4 Pillars of Onboarding

When it hits a 30, 60 and/or 90 day review, take feedback and see if any adjustments need to be made to the onboarding process.

In the vicious circle of the Great Resignation, our team members move on and we get the pleasure and challenge of bringing on new team members that will hopefully meet or exceed the performance of those prior (there is good turnover as well).

Onboarding has taken many different forms, definitions and timelines in recent years with a bucket list of best practices that everyone “must do.” It can be easy to get overwhelmed and think you have to tackle them all. This can often end with underperforming results when an organization tries doing a lot of things with minimal execution that leaves little impact on the new team member.

This isn’t to say that we aren’t giving our best effort towards bringing on team members, but keep in mind that our time and effort is a pie chart. It’s only going to have 100% in the end so the more elements you have to it then the less effort or quality can be given to each area.

So in an effort to trim down the 100-plus best practices you can find today, I highly suggest you nail these “4 Pillars to Onboarding” and allow the best practices and processes to stem from a solid foundation that fits you and your team.

1. “Who do you want to be?” and how is your new team member going to see, hear and feel that during the onboarding process?

When you’re crafting your onboarding program and your team engagement initiatives think about “who you want to be,” as an organization, a leader, team member, etc. What are the values that you want to continually drive throughout the team?

Whether it is people, quality, customer service or safety, then break down each value and what that should look like for every role. So if a veterinarian is displaying people or quality, what does that look like when they are in the barn? If a sow service manager is displaying customer service then what does that look like when they are having a conversation with a department head?

Onboarding or “hype” videos are great, however nothing will compare to what your current and new team members see and feel on a daily basis.

2. Ensure that you are setting and communicating culture expectations.

The great thing about the swine industry is that every farm, feedmill and office has its own sub-culture of their organization. This comes from years of ownership and custom tailoring by our managers and team members that have passed throughout the years.

Although our unique subcultures add a tremendous amount of value and the ability for our teams to “own” their area of the operations and their outcomes, it comes with a bit of a challenge as well. This is that sometimes the “personalization” can be a little too off the path, resulting in a feeling of disconnect between the delivered expectation and what actually happens.

Safety or protocol interpretation and execution are often areas that can be modified for better … or worse in a location’s subculture. While these can be sometimes amplified or maybe even have a higher expectation than the norm throughout the company, when they are presented with diminished importance the message being sent is much deeper.

The message being, “there is a disconnect between what we say and what we do.” When this is presented to a new team member, they will often choose to fit the culture that surrounds them, not the one that was presented to them. Inserting the dangerous question … “Who do I trust?”

So ensure that your current culture(s) are consistent with the values you strive to continually deliver through continued messages and actions. It may seem a little scripted but don’t hesitate to put out there that “we do (insert action) because of (this value or culture expectation).”

Then, yes, communicate to your new team member on what to expect and how to become positively involved in their new team’s culture.

3. Clarity and commitment of success.

Whether it is the new team member, their supervisor or the team, it is critical that everyone understands what are the factors that contribute and measures that determine their success.

First, the new team member.

Communicating during their onboarding process and continually throughout their time with you on what factors contribute or measure their level of success are important … however there is one that’s equally important. That is communicating what level of ownership you have in their development as well. Which brings me to… their supervisor.

In the pre-boarding process we discussed laying out the development plan for the new team member prior to their arrival. This included their supervisor which may or may not be their main trainer through the onboarding process. However, it will be their responsibility to ensure their training is being completed as well as any adjustments that need to be made to shorten the time-to-contribution for new team members.

And obviously, if you are a member of a “team” one of the determining success factors to pull off a win is that everyone understands their role as well as their team members’. Being clear and allowing a level of transparency to the rest of the team on what the path is for the new team member and how they can help support them will not only allow for better development but team continuity and clarity on what will lead to team success.

The link to this process that is often missing is “how are you able to track the field application of those skills that determine their success?” Pacing a new team member through presentations, field demonstrations and maybe a hands-on skill check a few times is a solid program. To take it to the next level, begin asking how you can see the consistent application of their learnings out in the field.

For example, our managers with PigFlow are able to see the live progression of their current and new team members on their task completion, pace and decision making such as split suckling, sleeving and vaccinations. Other ways to approach it may be more consistent task audit checks with an observation. It may not be a practical approach if there is intential disregard to the protocol, but certainly may find out if something was lost in translation … literally.

4. Solid base, agile development.

Creating and staying on track to your onboarding and development plan is important but don’t allow it to restrict further improvement or lose the ability to be agile when bumps in the road occur.

Things happen! The team member that is responsible for training may also be filling more than one role at the time which may slow down training or your farm may face a health challenge during the process. Both of which have happened to me, you, and all of us to some degree. What’s important is that we take our time to check in on the progress being made and what are the “true” next steps.

I say “true,” because it needs to be a truthful evaluation. Not an excuse for not completing training nor an unempathetic response if adversity is being faced.

So to stay ahead of challenges and ensure your team is brought on board and up to speed the best possible, implement scheduled check-ins with the new team member. Include a simple “what’s next” process to guide them through successfully.

When it hits a 30, 60 and/or 90 day review (whatever your process is) take feedback and see if any adjustments need to be made to the onboarding process. Maybe there was something new you discovered that should be a focal point going forward. Or maybe there was some information or steps that can be removed as well.

And that caps off  my “4 Pillars to Onboarding.” While it may not be fancy or the new flavor I am pretty confident that you can build a great onboarding experience off of these four pillars and who knows … maybe help a lot of us get back to a good foundation as well.

*Image from National Pork Board

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