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How you bring new employees on board matters

Matt Wood and Stacy Nichols Published on 06 May 2014

employees working in a dairy

Have you ever hired new employees only to have them leave within a few weeks or months? Unfortunately, this is all too common on our dairies these days.

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Employee turnover costs time in having to train multiple new employees, but it also costs your dairy money due to the reduced productivity of both employees and trainers during the training period.

When asked, most dairy owners say that dealing with employee issues is one of their most frustrating responsibilities. If this is true for you, then you may want to evaluate your onboarding process for new employees.

The onboarding process can be the difference between frustration and a smooth-running organization. In one recent study, employees who attended a structured onboarding program were 69 percent more likely to stay with the employer up to three years.

In another study, new employees who went through a planned onboarding program were fully productive two months faster than employees who went through a less-focused program.

This is important to understand: How you onboard new employees matters. Invest in proper training and solid communication with employees early and you will see the benefits of an engaged team in the future.

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So what does a good structured onboarding program look like? An onboarding program should include the following elements:

1. Clearly define the expectations and review the goals each new employee should achieve: It is better to set expectations and review goals with employees up front so misunderstandings are eliminated. Put expectations and goals in writing and customize them to each employee.

You should provide a formal job description that includes the job title, responsibilities, expected duties and methods of evaluation. Do not assume the employee can intuitively figure out what the expectations are or what the goals of the organization might be.

Additionally, an organizational chart showing areas that the managers of your dairy are responsible for and who reports to them will be helpful to the new employee. Preparing this information will take time at the beginning but will pay big dividends in the end.

2. Assign a mentor or coach: By assigning a mentor or coach (who is ideally a different person from the supervisor), you accomplish two things. First, it gives the new employee a “go-to” person they can feel comfortable with and, furthermore, it engages the mentoring employee in the success of the new hire. In addition, it sends mentors a positive message that says you trust them and that their work is important to the operation.

The mentor should be an engaged employee that has been with your dairy for a minimum of two to three years and understands the goals of the business. Be sure mentors understand the responsibility being given to them.

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They are to be helpers and advisers to the new employee. Review the goals for new employees with mentors so they are in the best position to assist the new employee in becoming productive.

3. Make the first day on the job special: Not only do you as the owner need to be there, but also the direct supervisor or team leader, the mentor and the new employee’s teammates. The first day sets the tone. Your presence sends the message to your team that you value them enough to take an interest in their success.

4. Plan a one-on-one session and follow up: This session is very important for you and the new employee in keeping an open channel of communication. It’s the time to not only give constructive feedback to your new employee, but also inspire, encourage and praise his or her early efforts. This is also a good time to reiterate your expectations and review the goals that have been set.

This process should be scheduled ahead of time so your employee can come prepared. Ask employees to come with questions and provide feedback on their job responsibilities and give a self-evaluation of how they are doing in the new job.

Make sure you bring copies of the job description with you. Consider doing this in the break room or even taking the employee for a meal off-site. Having the meeting in your office may intimidate employees, and they may not be as open as they would in a more informal setting.

The old adage of first impressions is very true during the onboarding process. During the first several days, you and your team are creating an impression that is either a positive or negative one.

Most importantly, the onboarding process sets the tone and attitude for your new employee – both in the short term and long term. It will more than likely mean the difference between an employee that washes out after a few weeks or months and an employee that stays on your dairy for several years. PD

Stacy Nichols is a dairy technical specialist with Vita Plus Corp.

PHOTO
The old adage of first impressions is very true during the onboarding process. During the first several days, you and your team are creating an impression that is either a positive or negative one. Photo by PD staff.

matt Wood

Matt Wood
Nutritionist
Vita Plus Corp.

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