, Laura uses her expertise in people and compliance to manage four different onboardings in two countries.
Laura understands what it takes to not only make new hires feel welcome but also make them feel like they want to stay for a long time. We were lucky enough to sit down with her and pick her brain on all the employee onboarding best practices.
In this episode of The Employee Onboarding Podcast from Process Street, Laura discusses:
- Onboarding evolution
- Stay interviews
- Making HR less scary
- Do HR orientation on the second day.
- Checklists are a lifesaving tool.
- Technology has made onboarding better.
Why don’t we start with you sharing a little bit about your onboarding experience at your current company?
And my current company, we’re varied. So we’re 50% in the U.S., 50% in Canada, and we have people that are remote in the U.S. and in Canada, plus having two locations. So we almost have four different styles of onboarding, depending on what position the person has, and what we need to what we need to obtain.
I try to make it so that onboarding is very smooth, there’s not much paperwork to do, and we have strong systems that get us to be compliant very quickly. Then we can focus on getting to know all the employees. So we have an orientation that we do. We usually do the HR orientation on day two, rather than day one because that first day, you’re trying to log into your computer, you’re trying to get some people’s names, get a little bit adjusted.
And then, on day two, if we do the HR orientation, we can then say, “So how was the first day?” So then we don’t scare anybody away. Then this way, we can focus in or, re-guide the manager, because, let’s say the manager had a bad day and couldn’t meet that much with that person. Especially if you’re remote. Sometimes when you’re onboarding people remotely, they haven’t gotten their own workflow, so that first day, there may be a lot of emptiness because you’re not sitting in the office.
So, four different onboardings. Wow. How do you manage that?
Ah, it’s just understanding what that is. And understanding, okay, what payroll system is somebody getting into? Having checklists and understanding so you can get that process finished. As I said, let’s bring down the compliance time. Let’s see how much we can get the system to do for us. So then, what we focus in on the right onboarding, which is what is our culture? What are the things we’re trying to do? How do you succeed? What are the opportunities for training and those pieces?
How would you say it’s evolved in terms of technology? Has that played a role in onboarding evolution?
As I said, you know, back in the day, when you handed people a giant pile of paper, and really you didn’t have a computer in orientation, they just had the paper, and you probably with a PowerPoint presentation being put up on the wall and, and talking through each slide, so it dictated that.
Now, with computers and everything else, and even video chatting, you can do a lot of different things. The other piece is that it makes more sense for the employee, instead of filling it out on paper, how do we get them to fill it out straight into the computer? And now, if they’re going straight into your payroll and HR system, putting in their name, their address, their social security number, there’s a higher percentage of probability that it’s going to be correct because the person knows their own numbers and their own stuff, and you’re not going to transpose things and everything else.
In HR, from the old days, when we were data entering everything, how many times people came back to you and said, “Oh, my address is wrong?” or, God forbid, their social security number is wrong? And now we’ve got to actually get it fixed with the IRS and all the other stuff. So I think that’s much more beneficial.
Even direct deposit is a big change because you used to hand somebody a check. So if your first check neat could be a paper check, you can hand it to somebody, and then after that the direct deposit could start. So you could at least do a test. But now, since we’re all remote from the first check, it’s got to get into their bank account. And then it’s a nightmare if it does go to the wrong place because then getting the money back then getting them paid. And the worst thing I ever want to, you know, mess with is somebody’s pay.
- Pre-boarding is necessary to keep new hires engaged before their first day.
- Employers need to promise advancement and opportunities in order to keep top talent around.
- Stay interviews are an excellent tool to reduce employee turnover.
We have started to focus a lot on pre-boarding. Can you tell me a little bit about your insights on pre-boarding, and what that looks like?
I would say pre-boarding is similar to what’s still happening in the recruiting process. So there is that piece where, if you have a company that has divided up, you have your recruiting or your talent acquisition, and then you have your people operations. Where is that dividing line? Who does what? We’ve got to work it out amongst ourselves who does what, so then there’s a smooth transition, and handoff from recruiting to HR.
It used to be a lot easier because if somebody’s coming into the building, you can say, “Okay, before they walk in the building, they’re recruiting.” Then, when it’s their first day, they come into the building, then then they move over to the people operations or human resources.
So now it’s who does what? Should recruiting be worrying about getting a computer shipped out? You know, what are these different pieces that should happen? And who does it? And I think it is very important because is the person being supported through those two weeks? We don’t want to forget them.
Let’s say they gave two weeks’ notice, we don’t want to forget them during those two weeks. We want to check in, we want to see how they’re doing, especially in today’s market, when within that two weeks, they could accept a job from you, but they’re still interviewing. And they’re waiting for this other job to come. And so, how do you make sure that they still see you as their first choice?
Are there any tips that you could share on how you keep new hires that haven’t started yet engaged during their notice period?
A lot of it can be communication. You could set up a video chat, it doesn’t always have to just be phone calls or emails. I think, sometimes, because we are remote, and we do so much through chats and emails and everything else, you do have some people that tend to communicate more via electronics.
And, yes, while that’s good, you don’t get that inflection, you don’t get that welcoming. And I think it’s important, even during those two weeks, to do phone calls or do another video call to say, “How are things going? Are you prepared? Do you have any other questions?” By doing that, people feel more welcomed.
One of the lessons I had when we were still coming into a building was at a small scaling company where we took it from 100 to 250. They had a 40% turnover rate. And when I looked at the 40% turnover rate, half of it was people not making it the first year. So what you have to think about is why? Okay, then they took this job because they desperately needed it. But they never fully walked in the door because, obviously, something was happening either through the onboarding experience, the recruiting experience, or that first year of asking themselves if they wanted to stay there.
I think a lot of employees want to cut and run sooner than later if they really don’t feel that either (A), they’re welcome and they can see themselves being part of this team. And (B), do they have opportunities? Because if there’s no opportunity for them, most people don’t want to sit in the same job for 30 years. We want to grow, we want to progress, we want to learn new things. So the onboarding, pre-boarding, all these steps are very, very important and, in the long run, a lot of it plays to your retention and your retention numbers, and how much money you spend on training.
There’s a lot of discussion about the length of onboarding. That the initial training might be two weeks or 30 days. But how long does our onboarding really last?
We have something that we call more “stay” interviews than exit interviews. So they’re similar types of questions to an exit interview, but it’s more like, “How are things going? What do you think of the benefits? What’s going on?” Are we checking in with them at 90 days? Are we checking with him at six months? Nine months?
So every quarter, are we checking in with a new hire as far as how things are going? Do they still understand the benefits? Do they understand how they can advance? Are they getting the training? Are they getting the right amount of feedback? I think that’s very, very important so that somebody feels that connection to the company and to their team.
Making HR less scary
- HR should make more of an effort to talk to new hires and check in so they seem less scary.
- Opportunities for advancement should be made clear in the onboarding process so new hires feel excited to stick around.
- Give new hires a buddy that isn’t their manager.
Checking in creates a stronger bond between scary HR and the teammates, right?
Yes. So I want to make sure that I get up and go, I talk to people, even if they have questions so that you don’t have the scary HR. I have had people dive under desks to hide from me. It was part joke, but it was part, “Okay, what did that really mean?”
So yes, HR needs to get out of the process, the paper, and all the other things and only come in when it’s time to deliver a bad message to let’s do the fun things. Let’s enjoy each other. Let’s get to know each other and teach me how I can make things better.
That sort of idea of onboarding, you really could argue, travels the whole length of that person’s career with that company, right?
Yes, as I said, back in that example, where half of my turnover was people that didn’t make it a year, there were a lot of reasons for it. Some of it was the wrong people were recruited, we just needed a warm body. But the bigger portion of it was, people didn’t know how to advance, they weren’t getting the feedback they wanted, and then they also felt they weren’t getting the training they should get.
Even though we thought they were great at doing their job, they didn’t feel so confident in their job that they knew what they were doing. But that continues, or once you start that great foundation that can continue through their career, and then people are willing to stay with companies through good and bad because they feel valued.
What would you say is the most creative thing that a company can do to create a wow moment for new hires?
It’s finding that true welcome moment.
When I was at one of my companies, we found the new hire’s desk, we put their name at their desk, we put balloons up, we put some stuff there, so everybody knew who this new hire was. And we told them to go and say hi. So they were being welcomed to the fullest, and being treated like an employee who’s been there for many years because they got balloons, everybody knew that they were a new hire.
We gave people a buddy, and the buddy was not their manager. So on their first day, their buddy took them to lunch, not their manager. Their manager could do it later in the week, but the buddy really taught them about the culture. How do we get them to know other people? And will this buddy bring them around to introduce them to people?
During their first few happy hours or employee events, or all-hands meetings, they take that buddy with them, so that the buddy doesn’t feel nervous. You got to think about it when you’re a new hire, and you have your first party, like your first Christmas party, and let’s say you were hired two weeks before you want to go, but you feel so weird walking into this party. You don’t know people, or maybe one or two, but you don’t want to hang on them all night, because you don’t want to make them feel like they have to entertain you. So how do we get them welcomed? How do we get them to know people?
Sometimes that’s the toughest thing. It’s not so much the job if we’ve hired experienced people. We know what our job is going to be, it’s just how does this company do it? It’s more, how do I get to know people? And how do people get to know me? And what’s special about me? So I really, truly feel like I fit in.
Working for startup companies and small companies that don’t have the salaries that Google or Amazon might have, we don’t have all the bells and whistles. How do we keep those people interested so they’re not then looking at just looking at these places that have higher salary ranges, better bonuses, or better things? It’s how do you create a great atmosphere where people feel they don’t want to leave? Because I don’t know if I’m gonna feel this comfortable or this happy if I go someplace else.
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What do you think about Laura Florin’s ideas about stay interviews? Do you regularly check in with your new hires? Tell us about it in the comments!