How to Ensure Consistent Employee Onboarding

This blog post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide The Human Resources Playbook for Government. Download the full guide here.

Think back to the first day at your current job. Did you go through an all-day orientation? Were you stuck in a conference room filling out paperwork? More importantly, did that first impression stick with you and shape your outlook of the agency?

If your answer is yes, you’re not alone. The first days, weeks and months of a new employee’s time at an agency play a huge role in their future performance and attitude about working there. Successfully onboarding a group of new hires isn’t easy, and keeping the onboarding consistent for all employees is an even bigger challenge.

But it’s not impossible. Ashley Emsweller Hungate, Communications Director for the State Personnel Department in Indiana, and her colleague, Special Projects Manager Melissa Thomas, are intimately involved in making the state’s onboarding program efficient. As of early October, the duo had already helped onboard 2,760 employees, or nearly three-fourths of the state’s new employees.

Tony Garvan, Innovation Specialist and Software Engineer at 18F, also has implemented new strategies and tactics to help make onboarding a smooth and consistent process for all employees. We sat down with these three experts to get some useful tips.

Branch out. Not all employees will travel to your agency’s headquarters for onboarding. That’s why it’s important to establish connections at field offices so that every employee feels included, no matter where they’re located. Providing those offices with supplemental information for onboarding new employees will make the transition stable and help the new-hire get acclimated.

Checklists are good. Garvan has some important insight here. 18F implemented a technology referred to as Checklistomania — an automated, online checklist for new employees to view and track tasks they need to complete for onboarding. Checklistomania is an open source project in the public domain and can be adapted by any organization. Indiana has also made use of an employee checklist to help track onboarding progress for new hires.

Clarity is key. 18F has about 60 items on Checklistomania. Some tasks can be completed in minutes, such as a taking the oath of office, acknowledging that you received your computer and changing your password. These granular details enable 18F to better govern its onboarding process, and employees develop a vested interest in checking off tasks.

Create a hiring manager’s toolkit. By working closely with managers, Indiana created an online hiring manager’s toolkit. This provides managers with resources they might need to help assimilate new employees and answer any questions they might have about the onboarding process and what they can expect.

Get ahead of schedule. Before Day One, have new employees fill out as much paperwork as possible to stay on top of the process and ensure they don’t get bogged down with too much paperwork during orientation. Garvan even has Checklistomania send out automatic reminders to an employee before a certain form is due to make sure everything gets done in a timely manner.

Emphasize the culture. To establish a seamless transition for new employees, Hungate recommends being ambassadors of the agency’s culture during onboarding. Explaining what the office environment is like and what employees should expect throughout their time there ensures new hires won’t be blindsided after orientation.

Solicit and implement feedback. No process is perfect, and there is always room for improvement. Employees at 18F are encouraged to share any issues they have with the Checklistomania platform via GitHub, an online repository that enables people to collaborate on and improve software. The system and processes are improved biweekly.

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