Weekend Poll: Onboarding New Colleagues

The results of this Weekend Poll have now been tabulated and published. You can see the results by clicking here!

I’ve asked readers before (and will again) about your own onboarding or induction to your role. This week, though, I’m asking about your involvement in supporting new hires’ transitions from candidates to colleagues.

A couple of decades ago, as a new hire myself, I inherited a team of a hundred or so colleagues who were represented by four different bargaining units. I was also responsible for supervision of support staff (assistants) based in three different offices. It didn’t take long to see just how much staff time was consumed by well-intended colleagues’ questions. Many, but by no means all of these questions came from new hires.

Our business unit, a faculty, was part of a much larger post-secondary institution with an efficient HR division. It was natural, though, that new hires would turn to staff within their immediate sphere for help.

I’d encountered this before in the private sector. New colleagues inevitably need help in getting grounded. In my first few weeks in higher education, I was repeatedly asked a series of similar questions by different colleagues – and the same was true for the team I supervised. Assistants are by nature helpful, but it can be hard to maintain productivity when responding to repeat interruptions during the day. Nor did any of us want people who needed help to feel either unwelcome or not supported.

Everyone wins

With this in mind, I launched a dual-pronged project and the support staff came together to develop what would now be called an onboarding guide. The reality is that it wasn’t only the newcomers who benefitted from it, and development of the guide was also very much an intentional team building initiative.

Looking outside our own environment, it occurred to me that similar scenarios were unfolding in other faculties across all campuses. I approached my Dean and then my counterparts and HR with an idea. Before long, I was leading an interdisciplinary committee focused on identifying and streamlining onboarding (and departure) processes.

Shelagh’s upcoming presentations

I’ll continue sharing news in the days ahead of some of the exciting conferences and events at which I’ll be presenting this year.

One of the new presentations I’m developing focuses on the role of the assistant in onboarding new colleagues – from fellow assistants/business support professionals to other staff and, as circumstances dictate, your own principal (boss). I’ll include the results of this Weekend Poll here and will elaborate on some of them in my onboarding presentation. That leads to me ask …

How do you help onboard or induct new colleagues?Colleagues-shaking-hands-at-desk-courtesy-unsplash-raw-pixel

Please take a couple of minutes to complete the poll below, and I’ll publish results next week.

1 (low - Infrequently; we don't see many personnel changes)2 (It's predictable that we'll see a few new hires each year)3 (high - It's the norm, whether on a quarterly/ semester/ seasonal basis or otherwise)
Yes, and we have documented protocols/ processes in placeYes, although we don't have documented protocols/processesWe help new hires, but it would be a stretch to call it an onboarding programNo
HROur own officeHR handles some aspects and our office takes care of the rest
Within a new hire's first week or two on the jobAs required; it's not a scheduled eventMonthlyQuarterlyOnce per semesterSemi-annuallyAnnually
HR has a formal program, but not necessarily near an individual's start date, so our office also has documented practicesHR has a formal program, but not necessarily near an individual's start date, so people in our office do what we can right awayHR has a formal program and we coordinate with them as to who will cover which aspects of onboardingEach office does their own thing
1 (low; Typically, very few questions or requests come my way; there's no impact on my productivity)2 (I'll typically be asked for help and will field questions, but not to the extent that it's disruptive or impacts my productivity)3 (The questions and requests for help tend to come my way; it can significantly impact my productivity)
New hires feel welcomeIt supports a good office/ organisational cultureIt accelerates new hires' productivityIt accelerates assistants' productivity, given fewer questions/interruptionsOther - please add comments under #9, below
I'm the point personAnother assistant in our office is the point personThe principal (boss) within our office is the point personWe don't really have a system, but the assistants generally help out by responding to questions and providing guidance
Half-day eventFull day eventTucked in as and when time permitsPaced with incremental provision of infoOther - please offer any comments below, in #14
Yes; we publish them online onlyYes; we make them available online and by hard copyNoYes and no; we make such available to only a restricted group of colleagues
Organisational IntranetSharePointOther portalGoogle Docs/SheetsOneNoteWe have a PDF document that we circulate by emailWe have a PDF document that's posted online
Other assistants/business support professionalsFaculty membersHealth professionalsManagement other than my principal (boss)My principal (boss)Colleagues in roles not represented in other options identified here

Note: The Welcome photo atop this page comes courtesy of Belinda Fewings on Unsplash.

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