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Joe Produce: The Importance of Onboarding


The definition of “pain” for a recruiter—at least one definition—is working with a client for a couple of months, going through all the work, the interviews, the back and forth, and then finally finding and securing that special candidate that not only meets or exceeds the client’s expectations, but fits the company and culture like a glove...going through all that, and NOTHING. The candidate accepts the offer, resigns from their current job with maybe a two-week break before they start the new one...and there is no follow through from the employer. No real onboarding.


What the heck is onboarding, and why is it important?


Well, if you spend time and/or money to carefully find the right players for your team, you’ll want to keep them, right? Of course! But some companies assume, I suppose, that once hired it’s a done deal and they can “put out fires” elsewhere. To make matters worse, the new hire’s first day and week are not special, filled with getting acquainted with the company, owners/management, team, or even the company’s systems and policies.

 

The company thinks that their first impression happened at the interview and, by virtue of their actions, their message is clear. The honeymoon is over; it’s time to get to work. Let’s go!

 
While that may work, let’s visit this through a story: After dating for a couple years, going to nice dinners, vacations, and other cool outings, a couple gets married. After the wedding and honeymoon, they return to their home and lives. To the wife’s surprise, everything is immediately in the routine of life and years of marriage. Underwear on the floor, dishes to do, guys over for beer and to watch a game. The romance is over...and the honeymoon is way over.


A successful onboarding experience will enhance the employee’s first and lasting impression, and they’ll stay there and happier longer.

 

If you have an HR Department, then PLEASE support them and their onboarding ideas and efforts. There is a very sound reason for their actions. As I tell my teenager, all the time, ”Pay me now or pay me later, and ‘later’ is always much more expensive.” If you do not have an HR Department or person on your staff, then here are a few tips to help you KEEP that recent and/or next star hire:


Reach out to them before their start date

This can be as simple as confirming the start date and expressing excitement for them to meet the team. It’s important to keep the lines of communication open, and this is a way to start off on the right foot.

 
Make their first day memorable

The first day is the first impression too many companies forget about. Don’t let them spend it isolated and feeling like the new kid in school. That being said, spread out the paperwork! You don’t want all they remember from day one to be piles of forms.

 
Keep their schedule structured to start

Structure isn’t a common trait in produce, but it’s easy to offer while building the foundation. This helps you, too—one of the hardest parts of hiring is finding time in YOUR busy day to make sure THEY always know what to do. Pre-schedule check-ins, such as once per each the first three months, and then at 6 months.

 
Don’t expect new hires to hit the ground running

...Or at least not too fast. Everyone wants to see instant return on their investment, but it rarely works that way. So, how is it fair to expect the new person to immediately fit in like the missing cog in your operations? Give them the opportunity to rise to the occasion, set goals, and be flexible. Let them know what your expectations are for the first week, month, quarter, and year.

 
Form a cross-departmental onboarding team

Each department has invaluable information that you need to keep the business running, and the same should be considered in showing a new hire how it works. This helps you cover all your bases and gives them a strong resource before they have even begun.

 
Get the whole company involved if possible

For the same reason every department should be involved in the onboarding process, at least one knowledgeable employee from each department will help the newest member more quickly understand the whole picture they are now a part of.

 
Set expectations early and often

These should be realistic, as specific as possible, and with clear deadlines.

 
Communicate the company’s culture early and often

This is never as clear as we think it is, and all the skills in the world will not help a person fit in with a company if the cultures don’t mesh. The earlier this is spotted, the better.

 
Allow new hires to give their own feedback

They won’t rip off band-aids because, obviously, they want this job. But few can point out your company’s operations from a fresh perspective. Leaving the door open for this can improve the fundamentals you and others who have been too close to the business might miss.


So just because “the honeymoon is over” doesn’t mean there can’t still be some “romance” in the relationship. Well, perhaps not “romance,” but at least it can be a healthy and moving in the right direction. A solid onboarding program helps keep us on track with that new relationship for which you’ve invested and have dreams of success—and ROI. Don’t leave it to chance, but rather design.

Rex Lawrence, Founder and President of Joe ProduceRex Lawrence, Founder and President of Joe Produce, was born & raised in Salinas, CA. His 28 years in the produce industry includes positions in senior sales, marketing & management for some of the industry’s leaders. Rex and his team truly understand that finding the perfect “fit” is about more than matching a skill set with specific job requirements.