Onboarding New Employees - Questions and Answers

This page contains questions asked on the topic of Onboarding New Employees both during the webinar and via the Have a Question feature.

Q: How do employees find out about the once a month new employee training from HR?

A: Most new employees find out about the monthly new employee orientation through their local HR team but can also visit humanresources.umn.edu for upcoming dates. The Office of Human Resources also emails new employees, inviting them to register for a session.  

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Q: I work for Extension which is an organization within an organization at the U and I find it takes people at least a year to really begin to grasp our system. I'm looking for ways to shorten this timeline but our system is really big and really confusing.

A: Allowing one year for a new employee to become fully acclimated to their job isn't far off. Research shows that onboarding new hires at an organization should be a strategic process and last at least one year to ensure high retention. So the time table for full onboarding is not unusual but what you might consider is having the new employee do some job shadowing to help with the learning curve.

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Q: What's the difference between onboarding and mentoring?

A: This comes down to timing. Onboarding happens first and involves learning a new role, culture, colleagues, etc. Mentoring happens after someone has been onboarded. It would be hard to find a good mentor for a new employee because the mentor and mentee need to be the right fit for each other and it takes time to understand someone's developmental needs and personality.

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Q: Is there a resource available to help devise an onboarding plan? I came to my department and there was nothing left for me to start with.

A: In the Supervisory Development Course Module 6: Onboarding New Employees, we created an onboarding worksheet to assist you in getting started as well as quick guides with supplemental information.

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Q: Any resources/advice for student supervisors? Sometimes I have students who aren't always engaged and that's part of why they choose to leave. How does onboarding for student roles differ from full-time faculty/staff?

A: Always onboard, no matter how long they'll be in the role. Consider the necessary onboarding elements (tasks, projects, meeting colleagues, etc.) but in a time frame that's shorter than someone you would expect to be there for a long time. Temporary employees deserve the same level of manager commitment and training as full-time employees. It is important to set them up for success with robust onboarding as you never know when a student worker, temporary, or part-time employee may be a viable candidate for a full-time position.

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Q: What are some creative onboarding topics in the later months of onboarding, once most introductions and relationships have started, and most skills/work is in place?

A: After the first 90 days of a new employee's onboarding, one of the most important ways to continue the onboarding is to focus on ongoing check ins - at least one per month. As a supervisor, using ongoing check-ins to set challenging goals and to provide feedback and coaching is the best way to support an employee's performance and development. Ongoing check-ins are the key to on-the-job learning, which is the single most important way people improve and grow at work. In addition, this is a time when many employees begin to feel like they know the scope of their job and can accomplish routine work with little supervision. During this time period, help them think about long-term contributions to the college/department/unit and connect it with the University’s mission. 

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Q: Does the University have a general onboarding plan?

A: No, unfortunately, but many colleges and units already have sound onboarding practices in place. Because of the decentralized nature in which we work, with different types of jobs and employee types, no one onboarding plan fits all. It's most important to tailor an onboarding plan based on an individual employee's needs. See the Onboarding Worksheet from Module 6 for additional ideas.

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Q: What about temporary vs long-term employees? Sometimes we have short-term employees that become long-term, and can get lost in the shuffle.

A: Start by meeting them where they are. Onboarding is still needed when someone goes from a short-term to a long-term status, even in the same college/department/unit. Temporary employees may only be with you for a short period of time, but they can have a huge impact on your company culture. By being inclusive, you can help them provide a positive influence during their tenure. Include a full orientation that covers all policies and procedures so your expectations for performance and accountability are clear.

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Q: How do new employees get access to the HR orientation when they are not at the Twin Cities campus?

A: All employees are welcome to attend the Twin Cities' orientation, but that may not always be feasible. Some of the campuses conduct their own orientation, so check with your local HR team. Leadership and Talent Development is also looking at ways to put new employee orientation online in the future to make it more accessible.

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Q: Is there a time when someone in the campus HR office covers benefits, vacation/sick time rules, union guidelines?

A: A lot of this information can be found online, so you might want to have new employees check out their benefit options before their first day by visiting this website: https://humanresources.umn.edu/new-employees/deciding-benefits and the Office of Human Resources offers benefits counseling for new employees. For vacation/sick/union guidelines, please visit https://humanresources.umn.edu/union-relations/contracts. Check with your local HR team for more information.

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Q: Can you address the challenge of time between being hired and getting an employee ID? It seems to take a long time to get the background check completed, which prevents completing all of the onboarding details in a timely fashion.

A: The background check process has recently been reviewed for streamlining. Once the process changes are in place, it should take 2-4 days from start to finish. Include this time frame in your onboarding efforts. With regard to the employee ID, please contact Technology Help for your specific campus for more information.

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Q: What tools are available for pre-first day? We would benefit from having a more structured approach even during the recruitment period when trying to attract talent.

A: Please visit humanresources.umn.edu/jobs for additional recruiting tools such as videos, information on the University's mission, a fact sheet, benefits, etc.

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Q: Can you say more about talking to new employees about the organizational culture of a unit? Or model a possible discussion? There might be some tough dynamics/situations in a unit that a new employee should be aware of, but how much do you divulge, especially in the beginning?

A: Being honest and straightforward is better than not telling them about challenges they might run into. Focus on objectives, not judgements about people. Discuss which behaviors they'll see and what might be frowned upon. Focusing on examples, behaviors, and outcomes can be very helpful. Don't shy away from being candid, especially if they will run into some of this right away. It'll help prepare them to recognize situations and what to do versus throwing them off.

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Q: The head of our department is still developing a culture change, so how do I communicate that information?

A: Put some thought into what you want to convey about the culture change and what the employee needs to know. The best thing you can do is to be honest and let them know what they're walking into.

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Q: Is there a list of common jargon at the University that could be shared with a new employee?

A: Yes, this spreadsheet is a good place to start.

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Q: Describing the work environment culture is extremely difficult when our department, unit, and units we work with can be very opposing, how is this best handled?

A: Again, it's best to be open, honest, and candid with a new employee about the dynamics he/she might experience in the work environment. It's better to prepare someone and be up front about what this might look like. When making introductions, be clear about each person's role and when they may need to interact with individuals or on a unit level.

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Q: When looking through the modules and the dig deeper section of the Supervisory Development Course I realized that for some of us on coordinate campuses we do not have access to those materials when clicking on the link.

A: While many of the library resources are available system-wide, the permalinks to the articles are built using the Twin Cities libraries access. System campuses need to login through their library system and search for the articles there.

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