October 2nd, 2016 • employee onboarding
Chris had to laugh to himself to handle his disbelief as the elevator doors closed and he was finally alone. “Did that just really happen?”, he said out loud, secretly hoping someone would hear him. He had just come out of an all-day employee onboarding program at his new job at Henderson-Calloway. Henderson-Calloway was a very old company, but had offered Chris a generous starting salary and a new position of New Media Director based on what he had been able to do at his previous job, a startup in Austin, Texas.
He had spent the entire day in a conference room with PowerPoint after PowerPoint presentation and a parade of the most disinterested people he had ever seen in his life. The comedic highlight had to be the one-hour slide deck on the mission and vision of the company which dragged on for so long that Chris had developed seven buzzword bingo boards by the end.
Then there was the employee handbook, i.e., Chris’s new doorstop. His hand ached from signing his name over and over again and his phone number, social security number, and home address kept singing in his head in a terrible loop that he feared would never stop. Lunch consisted of a free meal at the cafeteria where he sat by himself and caught up on some podcasts to distract himself.
As the elevator opened and Chris walked out, he immediately called up his friend Maggie at his old job – partly to laugh with someone, and partly to make sure his chair hadn’t been filled yet in case he needed to hop back on the plane to Austin.
“We need some more young people around here.”
When an established company tries to bring in fresh blood to their team, they often overlook the ways to adapt their processes and policies; and it all starts with the employee onboarding process. Millennials have high expectations from jobs and they expect a company to be willing to adapt and change – not only for their own benefit, but also for the sake of the survival of the business. If the onboarding experience shows that it’s ‘Meet the new boss, same as the old boss’, then your new hire is going to quickly start looking elsewhere.
Be Organized, But Not Stiff
Millennials are capricious on the surface, but they are self-directed and ahead of the curve when it comes to priorities. They appreciate environments that have everything figured out, but they hate being constantly patronized.
A young software developer hired by a top Silicon Valley company was very impressed at the organization he saw. “They had asked me about my choice of laptop and its configuration over the phone a few days before the joining day. It was sorted out and ready at my desk when I arrived.”
Your onboarding should show that you’ve thought out all the details, but should not have an agenda that includes ‘a tour of all water fountains in the South Building at 11:20 am’. Be sure to have time for them to explore on their own, and organize activities like casual meet-and-greet luncheons with other teams.
Start Communicating Early
If there’s one thing that millennials obsess about, it’s communication. They are likely so connected that they have very low tolerance for any kind of communication breakdown. They expect all information to be available at all times and want to establish relationships with people.
Whoever is the first point of contact with the new hire should start communicating as early as possible. Don’t assume that the new hire will wait until the specified time on the agenda to bring up any questions. He or she will want to ask a question as it comes up and will want an accessible line of communication.
Talk About Culture
Apart from elaborating on what the company expects from prospects, the onboarding process should also focus on making them understand the company norms and culture. Chris was able to figure out the culture of Henderson-Calloway from his experience, but he wasn’t impressed. Millennials want to see organizations that are very self-aware about their culture and actively work to improve it.
Mission and values are important to discuss, but not in an arbitrary manner. Connect it to real stories and real people. Show how they’re related to job performance and expectations. Millennials don’t mind being pushed to do great work, but they care about the why and the how.
For a generation who grew up with digital devices, they want to finish tasks with the flick of a finger. Don’t make them sit through time-consuming paperwork marathons. Find a flexible digital onboarding app to collect and parse all of their data for all of your different processes.
Try something like KiSSFLOW’s Employee onboarding software to automatically pass on the data to different departments. Your new hires will be impressed when they don’t have to sit down at every department and fill out the same information over and over again. With KiSSFLOW, you can digitize your existing forms or create new ones, pre-populate fields, set rules, and distribute it among participants to fill it out.
Let Them Go Free Range
The millennial generation values freedom because they want to be in control of their own experience. When an onboarding session makes them feel like cattle being roped along a carefully chosen path, they will likely get disenchanted. Create some time in the onboarding workflow for them to go into any office and ask any question. Debrief after their exploration and make sure to correct any misconceptions. Or help them strike a conversation with older employees in the office. The idea is to make the office feel free and open and to not have restricted areas or topics they aren’t allowed to discuss.
Assign a Mentor
Millennials are not quite like the hippies with their mantra of ‘Don’t trust anyone over 30.’ In fact, millennials often anxiously seek out mentors in their lives. Pairing a new hire together with a middle-aged or nearly retired veteran can spark a lot of good conversation, goodwill, and innovation.
Ask for Feedback
Millennials are nothing if not opinionated, but you can use this to help create a feedback mechanism to understand their expectations better. You can ask them about how to improve the onboarding process, as they will likely have some good insights to share. It will also help your company to set proper processes for the future with millennial talents in mind. By incorporating their suggestions, you will demonstrate your willingness to listen to them right from the beginning by asking for ways to get better.
Millennials are one of the least risk-averse generations to exist in the history of the world, so quitting a job a few weeks in if it doesn’t seem like a good fit is highly likely. Someone like Chris has no qualms with dropping the 401k plan and running to a new opportunity that is a better fit. Employee onboarding is your single chance to put your best foot forward and show that you genuinely value millennials and their way of thinking. Use the onboarding time to the fullest advantage. Rather than doing things the same way you always have, find new, painless ways you can improve the experience when onboarding millennials and welcome in that fresh talent!
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