The crucial role of leaders in the onboarding process in small businesses

May 27, 2024 | Good Management

In the challenging environment of a small business, every role and every task counts, magnifying the importance of each step in the employee lifecycle. Among these, the onboarding process is pivotal.

Leadership involvement in onboarding can dramatically shape a new hire’s experience, engagement, and long-term commitment to the company. It can be tempting for busy business owners and leaders to view onboarding as just as a function of HR or a responsibility of direct managers, but actually it’s a critical leadership activity. This article explores why leadership engagement is crucial in the onboarding process and offers practical tips for leaders in small businesses to effectively integrate into this crucial phase.

Why leaders need to be involved in onboarding

Leadership involvement in the onboarding process goes beyond mere presence; it sets the tone for the company culture, communicates the company’s values directly, and builds a foundation of respect and alignment from day one. Here’s why leaders need to roll up their sleeves and be actively involved in onboarding new employees:

1. Demonstrating company values and vision

Leaders are the custodians of the company’s vision and values. When they are involved in the onboarding process, they have a direct platform to share their vision and reinforce the core values that define the company culture. This helps new hires understand not just what they need to do, but why they are doing it, aligning their personal goals with the strategic objectives of the business.

2. Building trust and accessibility

Leaders who make themselves accessible to new hires help build trust throughout the organisation. By participating in onboarding sessions, leaders can open direct lines of communication, encouraging new employees to feel more comfortable and supported, knowing that they have direct access to decision-makers.

3. Setting performance expectations

Leaders are uniquely positioned to communicate high-level company goals and how these translate into individual performance expectations. Their involvement ensures that new hires understand their roles in achieving broader business outcomes, fostering a sense of accountability and clarity from the start.

Practical tips for leaders to engage in the onboarding process

1. Participate in welcome sessions

Leaders should try to be present at welcome sessions, whether these are in-person meetings or virtual introductions. A personal greeting or a welcome note from a leader can make a significant impact on how new hires perceive their importance to the company.

2. Share personal insights and company history

Leaders can share stories about the company’s history, challenges, milestones, and successes. Personal anecdotes about their experiences and growth within the company can be very inspiring to new hires and can deepen their connection to the company.

3. Host ‘ask me anything’ sessions

Scheduling informal ‘Ask Me Anything’ (AMA) sessions with leaders can be a fantastic way for new hires to engage directly with leadership, ask questions, and gain insights that are not available through official channels. These sessions can demystify aspects of the company’s strategy and operations, making leaders seem more approachable.

4. Engage in regular follow-up meetings

Leaders should schedule follow-up meetings with new hires at the end of their first week, first month, and first quarter. These check-ins can provide a platform for feedback and show that the leadership is genuinely interested in their personal development and comfort.

5. Encourage cross-departmental introductions

Leaders can facilitate introductions with heads of different departments. This not only helps new employees get a holistic view of the business but also shows the interconnectedness that the leader fosters within the company structure.

6. Recognise and celebrate milestones

Leaders acknowledging and celebrating milestones such as the completion of the first project or first successful month can significantly boost morale and show that the leadership is observant and appreciative of the efforts of new hires.

Leadership involvement in onboarding is more than a best practice in small businesses – it’s a strategic imperative. Leaders who are actively engaged in the onboarding process help foster a culture of openness, align new hires with company goals, and demonstrate a commitment to employee growth and satisfaction.

This proactive involvement sets a powerful precedent, influencing how new hires perceive their roles and encouraging them to integrate quickly and effectively into the company culture. In essence, when leaders step into the onboarding process, they are not just filling a role; they are building the future of the company.

If you’d like further advice on involving leaders with in your onboarding process, do get in touch.