Getting the Most From Onboarding

Starting a successful career means more than landing a job, it means fitting in. If your new employer has set you up for onboarding take advantage of the opportunity. Here is some background that will make your onboarding a valuable tool for getting ahead.

What Is Onboarding?

Onboarding is more than just training. In fact, your onboarding experience may be with people from across the company and completely separate from your specific role. You will be connecting with the HR team, other new recruits, and possible the C-suite. This is the time to begin networking. Arrive prepared with a rugged laptop, research notes on the company that can be parlayed into meaningful questions, and a couple of interesting stories about yourself to use in ice breakers.

A successful onboarding is one where you feel confident about your role in the company. You understand the company’s values and culture. You have met new and current employees and exchanged information with a few of them. You’ve taken notes to review later and have the contact information of someone who can answer any future questions your review of the onboarding may bring up. You should walk out of onboarding feeling positive about yourself and the company. Onboarding is about socialization to your new employer.

Because onboarding doesn’t always impact the day-to-day functions an employee performs, you may feel that just showing up is enough; onboarding is just something to get through before the real work starts, but onboarding can be your key to understanding how to succeed not just in your job, but in the company itself. Pay attention to what’s being said, as well as the vibe you get from the team. Onboarding will give you a feel for the company’s culture. Look for information about company values and corporate culture.

What Is Company Culture?

Corporate culture is more than whether you get to wear jeans to the office. Company culture begins with policies and procedures, those things a company puts down in writing and expects you to abide by, but it is more than that. Culture includes how much opportunity employees are given, how much trust employees are shown, and how much flexibility employees are allowed. It also includes diversity. Company culture is such a large concept that it can be difficult to define. Here are some guidelines to feeling it out. A traditional company usually has a traditional well-defined hierarchy with a lot of emphasis put on rules. You might recognize this in onboarding as an emphasis on dress code, and following procedures over discussion of innovation. On the other hand, an innovative company culture tends to have a flatter hierarchy and values new ideas over emphasis on rules. The first company has a “right” answer that you are expected to get. The second doesn’t mind failure as long as you are good at your job and looking to solve a problem. Neither is inherently better, but it’s important that you know what to expect.

You may also want to dig into whether your new company values leadership, providing mentoring and promoting from within, if you see yourself climbing its corporate ladder. Look for information about a company’s time management style and what sorts of charities and causes they support. These high-level details will help you read between the lines and decode the unspoken expectations every company has.

What Can I Do If I Didn’t Get Onboarding?

Maybe you’ve gone to work for a smaller company that doesn’t have an official onboarding, or the onboarding you attended left you with more questions than answers. If the mountain will not come to you, you must go to it. Learning to fit in is just as important at a smaller company, but you’ll have to do the leg work yourself. Do your research. Use your HR contact to answer broad questions about the company’s values and any other details that will help build a picture for you.

Don’t think of onboarding as a chore to be completed as quickly as possible. but your new company offers a handbook to its inner workings and expectations. If only every relationship in life came with one!

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