SI Review: October 2012

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The Other Side

Onerous Onboarding

How to ensure a better contingent experience

By Eric M. Simón

My grandfather used to say the best way to get a job was to dress up in your Sunday

finest, walk into the company’s lobby and submit an application directly to the hiring manager. Times have definitely changed. Today, recruiters would rather hunt down ideal candidates virtually or take referrals from colleagues and coworkers.

That recruiting mindset leaves those of us just starting our careers at a disadvantage, as many of us have yet to acquire that professional network or the experience to be recruited into such a competitive job market. Often, our best resort is to obtain a temporary placement through a staffing firm, which enables us to add solid experience to our résumés as well as build our professional networks.

Very few of us actually enjoy being contingent, though, whether it’s because of the stigma that accompanies being a temporary worker among full-time employees or the added responsibility of pleasing two different employers with often times opposing corporate cultures. For me, though, the most cumbersome aspect of being a temp has been the onboarding processes — of the client as well as the staffing agency.

Applying and registering to work with a staffing agency often is a long and tedious process. I’ve registered with four of them in the past year and it hasn’t gotten smoother. I’ll use my most recent experience as an example:

You fill out an application online and hope a recruiter calls to ask you to come in for an interview. Once you arrive you’re asked to fill out a slew of paperwork, often including the application you already submitted online, after which you wait up to an hour until the recruiter can meet with you. If all goes well, s/he will review his/her current openings for a match. You’re finally sent on your way after about a four-hour visit.

If you’re lucky, you’ll be sent out for client interviews until you’re chosen. This is where things usually start to get pretty hairy.

With one client, I wasn’t given a badge to enter the building until my second week (some had to wait six weeks). I didn’t have a computer to work on until my third day (some, not until their third month). Even after its arrival, I still couldn’t complete my training until I had been given access/ authorization to the corporate network, Outlook, various file servers, Oracle, etc. By the time I had been given all the access I needed in order to accomplish my responsibilities, two months had passed. Because of this, I only had two days before my trainer left the company. That’s two months of lost productivity — time when I otherwise could have been proving my worth. Having a better onboarding process would certainly have helped. Staffing firms should work with their clients to ensure the workers they place are given the tools they need. Here are my suggestions:

The Five Pillars of Onboarding:

  1. Set-up my workstation. Providing an empty workstation to any new employee, whether full-time, temporary or contracted, shows how little you care and kills morale. Stock my workspace with pens, paper, keys, computer, email account, phone, voicemail, phone directory, org. chart, office map, etc.
  2. Have all relevant paperwork ready for me. Make sure all administrative forms (i.e. I-9, direct deposit, benefits, etc.) are ready the moment I walk in the door. Give me a plan detailing my objectives, strategy and expectations. Don’t let me question your competence.
  3. Give me your undivided attention. Discuss those plans with me in regularly scheduled one-on-ones. Don’t let emails, phone calls, IMs or other employees distract you from orienting me. Check in and give me constructive feedback. Positive reinforcement always works better.
  4. Think beyond my first few days. Create a balance when scheduling my onboarding. Make 30-, 60-, 90-day formal benchmarks for what you want me to achieve in my tenure with you. Be sure to solicit feedback too. I’m not the only one here who has the opportunity to grow.
  5. Introduce me to everyone. Show me around the office. Provide the team with my résumé and job description and encourage them to schedule time with me to discuss their own. Better yet, assign me a mentor to whom I can go with any questions.

Eric M. Simón has worked through staffing agencies for such clients as FICO, Google and Adobe Systems Inc. before being hired full-time from his most recent placement.

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