Don’t “Onboard”, Create a “New Employee Experience”

by | Apr 26, 2021 | People

When new people join our company, we are often already behind. We put pressure on the new people to get up to speed fast. We move them through “onboarding” quickly and soon they are on the production floor, feeling the pressure of the production schedule and the need to build perfect parts before they even know what they are doing. No wonder some of them leave the second day and never come back!

We can do better. What we really need to focus on is “retaining” these new employees we have worked so hard to “attract”. Instead of “onboarding”, let’s create a “New Employee Experience”. Let’s show them from the very beginning that this is a place where they can learn, grow and contribute for the long term.

Five Tips to start building a great “New Employee Experience”

  • Language is very powerful. Calling them “new hires” sounds like we are not sure yet that we want them as employees. Let’s call them “new employees” right away so that they already feel like part of the company.
  • Let’s look at this process from the new employee’s point of view. Joining a new company is scary, even terrifying for some. They are walking into a new place where they don’t know anyone. They want to do a good job but are afraid they may not meet expectations.
  • Learn who your new employees are and adapt to them. For example, in one manufacturing company, they learned one new employee had been a stay-at-home mom for 11 years and was reentering the workforce. Another new employee had just worked for their competitor and was joining the company as an inspector. Both were bright and eager to learn and can contribute in different ways right from the start.
  • Change the structure of the process:
    • Spread the “New Employee Experience” over a period of time. Too often we put them on overload Day 1. One company spread the learning out over a week, providing classroom learning each morning and production learning the rest of the day. The new employees told us that coming to the training room at the start of each day gave them a “home” where there were people they knew and could ask questions. By Week 2, they did not need that any more.
    • Safety and Quality training is critical. In one company, Quality Training went from a 2- hour data dump the first day to an interactive learning session on Day 3 where the new employee learned several defects at a time and then identified these defects on real product. Totally different experience!!
    • Create an off-line area to learn the job without the pressure of production. Not possible? Be creative in your approach. Teach them:
      • How to use the tools they need to use
      • Review the visuals, Standard Work, and other documents
      • Many machines, like a CNC, have a panel of buttons and gauges. Take a picture of it and teach the new operator how to use this
    • Operations need to be the Champion, partnering with Production Supervisors and Leads, HR, Safety, Quality, Engineering and other Senior Leaders. All of these groups need to own the success of these new employees.

We spend so much time and effort finding and attracting new “hires”. Let’s put the same amount of effort into retaining our new “employees” with a great New Employee Experience!

For more ideas, listen to the Manufacturers Alliance podcast I did at