Onboarding Pointers with Arte Nathan

Yesterday we looked at our HR Works podcast where Managing Editor Steve Bruce and Recruiting and HR Expert Arte Nathan discussed a number of recruiting topics, including ex-offenders. Today we’ll wrap up the episode with a discussion of onboarding. If you would like, feel free to listen to this episode (number 28) on our HR Works podcast.

Steve Bruce: How about the specific moment of onboarding a new employee and welcoming them into the company? Any tips for that?
Arte Nathan: I ask companies all the time, do you have an orientation process? They say yes, but it’s not on the first day. You know because they start people any day of the week. All over the clock and the calendar. I say, “Well, why don’t you just have orientation every Monday, and you require people to start all at once every week.” It could be one person; it could be multiple people. I always worried as a CHRO [chief human resources officer] that after the first day, people go home and the three words that I worried about the most was, “How was it?” Their family, their friends—they’d all ask how was it. Unless people are motivated to say it was pretty good, it means you have to have a plan, you have to be organized, it has to be together, and it should be fun and informative—it should be thoughtful of their needs, it should be important enough that you spend, but don’t waste any of their time.
Onboarding or orientation is so critical. Don’t waste their time and then provide them with adequate training to do their job. Don’t pass them off to a buddy who’s untrained or doesn’t know exactly what to tell them, so it may be inconsistent with what other buddies might tell them. I think that first day and that first week are so critical to making them feel comfortable and making them feel like they made the right choice. People hate change. They change a job, that’s a huge thing. Even if they hated their last job, at least they knew it. They were comfortable with whatever was going on there. You have to make people so comfortable very quickly. That’s critical.
All the years I worked for Steve Wynn, my job was opening the big hotels. We would start five or ten thousand people all at the same time. I find that whether it’s mass hiring like that or small hiring that most employers do, make that process mean something to the new hire.
How do you make your job offer? Is it in writing? Do you give them a big hello, a big thank you, do you send them a letter? How do you do all those things to make them feel comfortable? Again, there’s that question, how was it? It’s so critical, and people are critical. They want to make it nice, they want to make sure that they made the right choice. Are we that intent on making them feel like they made the right choice? This whole “getting started” process is something that we don’t spend enough time on or enough energy on. I know companies always used to think about what does the employee entrance look like? What do the employee work areas look like? What’s the employee break area look like? Those are all important.
How do we treat them face to face, person to person? That’s what people like—and especially these Millennials. Even though we think that they’re sitting in their room playing video games, these are people that like to be social. They like to feel like they’re part of something. Companies have to spend more time and energy in making sure that people feel like they’re part of something that they’re proud of.
Steve Bruce: Well, this is all great stuff that we’re getting. I really appreciate it. To sum it all up, any particular points you’d like to leave our listeners with?
Arte Nathan: I spent my whole career thinking about these things. You have to find out what’s a measure that I can use to see if I’m successful or not? To see if I’m effective or not? I came down, or I should say, Steve Wynn came down to the metric of turnover. I think that most of us in the recruiting business or HR business, I think we have to be more focused on turnover and the reasons for turnover. The voluntary turnover—if they’re going from one job to another similar job across the street—we’ve got to be concerned about that. I think putting ourselves in other people’s shoes is so important, and when we do that, we start to understand what they see, how they feel, and how they’re motivated. Turnover for me—look, the service industry has huge turnover. Upwards of … 50% and, in some cases, 80% or 100% in the hospitality or restaurant business. My job was to get it down, and I was always around 10% or 12% with the strategies that I’m suggesting today.
Not surprisingly, the ex-offenders that I hire … had the lowest turnover because they were so grateful for that second chance, and they did everything they could not to screw up that second chance. They stayed around, and they did very well. I think you got to be very creative and thoughtful as a human resources professional or talent acquisition and management professional today. You[‘ve] got to look at all your opportunities and options and then just try to do the best you can.
Steve Bruce: I think every listener today got a lot of great ideas from you. Thanks so much for joining us today and providing all these helpful tips.
Arte Nathan: My pleasure. Thanks for asking.
HR Works is our very own podcast run by the managing editor of®, Chris Ceplenski.

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