5 ways to improve your onboarding process

business woman welcome hand

Studies show that humans have long been hardwired to make snap decisions, something reinforced in today's era of convenience and instant gratification. And with the job market shifting to favor job-seekers, some operators have been rewriting their onboarding strategies to make sure their first impression on employees is a positive one.

“We have really made strides in our overall hiring process to where applicants don’t fall through the cracks, and [they] feel more welcomed,” says Michelle Coker, director of child nutrition at Fayette County Public Schools in Lexington, Ky. Check out how Coker and other directors are nailing the first few shifts with new team members.

1. New hires, redefined

business hand shake colleague

While revamping onboarding procedures, Coker’s team decided to rebrand new staffers as customers. Her department started asking how it could make the process more customer-friendly and worked with the human resources department to help deliver better customer service. “We added a more personal touch to the hiring process by increasing face and verbal time with the applicants to ensure they felt welcomed and invested,” Coker says.

2. A warm welcome from staff

business hand shake group welcome

Incorporating current employees into the onboarding process as much as possible helps newbies see what an operation is really like, says Sandi Kramer, child nutrition supervisor for Yankton School District in Yankton, S.D. Kramer schedules as many interviews and meetings while staff is around as possible to help fresh hires get a feel for the workplace dynamic. “If you walk in a kitchen and the staff is happy and talking, it is a good sign that they enjoy working there,” she says. If staff members cannot attend onboarding events, she asks them to submit feedback and quotes about what it’s like to work for the operation. 

3. A hands-on first day

coworkers project

In the last two years, the nutrition support services team at Chicago Public Schools has refined its orientation so that employees get the most out of the three-day training. The first day kicks off with complete immersion in their everyday work environment, and trainees are paired up with a seasoned team member in their role. Over the next two days, employees can ask questions about their experience once they have a better idea of the reality of the position.

4. Perks that add value

benefits hands

Fayette County Public Schools reimburses new foodservice employees for items such as $70 nonskid shoes, and for hiring fees, including background checks, physicals, finger printing and food handler’s certifications. Not including the shoes, the fees total around $40. Next year, Coker plans to up the return to $100.

Kramer also highlights benefits during the onboarding process, and promotes how her team is flexible and understanding with child care needs. She says the department aims to give workers as much freedom as possible.

5. A centralized system

training seminar

To maintain a consistent staff integration process, Fayette County appoints champions for different aspects of onboarding. One supervisor’s role is to ensure the team carries out the new processes, while another manager is charged with taking new department members through a three-day training program.

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