Creating connection: building relationships during the onboarding process

May 13, 2024 | Good Management

One of the most critical aspects of onboarding new employees, especially in a small business setting, is fostering strong relationships from the start. The early days of employment are foundational for new hires, shaping their future engagement, productivity, and loyalty to the company. Here we explore why early relationship building is crucial and provide practical tips for small business owners to facilitate this essential component during the onboarding process.

The importance of building early relationships

In small businesses, where each role significantly impacts the broader team and company outcomes, relationships are not just nice-to-have; they’re imperative for success. Strong interpersonal connections can lead to improved job satisfaction, higher morale, and a supportive work environment that encourages innovation and collaboration.

When new hires build positive relationships early on, they’re more likely to feel comfortable, confident, and integrated within the team. This sense of belonging can dramatically reduce turnover rates and foster a culture where every member feels valued and understood. Moreover, these early bonds often translate into better teamwork, as employees who feel connected are more likely to share ideas, provide support, and collaborate effectively.

Practical tips for facilitating relationship building

Here are some actionable strategies that small business owners can implement to ensure that new hires connect with their colleagues, management, and the company’s culture right from the start:

1. Implement a welcoming first day ritual

The first day on the job is your opportunity to set a welcoming tone. Consider personal touches such as welcome signs, team breakfasts, or a small welcome gift like company swag. These gestures help in breaking the ice and making the new employee feel like a valued part of the team immediately.

2. Use a buddy system

Assigning a buddy or mentor to new hires is an excellent way for them to have a go-to person for questions and guidance, making the new environment less daunting. Choose buddies who are positive, well-informed about the company, and genuinely interested in helping others. This relationship can ease the integration process and provide the new hire with insights into the company’s culture and operational procedures.

3. Schedule informal meet and greets

Arrange informal meetings with other team members and key stakeholders in the company during the first few weeks. These don’t have to be long or formal but should give your new hire a chance to start forming personal connections and understanding different roles within the company. Group lunches, coffee breaks, or quick virtual check-ins can serve this purpose well.

4. Foster an open communication environment

Encourage open communication by showing that questions and suggestions are welcome. Host regular check-ins where new hires can discuss their experiences and any challenges they’re facing. Make it clear that the company values their opinion and is keen on supporting their professional growth and comfort.

5. Include team-building activities

Incorporate team-building activities that are not just fun but also allow team members to work together towards a common goal. Activities can range from problem-solving exercises to social responsibility projects or simple group outings. Such activities help deepen relationships and improve team dynamics.

6. Provide opportunities for early wins

Enable new employees to contribute meaningfully from the outset. Assign them small, manageable projects where they can quickly apply their skills and gain confidence. Celebrating these early wins boosts their morale and encourages deeper engagement with the team.

7. Celebrate cultural fit

Highlight and celebrate the ways in which a new hire’s values and behaviours align with the company culture. Recognising cultural fit reinforces the employee’s connection to the company and its core values, deepening their commitment to the team.

8. Continue the connection beyond onboarding

Relationship building shouldn’t stop after the onboarding process. Continue to foster connections by promoting ongoing social interactions and professional development opportunities. This continued effort will help sustain the initial bonds formed and encourage new ones.

For small businesses, the ability to quickly and effectively integrate new hires into the company culture through strong relationships is a significant determinant of long-term success.

By prioritising early relationship building during the onboarding process, small business owners can enhance employee satisfaction, foster a collaborative team environment, and ultimately drive better business outcomes. Remember, when employees feel connected, they are more motivated, productive, and invested in their roles, which is a win for everyone involved.

If you’d like further advice on building relationship during the onboarding process, do get in touch.