Getting your new employee on board

Employee Handbook folder and stationery on a desk

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Finding the right employee is only part of the equation for building a successful team. Taking your new employee through a comprehensive onboarding process increases the chance of success, reduces staff turnover, improves productivity, and boosts team culture.

What is onboarding?

Induction and onboarding are terms that are often used interchangeably. Onboarding supports the integration of a new employee into your business – from the time the accept the role until the first day until the end of probation – by helping them to become familiar with your business, their role, systems and processes, and the culture. Induction is the process that introduces a new employee to the team, the work environment and how to do their role safely. A planned and documented onboarding process gives you peace of mind that you have covered everything you need to help the employee operate safely and effectively.

Why is it important?

The onboarding process can sometimes feel unnecessary and overwhelming. However, a well-planned and implemented plan can save you time and money in the long run. Successful onboarding is an undervalued tool for enhancing employee productivity and increasing retention.

How can it help?

Employees perform better and are more likely to stay in the job longer when they are clear about what is expected of them from the beginning. It is important to ensure that every employee receives appropriate information and training to set them up for success and keep them safe at work.

Where to start?

There is a lot for new employees to take in when they join your business. Onboarding and inducting effectively will help them grow their understanding of your operation and their role and make them productive members of your team.

The first few days your new employee is on the job sets the tone for the employment relationship. In addition to formal paperwork, there are several things to consider as part of the onboarding and induction process.

This article outlines effective onboarding and induction for permanent staff; however, the fundamentals of this process for casual employees would be similar but simply scaled back to meet the needs of the role.

Culture

Culture can be described as the attitudes and behaviours of a business and the people who work in it. Some describe it as ‘the bailing twine that keeps everything together’. A healthy culture is a key factor in job satisfaction, employee engagement and psychological safety (we’ll talk more about employee engagement and psychological safety in future articles).

Connection

Building connection between you, the new employee and your team is the key to building long-term relationships. Schedule time to meet with the employee during the onboarding process to see how they are traveling and if they require some extra resources or training to help them undertake their role more efficiently and effectively. A suggestion of frequency for an employee on a 3-month probation might be week 1, and at 30, 60 and 90 days. Pulse checks are also effective in building opportunities to connect.

Communication

Healthy relationships encourage clear and timely two-way communication, both written and verbal. Poor or misunderstood communication at any stage of the employee lifecycle has a significant impact on the performance of an employee, resulting in lost time, mistakes, re-work, and sometimes serious injury, particularly during the onboarding stage.

Communication also has a big impact on profit. An American study showed that when a leader included employees in regular business meetings and gave them a genuine opportunity to have a say, those businesses were 21 per cent more profitable than those that did not.

Tip: strengthen communication by implementing an app like WhatsApp or Slack. If you use a farm management app, check to see if it has a team communication function.

Farm Onboarding/induction Checklist

Plan ahead

  • Engage with your new employee before the first day.
  • Ensure the letter of offer has been signed and accepted.
  • Review the results of pre-employment checks.
  • When the candidate formally accepts, make an announcement to your team.
  • Send the new employee a welcome email or text and keep in touch during their notice period.
  • Ensure that everything is ready for their first day – phone, email, uniform, vehicle etc.
  • Prepare a plan to work through the induction.
  • Prepare accommodation (if applicable).

The business

  • Share your history – how did the business start, where is it now, and plans for the future.
  • Discuss the business goals and production targets, including how they are measured.
  • Have a conversation about your expectations regarding values, conduct, culture.
  • Talk about team roles and responsibilities.
  • Establish a work buddy (if that isn’t you).
  • Introduce the new employee to the rest of the team and family (if applicable).
Tip: In addition to introducing the new employee to the team introductions outside the wider farm community could benefit them, such as contractors, suppliers, neighbours. If your new employee is relocating, find out what they (and their family, if applicable) are interested in and help connect them, if possible.

Farm tour

  • Take them on tour of the farm (point out any hazards along the way).
  • Give them a copy of the farm map, ideally with infrastructure and tracks listed.
  • Show them the location of infrastructure, such as dams, irrigation, electrical.
  • Give them a rundown of machinery, such as tractors, attachments, side-by-sides.
  • Show them the facilities such as the office, toilets, smoko rooms etc.
  • Do a walk-through of specific job tasks, particularly if you require things done a certain way.

Emergency response

  • Point out emergency assembly points and emergency exits.
  • Discuss who to contact in an emergency.
  • Introduce first aid officers (if not done so already).
  • Show the new employee where first-aid kits are located.
  • Point out and discuss firefighting equipment (tanks, extinguishers, hose reels, hydrants, water sources).
  • Discuss relevant policies and procedures (also see below).
  • Issue/locate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Tip: Visit Farm Safe Australia or tools and resources on emergency preparedness 

Training

  • Set goals for the employees for the next 30, 60, or 90 days.
  • Establish a training plan to bridge any gaps in the new employee’s knowledge.

Discuss policies

  • Employee handbook
  • Code of conduct
  • Drug and alcohol policy
  • Anti-discrimination and harassment policy
  • Sexual harassment policy
  • Social media policy
  • Disciplinary and grievance procedures policy
  • Performance management policy
  • Visitors/contractors policy
  • Work clothing policy
  • Personal health and hygiene policy
  • Personal visits and telephone use policy
  • Work health and safety policy
  • Specific operational policies (e.g. animal welfare policy)

Discuss procedures

  • Personal protective equipment
  • Manual handling
  • Electrical safety
  • Chemical safety
  • Workshop safety
  • Working on your own
  • Remote working
  • Communications
  • Working in the elements
  • Hazard, injury and accident procedures and reporting

Administration

  • When and how wages are paid
  • Pay systems, i.e. rosters, timesheets, leave applications etc.
  • Discuss what to do in unplanned leave situations
  • Who to contact if they will be late
  • Ensure policy and procedure documents have been sighted, read and acknowledged in writing
  • Schedule in some regular pulse checks

Paperwork

  • Employee file created
  • Letter of offer accepted (include employment contract and position description)
  • Provide a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement, and get a signed acknowledgement
  • Employee contact details form
  • Bank account details
  • Superannuation choice form
  • Tax file number declaration
  • A copy of licences or certifications (ChemCert, Firearms, vehicle, truck etc.)
  • Rights to work in Australia (if employing visa holders)
  • Policy and procedures acknowledged
  • How/where to find a copy of the Award
  • Add new employee to communication channels
Tip: The Fair Work Information Statement 

Further information

Over the next few months, we will be sharing a series of articles to help you better understand the human part of a successful farm team written by Sally Murfet, Chief Inspiration Officer of Inspire AG. These articles are designed to provide a basic awareness and, where appropriate, lead you to additional resources to help develop your HR systems & process.

Other articles in this series:

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