Creating a Successful Onboarding Experience For New Hires

By Adrienne Miller, PharmD

April 15, 2022

Creating a Successful Onboarding Experience

In my previous role as Operations Manager, one of the first things I began to tackle was creating a better onboarding experience for new hires. To be honest, there was not much in place, and I started from the ground up. Like grandma’s old recipes, nothing was in writing, and it was mostly “this is the way I do it.” I saw an opportunity for improvement and committed to making it better. With each new hire over the years, the onboarding continued to evolve, and I continued to learn what worked well and what did not. Electronic checklists work well, paper documents not so much.

Fast forward many years, and I have recently transitioned into a new role within my organization and have been on the opposite end of the onboarding. Rather than holding someone’s hand and guiding them, I was now the student. It was nice to see so many similarities between the onboarding we were providing to our new associates in my previous role and the onboarding I have received in my new role. It affirmed we were heading in the right direction, but upon reflecting on my recent experiences, there is so much more I could have done.

From my recent transition, I would like to share some of the methods used that have had a positive impact on my onboarding experience.

  1. Direct communication from the manager before starting date: So much of the communication during the hiring process is with Human Resources, so it is always nice to be in contact with the hiring manager or people you will be working with closely. I appreciated the emails and phone calls from my manager and team admin in advance letting me know where to report on Day 1, and what to expect in the first few weeks.

  2. A small welcome gift: On my first day I received a welcome gift that included a coffee gift card and some thinking putty. This small gesture showed me that I was more than just another new hire, and they cared about making their new teammate feel welcome. It was incredibly thoughtful and the perfect gift since I thrive when caffeinated.

  3. A detailed electronic checklist: On Day 1 I was also shown the location of my onboarding checklist and thoroughly reviewed the contents with the team admin, who also created the document. To say this list was comprehensive and well organized is an understatement. I live my life by spreadsheets and checklists, and I immediately knew this team was going to be a great fit for me.

    The first thing I loved about this checklist was that it was located in a shared drive so anyone on the team could access the document at any time to see what I have completed and what was outstanding. Not only did it provide visibility, but also accountability for myself and those assigned to review specific tasks with me. The list was very inclusive and also included tasks that the team admin and manager needed to complete before my start date. Often things must be completed sequentially, and this document was organized in a way that flowed and was understood by all stakeholders.

    Each item had a contact person that was the subject matter expert responsible for helping me should I have any questions. Ultimately it was my responsibility to be sure I was progressing through the items on my list, and it was comforting to know I had so many resources available to help guide me. This also eliminated the burden of my manager being inundated with questions from me.

    Next, the checklist was broken into sections; Week 1, Week 2, first 30 days, first 60 days, first 90 days, and 120 days and beyond. This made the 200 line items on the checklist seem less overwhelming and more manageable. It provided a framework for how to structure my independent time and achieve deliverables in a realistic and timely fashion.

    Last but not least, the status column of the checklist was color-coded so once I marked an item complete it turned green, which was so satisfying! Tasks in progress were yellow, and items that were not started were red. This visual management tool was a quick way for my manager to check in and monitor my progress, and also helped me identify where to focus next.

  4. Scheduled meet and greet time with each team member. One of my early checklist items was to reach out to the team and set up 30 minutes of one-on-one time with them. I joined a team during the COVID pandemic where many people were still working remotely so this was a nice opportunity to connect and learn about each person I would be working with on a more personal level. I had some questions prepared in case the conversation was stale, but a majority of them were all great conversations that made the 30 minutes fly by. It is easy to maintain established relationships in a virtual setting, but it is not as easy to build new relationships virtually, so I enjoyed the prompt to reach out to everyone individually.

  5. Mentorship: I was assigned a mentor that was someone I could call, text, or email with any questions I had. We set up a weekly meeting to go through my onboarding checklist and have protected time for me to learn. It was very comforting knowing that my mentor was just as invested in helping me as I was invested in succeeding in a new role. Fortunately, we bonded and formed a great working relationship. However, I have seen an instance when the pair did not mesh as well, and our manager reassigned a mentor that was a better fit. Again, little tweaks like this show that our manager truly cares about us as people and does her best to set her team up for success from the beginning.

  6. A constant feedback loop: Between my weekly mentor meetings and weekly check-ins with my manager, I always felt heard and supported. It is easy to maintain established relationships in a virtual setting, but it is not as easy to build new relationships virtually. The constant feedback loop was critical and allowed us to identify opportunities for improvement, and also celebrate the successes.

Starting a new job can be scary but with the right tools and people support in place, it can be a very efficient and effective experience.

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Adrienne Miller, PharmD

Adrienne Miller, PharmD is currently a Continuous Improvement Specialist at Nemours Children’s Hospital, Delaware where she has worked for 17 years. She enjoys being directly involved with process improvement projects and associate engagement initiatives. Prior to this role, she was the Non-Sterile Operations Manager for the Pharmacy Department and was responsible for the scheduling of close to 100 associates. Adrienne is a graduate of Philadelphia College of Pharmacy at the University of the Sciences and resides in Delaware with her husband and two children.