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A typical organization established for the purpose of accomplishing noble goals and commercial profit will do well to apply the principles of onboarding. The appropriate application of the said principles will enable the organization to retain the services of workers or employees. At the same time, effective onboarding strategies enable the enterprise to motivate its respective workers and establish the most desirable organizational culture. 826LA’s failure to apply critical principles related to onboarding practices is primarily rooted in the fact that it is a non-profit organization which relies on the service of volunteers. Although it is true that 826LA is a non-commercial educational institution, it still should be practical and wise in applying the principles of onboarding, because this particular organization’s core leadership and critical positions are manned by people who started out as volunteers.
What Is Onboarding?
In a nutshell, onboarding is the generic term describing the activities and strategies that organizations utilize in order to make new hires feel welcome, keep them up to speed, and let them understand what the leaders expect them to do (USDA). At the same time, onboarding is known as a process of assimilating and integrating new hires so that they fully understand and appreciate the organizational culture of the new company or enterprise (Society for Human Resource Management 1). One can argue that it all should simply start as an employee orientation before the new worker gets onboard (Mindflash 1). However, corporate leaders and human resource managers made a conclusion that traditional employee orientation frameworks are not enough especially if the company desires the new employees to acquire critical skills, knowledge, and behavior that they will need in order to increase their chances of success and become productive contributors to the whole organization (USDA 1).
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As the concept of onboarding started to evolve, it became apparent that there is a “socialization” aspect when it comes to transforming how a new employee appreciates and makes sense of his or her new working environment. It did not take long before management gurus and human resource experts started to realize that onboarding is a series of critical steps, and when mishandled, new employees will find it difficult to stay focused on their jobs and develop the motivation to demonstrate their willingness to contribute into the company’s overall success.
Management gurus, human resource managers and experienced business leaders are pointing out that there are three major components that make up a successful onboarding process, and these are listed as follows: 1) to inform; 2) to welcome; and 3) to guide (Klein and Polin 3). Without a doubt, information dissemination is one of the most important components of a successful onboarding program. Business managers and team leaders must realize the importance of communication, as well as providing resources and training for the new hires.
It is important that new recruits or new employees must feel that they are welcome within their organization. It is this aspect of the onboarding process that deals so much with the need for socializing and interacting with people within the organization. Furthermore, it is also imperative to point out that new workers must have access to the appropriate training materials and training methodologies in order to keep themselves updated with the company’s current goals and mechanisms that allow it to manufacture products or provide services to the customers. Last but not the least, new hires must receive guidance, because acquisition of new knowledge is the first step in the learning process; obviously, they need someone who will walk alongside them and show them the ropes, so to speak.
Onboarding Experience at 826LA
826LA’s core leaders understand the value of onboarding, because new volunteers had to go through what they call the 101 Volunteering Session. From a theoretical standpoint, 826LA must be commended for creating the volunteer sessions, because it provides opportunities for new volunteers to learn more about the culture and aspirations of the organization. New volunteers are now able to understand the history of 826LA and get inspired by the main reason for doing the job that they do in the marginalized communities in Los Angeles, California. In addition, the volunteer sessions provide an overview of the group’s programs and major objectives. Thus, new volunteers are not at a loss when they start working for the community.
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The 101 Volunteering Session is a good example of an onboarding process, because it satisfied two out of three major components of an ideal system of integrating new recruits. In other words, the said onboarding process satisfies the requirements for information dissemination and the need to make the new recruits feel welcome, as they are accepted as part of the group. Still, it is interesting to note that the proponent of the study did not feel welcome. Thus, there are certain aspects of the ideal onboarding process that were neglected by the manager and team leaders of 826LA.
One of the key insights that the proponent of this study acquired during the whole experience was the realization that an effective onboarding process must have an element of continuity. In other words, the one-hour session in a classroom type learning environment is not enough to create an effective knowledge transfer. Indeed, there are so many important ideas and techniques that are not transferrable through a classroom-type of learning process.
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It is also important to point out that making statements about welcoming the new volunteers was not effective enough, as the session did not make them feel that they truly belong to the group. One of the important elements to consider was the need to bring together the veteran volunteers, staff, and paid workers in order to meet and greet the new volunteers. However, this was not the case, because after the few hours spent for listening to an uninspiring lecture about the purpose of 826LA, the new volunteers did not develop a sense of pride and excitement that they were part of a meaningful quest and that they were supported by people who know how to handle the challenges up ahead. It is now easy to see why a failed onboarding process leads to a higher turnover rate or the multiplication of problems brought about by a non-motivated worker.
The Need to Apply Onboarding Principles
One of the key factors that contributed to the creation and implementation of an ineffective onboarding process was the fact that 826LA is a non-profit organization. The mere truth that the organization does not earn a profit through a commercial trading of goods and services explains why the leaders did not have enough time, resources, and inclination to think on how to improve the group’s onboarding process. First of all, there are not enough resources to study and implement a continuous integration and assimilation process. In other words, due to the tight budget, the only thing that 826LA leaders can afford is one- or two-hour sessions about the history and major objectives of the organization.
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The second major implication of the non-profit structure of the organization is that it cannot afford to hire full time workers (Hogan 1). Therefore, the organization survives because of the graciousness and sacrifices made by volunteers. Although 826LA’s leaders are thankful for the constant flow of volunteers, there is little motivation to invest in the development of the volunteers since they are not expected to stay for long. At first glance, it does not sound practical to pour out resources on the volunteers, because they are not going to stay and help develop the organization into something better than before. Nevertheless, it is a bad idea not to invest in an effective onboarding process, because 826LA’s core leaders and dependable paid staff all started as volunteers. Therefore, the volunteers that came through 826LA’s main doors are the future of the organization.
In order to develop an appropriate and cost-efficient onboarding process, 826LA’s leaders must remember the three major components of an onboarding process, and these are listed as: 1) information; 2) welcoming procedure; and 3) guidance. The proponent of this study wanted to make a genuine contribution as a volunteer; however, there was not a single person within the organization that tried to help explain the nature of the job as volunteers.
It is important to point out that the “information” component of the alignment or assimilation process does not have to be limited to the class-room type of learning. 826LA must come up with a creative and inspiring way to push through with the introduction of the company’s culture and expectations (Cable, Gino, and Staats 24). Finally, the organization must invest in a teaching methodology that will enable new recruits to acquire the necessary skills, knowledge, and behavior, especially with regards to the main purpose of the group.
It is easy to understand why 826LA’s core leaders did not spend time and invest valuable resources for the onboarding process. However, they must wake up to the realization that the flow of volunteers enables the organization to pick and work with people that will probably become leaders in their respective fields. The best workers that keep 826LA involved in spirit of volunteerism and contributed greatly to the goals and aspirations of the group started out as neophyte volunteers for this organization. In other words, it is imperative to take care of new inflow of volunteers. It is important to increase the number of volunteers every month, because the more volunteers sign up, the greater is the probability that talented and qualified new hires are able to learn more about the organization and someday make sacrifices to spread the good things that were being done within 826LA’s group.
At first glance, it seems as if 826LA had a solid reputation when it comes to the implementation of an onboarding process. However, a closer inspection of the said onboarding process revealed that 826LA’s core leaders were not willing to implement an assimilation or integration program for new recruits that would have made them eager volunteers. For example, the said onboarding process only covered the areas pertaining to information dissemination and welcoming the new volunteers. There was no clear guidance on how to deal with some of the common issues when it came to volunteer work. A better version requires not only the inclusion of a guidance framework, but also the commitment to make a continuous and deliberate effort to inform new volunteers, make them feel welcome, and finally to make them understand how to behave or react as volunteers. It is imperative to invest in the said type of onboarding process in order to create a sustainable working environment that assures not only an excellent service from volunteers, but also a continuous flow of volunteers from different parts of the state. It is only through a deep understanding and deep appreciation of the onboarding process that organizations are able to maximize their capabilities and resources.