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onboardingOnboarding, the process whereby new hires are assimilated into the protocols of their new employer, doesn’t start on Day One of the job, says Lonnie Sciambi, owner of The Small Business Force, a business consultancy in New Jersey. Instead, he says, onboarding “starts with the interview process. The interview process is the courtship,” he says.

Sciambi, also known as the Entrepreneur’s Yoda, says that during interviews, the interviewer should be assessing if the applicant is the right fit for the company. For example, stewards and stewardesses aboard Southwest Airlines seem to be lighthearted and congenial, in general. Therefore, an introvert would not likely be a good fit for the company, and that’s something that should be determined during interviews.

The process of onboarding is equally as important when a merger or buyout occurs. If it doesn’t, the new owner has “lost the opportunity to establish a relationship where the employee will do anything for the company,” says Sciambi.

When the employee starts work that first day, “Now it’s real. Reality sets in and if the employer didn’t start onboarding early enough, meaning they didn’t integrate hew hires appropriately, they’re lost emotionally and mentally,” to the company, he says.

Although many businesses aren’t large enough to maintain a human resources department, per se, it’s still important for someone to oversee the assimilation of new hires, he says. “Human resources is the front door to the company. Even if your company doesn’t have an HR department, you still need a plan for how people come onboard. The first few weeks (following a merger or new hire) should be scripted and include on-the-job training,” Sciambi says.

In the health care industry, where Karen Marshall acts as a practice management consultant, onboarding is known as transitioning. In addition to assimilating new hires into a medical practice, the transitioning period is also an opportunity for the employer to reassure current employees of their value to the group. “They have a lot of information and education,” making current employees extremely valuable to the practice, says Marshall.

According to Marshall, owner of Columbus, Ohio-based Vero3 Consulting, when a medical practice undergoes an ownership change, the staff is understandably worried about their jobs and whether the practice will succeed under new ownership. “Business is always changing, so it’s important to be transparent with current employees about why you’re making the change,” she says.

When a new owner buys an existing business, it’s imperative they introduce themselves to the staff. “It’s important the employees know who their boss is and what their vision for the company is,” says Marshall.

Onboarding, or transitioning, is imperative to “prevent the loss of employees, productivity and clients. If you don’t conduct proper onboarding, morale is reduced and it causes tension. If the team is not on the same page, the wheels start falling off,” she says.

Tami Kamin Meyer is an Ohio attorney and writer. She tweets as @girlwithapen.
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