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New Kids on the Block: Onboarding New Hires Step by Step

Recruiting & Hiring

A lot of work goes into getting students ready for their first day of class — making sure they have a great teacher to support them, planning what they’ll learn over the course of the year and giving them goals to focus on. But students aren’t the only ones adjusting to a new school or classroom.

For recent hires, beginning a new job can be nerve-wracking. There’s a lot to learn, whether they’re a veteran educator from another district, a brand-new college graduate or a facilities technician. The good news is that comprehensive onboarding can help your employees succeed in their new roles, and help you improve retention. And that has long-lasting effects on student achievement and your district’s budget.

Let’s take a look at the long-term effects of a comprehensive onboarding program, and how you can make your own district’s onboarding more effective.

Onboarding’s Effect on Retention

Effective onboarding is based around each individual employee, but ultimately, it’s the district that reaps the rewards. The onboarding and induction process is an opportunity to improve job performance, increase retention rates, foster a sense of belonging and share the district’s values, culture and goals.

The benefit of higher retention can’t be overstated. After all, finding the best employees won’t do you much good if they don’t stick around.

So where does onboarding come into play? One study found that high-quality onboarding programs for new teachers could lead to retention rates of over 93%. That’s incredible — other research has shown that 40-50% of new teachers leave the profession within five years. Those higher retention rates have a ripple effect of its own: teacher turnover has a negative impact on student achievement. And every year, schools lose between $1 billion and $2.2 billion in attrition costs — it costs over $10,000 to replace a single teacher once the school year starts.

There’s no question about it. Getting your employees off on the right foot should be on everyone’s list of priorities — after all, “onboarding in time saves nine.” But what elements make up an effective onboarding program?

Onboarding Best Practices

Effective onboarding requires a holistic approach starting before the employee’s first day, and lasting well beyond an orientation. Let’s take a look at some of the areas that can be leveraged for better onboarding and retention.

  Recruiting & Hiring

Recruiting isn’t a separate function from onboarding; it should be the first step. Make sure that your recruiting and hiring processes are clear on what is expected of candidates, and what they can expect from you. Having your objectives and expectations clearly documented from the beginning gives structure to a new hire’s responsibilities and clears up a lot of confusion.

And remember: the hiring process should focus on ensuring that they will fit seamlessly into the district and that your organization is the right place for them, too.

  Processing & Orientation

This is your opportunity to make a great first impression. The first step is handling the transactional steps efficiently. Make sure that all administrative forms are ready to be completed and processed so you don’t have to worry about them later.

Then, you’ll want to provide them with the information they need to get started successfully. This includes things that affect employees personally (where to park or how to log into their email), and things that help them as a team member (who to talk to in different situations, or what the department’s priorities are).

This is a great time to make them feel valued as a team member, so look for ways to make them feel accommodated and comfortable with your organization. You might want to put together a welcome package with the supplies they need, and any “extras” that show that you’re excited to have them join the team.

 Training

You and your new hires both want to get started quickly. But there’s a lot to go over, and it can be overwhelming to learn everything at once. Look for ways to reduce the stress of completing mandatory safety training for both of you. For example, mandatory safety trainings can be done online, on the new hire’s own time.

  Coaching

Coaching is one of the best ways you can support your educators — even if they have decades of experience. And for novice teachers, having two or three years of guidance can be immensely helpful. Having a mentor or coach not only helps teachers improve their practice, but also promotes collaboration and assimilation. In addition, a coach can act as a resource for the new employee to learn about your district or school’s culture.

  Feedback

Finally, remember that feedback plays an integral role in employee growth. Setting milestones or concrete goals for new hires gives them something to strive for and ensures that they are on the right track.

This can be a two-way street, as you may also want to ask them for feedback of their own. This can be invaluable in addressing any concerns or improving the onboarding process for future employees.

Annie GrunwellAnnie Grunwell

Annie is a writer and part of the award-winning content team at Frontline Education. She's passionate about learning, exploring data and sharing knowledge. Her specialties include substitute management, the teacher shortage and best practices in human capital management.