DOs and DON’Ts of Onboarding

The saying, “you never have a second chance to make a first impression” is often applied to people, but the expression is also true for organizations. Your new hires will form lasting impressions within their first few days of on the job, resulting in employee engagement or employee apathy. The following DOs and DON’Ts will help you create a memorable and impactful onboarding program for new employees.

DO have an official process

New employees shouldn’t arrive on their first day and have it seem like a surprise—as if no one was expecting them. They shouldn’t be dumped at a desk or in a waiting area until someone figures out what to do with them. At The Ritz-Carlton, we offer our customers, “a warm and sincere greeting,” and new employees receive the same. This doesn’t mean you have to hire a marching band or organize an officewide flash mob for an employee’s first day of work. However, when a new hire arrives, he or she should be warmly welcomed and there should be a process in place that introduces the new hire to your culture and his or her position. When new employees are embraced on their first day, they will start to feel a sense of connection, and if their first days are planned out and meaningful, they will begin work with a more favorable impression of your organization.

DON’T delay the onboarding process

Some organizations wait months before onboarding employees. The problem with waiting is that you are not setting your employees up for success. At The Ritz-Carlton, new employees are on boarded before they begin their new jobs. Our three-day onboarding process immerses new hires in The Ritz-Carlton culture and begins setting the expectations for them. If employees begin work without understanding your organizational culture, then they will be learning on the job and practicing on your customers. They will also have the impression that training and culture are not priorities for your organization.

DO make it a significant emotional experience

There is often a great deal of paperwork when employees begin a new job. While much of this paperwork is necessary, the goal of your onboarding process should be to connect with your new employees emotionally. Think of your onboarding process as the beginning of a new relationship. If you were going out on a first date with someone and you were asked to fill out a bunch of paperwork—or given a handbook to read instead of conversation—you probably would consider that a lackluster beginning. The reason it is called employee “engagement” is because you need to engage your employees.

DON’T talk at employees

You can engage your employees by making your onboarding process more interactive. Don’t just lecture your new employees. Involve them in onboarding by including team-building activities and make learning more memorable and fun. Consider different methods of training. Instead of telling new hires how to interact with customers or patients, try role-playing different scenarios for them. It helps to get new hires up and moving as well. Consider taking them on tours of your facilities.

DO be consistent across your organization

Sustaining a service excellence culture requires consistency, and you can only achieve consistency if everyone is hearing—and able to articulate—the same message. Whether your new hires are C-level executives or frontline employees—your onboarding program should be effective for all levels of your organization. At The Ritz-Carlton, our employees, known as Ladies and Gentlemen—from managers to housekeepers—attend onboarding together. This melting pot approach to culture immersion not only ensures consistency but shows our Ladies and Gentlemen that everyone is responsible for enlivening our culture.

DON’T overload employees

You’ve hired a new employee because you need him or her to perform a specific job, and it may seem counterproductive to spend too much time on the onboarding process. You may be tempted to cram two days of information into one day, or you may sacrifice more creative activities in order to get new employees out of training and into their new roles. However, you should give employees time to absorb all the new information and acclimate to your culture. The study Getting On Board: A Model for Integrating and Engaging New Employees notes that 90% of employees decided whether they will stay at an organization within the first six months on the job. When you stampede employees through a condensed onboarding, you will most likely prevent them from making the emotional connections needed to retain them at your organization.

DO pass the baton

After employees complete your onboarding program, their training should continue. They should seamlessly transition into their day-to-day roles with the continued support of a supervisor or a mentor who will help them grow and develop. 

Significant Stat: Building Rapport

The first 90 days of one’s employment are pivotal to building rapport with the company, management and coworkers. (source)

Advice from John Cashion, Corporate Director, Culture Transformation at The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center:

In the first three months, new employees will learn all about an organization’s culture, build relationships with co-workers and begin to earn the trust of leaders. The first 90 days is a critical time because new hires will be forming their first impressions about their place of work and the people, and likewise, colleagues and managers will be forming first impressions of the new employee. Dr. Jack Schafer, a retired FBI special agent and behavioral analyst, notes that “once a first impression is formed, people are less likely to change their mind. This is based on the psychological principle of consistency: When people articulate an idea, they are less likely to change their minds because they would first have to admit that they were initially wrong. Maintaining an erroneous notion, such as a first impression, actually causes less anxiety than admitting an error and adopting another position.” If new hires have a favorable impression of their co-workers, managers and work environment, they will begin to settle in and show their commitment to the organization. At The Ritz-Carton, new employees—known as our Ladies and Gentlemen—begin by going through a two-day onboarding process where they learn about the culture of The Ritz-Carlton. New staff members are then assigned learning coaches who train and mentor them. Starting on day one, new Ladies and Gentlemen must work on building rapport with everyone because delivering world-class service is a team effort.

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center offers advisory services, courses and presentations to organizations that wish to benchmark the award-winning business practices of The Ritz-Carlton. Your organization can learn about The Ritz-Carlton methodology for customer service, employee engagement and leadership development. We also guide organizations through a multi-step process in order to achieve sustainable culture transformation.

Significant Stat: Onboarding Orientation

New employees who attended a well-structured onboarding orientation program were 69 percent more likely to remain at a company up to three years. (source)

Advice from Joseph Quitoni, Corporate Director, Culture Transformation at The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center:

Starting a new job is a significant emotional event in our lives and generally the best time to make a behavioral change and form new habits. New employees are excited to be part of a company and want to be successful. At The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, all employees are required to attend a two-day orientation that starts their first day of employment and prior to starting their new position. Employees cannot truly be a part of an organization unless they know the expectations and values of that organization. We want all employees to feel they are a part of The Ritz-Carlton Company—and not just work for it. This will create purpose for every new employee and purpose creates passion. When an employee is passionate about their work and their organization, they will stay longer and maximize their talent to the benefit of the individual as well as the company.

Dear Ritz-Carlton: Selection Process?

Dear Ritz-Carlton: Do you hire and then train individuals to be open and warm?

The above question is from an attendee atSymposium: Your Journey to Service Excellencein April. Answer from John Cashion, Corporate Director, Culture Transformation at The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center:

John Cashion PhotoAt The Ritz-Carlton, we do not “hire” individuals; instead we pride ourselves on “selecting” Ladies and Gentlemen that are aligned with the values and philosophy of The Ritz-Carlton culture. Our focus is to select the top 1% of the service professionals that have a sense of pride and ownership in the career they have chosen. The selection process must discover individuals with passion for what they do every day. Passion produces an intense emotional connection, but it must come from within and cannot be trained or taught. Each person selected undergoes a very thorough onboarding to understand the mission and vision of The Ritz-Carlton and their role in contributing to our culture. Beyond that, everyone understands that they become an Ambassador of the brand. At The Ritz-Carlton, we know that when we select Ladies and Gentlemen that have an emotional connection to our brand this will translate to a guest who is emotionally connected and loyal to our brand as well. The equation for creating a lifelong memory requires a sense of genuine care from a person who sees you as an individual and loves doing this every day.

Join us for a one-day symposium, “Your Journey to Service Excellence.” The day includes a keynote speaker, a Q&A session with The Ritz-Carlton executive panel, an optional networking reception and presentations about legendary service, employee engagement and a customer-centric culture.