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Designing the Ultimate Small Business Workforce with Onboarding

Building a high performing small business workforce doesn’t start and end with choosing the right candidate for each role. Ensuring each employee can achieve their full potential means creating a long-term development plan which aligns your new staff with your company culture and goals and the results you want to achieve.

Whether your business is in hospitality / food production, supply chain or you are building a high performing sales and administration team, the correct development plan doesn’t just prepare your new employees for success when you first integrate them into your team. It also ensures they can continue to thrive for as long as they work within your business. With the right plan of action, employers and their managers can use the process of “onboarding” to enhance your company culture, inspire teams, and boost staff retention.

So, what exactly should your development strategy entail? Here’s what you need to know about building the perfect development plan for your staff members.

Employee Orientation vs. Employee Onboarding

First, it’s worth defining what onboarding actually is. Many people still use the terms “onboarding” and “employee orientation” interchangeably. However, orientation and onboarding are two very separate concepts.

Employee orientation is a one-time event, focused on embedding new hires into your company. During this process, human resources personnel and leadership professionals formerly introduce employees to the organisation. They may take them on a tour of a physical office, or deliver information virtually through videos and presentations.

The idea behind employee orientation is to get your staff members prepared for their new roles. Employee onboarding is a more long-term concept. Onboarding encompasses the entire employee journey, starting from the moment they meet their colleagues, all the way up to the point where they are fully performing.

Used correctly, this process not only strengthens your small business employer brand and employee engagement, but it also paves the way for a more successful, productive, and efficient team. It helps to acclimatise staff to the company culture, set expectations, and keep team members aligned with the vision, mission, and goals of the business.

How to Design an Onboarding Plan

Studies show an effective onboarding strategy and employee development plan have a significant impact on the success of any company’s team. Businesses with the right onboarding and induction programs achieve 50% higher new hire retention.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for onboarding, below are some easy to implement steps you can use to improve your chances of the right results for your growing team.

1.   Choose a Strategy for Onboarding

First, it’s worth considering how you’re going to deliver your onboarding experience to candidates and new staff. Traditionally, onboarding took place within the office environment, consisting of regular face-to-face meetings, training opportunities, and induction processes. During Covid lockdown we saw a shift in around 4 in 10 working adults move to a remote work model; and since then, many businesses have continued with a mix of office based, hybrid or fully remote work.

As a result, more small businesses are looking to to implement new virtual and hybrid onboarding efforts. While some meetings and interactions may continue to take place in-office, others may be delivered via video conferencing and online software. The key to success is figuring out which parts of your onboarding strategy require in-person interaction.

Consider asking your new hires which parts of the onboarding journey they may want to tackle in person, and which they’d prefer to do virtually, or in their own time.

2.   Assign Each Staff Member an Onboarding Buddy

Because onboarding is a long-term development strategy for each employee, it requires staff members to have someone they can turn to whenever they want to discuss their goals, explore training options, or ask questions.

An onboarding buddy is someone your employee can turn to whenever they need assistance getting the most out of their role. This could be a direct supervisor or manager, or simply someone with authority, experience and/or history in the business. You could even consider using mentorship campaigns to connect new hires with senior staff members across the organisation.

Encourage regular communication between your new hire and their onboarding buddy, so they can develop a more transparent, authentic relationship. Some companies even use informal coffee chats and video calls between staff members and their “mentors” to help further integrate new hires into the company culture and track their progress.

3.   Prioritise Regular, Transparent Communication

For any business development plan to be successful, every member of the team needs to feel as though they have a voice. Scheduling regular meetings between individual employees and managers where they can discuss progress, challenges, and opportunities is key.

Team members should be able to contribute to their own development, by suggesting areas where they feel like they need to improve, and requesting training opportunities where necessary. They should also feel comfortable reaching out to business leaders when they’re struggling with their workload, experiencing burnout, or feeling disconnected from the business vision.

Regular and transparent communication will also ensure business leaders can consistently set expectations for team members, based on the values and mission of the company. Make sure each employee knows how their performance will be evaluated, and what kind of qualities they need to demonstrate in their day-to-day work.

4.   Set and Regularly Update Goals

Up to 33% of employees quit within their first 6 months with a new company, and 86% of respondents in one survey said they would still switch jobs, even if it meant damaging their CV/Resume. Following the effects of the Great Resignation, business leaders need to be extra sensitive to the engagement and satisfaction levels of their staff members.

This means providing every team member with a clear vision of the future they have in the business and helping them to set and achieve their career goals. During regular meetings with each employee, business  owners or managers should encourage their team to discuss their strengths and weaknesses, and share insights on how they can grow moving forward.

As an employee’s position within the business continues to evolve, the individual or team responsible for their onboarding process should work with them to expand and update their goals. This will ensure staff feels as though they’re consistently moving in the right direction.

5. Invest in Employee Development

While using a recruitment company to find the ideal employee for your team is an excellent way to improve your chances of hiring success, it’s important to remember that developing and empowering your employees is a long-term process.

Creating a plan for consistent employee development through consistent and engaging onboarding will ensure you can retain your top talent for longer, and achieve the best results from every member of your team.

Get in touch

At MYNEWJOB we help small and medium sized businesses with talent acquisition. Our experienced recruitment team have placed hundreds of jobseekers into new roles post Covid lockdowns. We understand the unique challenges of sourcing quality candidates in the current candidate short environment and pride ourselves on delivering an effective, efficient recruitment service without eye-watering placement fees.

For more information on how we can help you recruit high-performing individuals for your business get in touch with us on NZ+64 9 801 6635 or AU+61 2 7908 5388 or email me directly at 

We’re recruiting for you!

Karen Forsman


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