What Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Can Teach Us About Employee Onboarding
Way to go! The offer letter is signed, and now you have a new employee on your team. Mission accomplished, right? Well, not quite yet. Employees take time to reach their peak awesomeness, which is why you should support them — from day one — to become the superheroes they are. Initiation is a crucial part of the hiring process, and that’s where employee onboarding comes into play.
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Why does employee onboarding matter?
For starters, first impressions can become lasting ones. BambooHR found that one in six people left or thought about leaving their jobs as a result of a bad onboarding experience. And research continues to show that happy employees are more productive. According to one Harvard study, whether you’re a sales director or doctor, “the brain at positive is 31 percent more productive than at negative, neutral or stressed.”
The take away: an employee’s initial experience with your company can set the tone for their future success. Take the extra effort to make your new employees feel valued, safe, and happy in their new roles. It’ll pay off in the long run.
An onboarding program that unleashes your employees’ full potential
Don’t know where to start? Besides giving your newbie the standard tour around the office, you can take a cue from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. A famous sociologist from the 1940s, Maslow proposed that people must fulfill a series of basic and psychological needs to become their best selves. This pyramid breaks it down:
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The idea behind a Maslow-inspired onboarding program is to build up your employee, socially and emotionally. Here are some onboarding tips and tricks, as we work our way up the pyramid.
1. Onboarding starts with basics: Physiological and safety needs
According to Maslow, a person’s basic needs are physiological, including food, water, warmth, and rest. But as you help orient your new employee around the office, there’s so much more than just pointing out the kitchen snacks and bathrooms. Help your employees feel comfortable within their brand new environments, including the office layout, the neighborhood, and company culture.
- Begin onboarding on day zero. At Warby Parker, a team member calls the employee before they start to talk through the basics and answer any pre-orientation questions. The company also sends home a packet on its history, values, and culture so employees can start studying up.
- Encourage your employees to feel ownership over their belongings. Carve out several hours for them to set up their laptop, email, benefit elections, and make their desk their own.
- Go to the source: at one startup, Medallia, the founders share the company’s story with each new batch of employees, followed by a trivia game so newbies can internalize those facts. Another tech startup, BazaarVoice, sends new employees on a week-long scavenger hunt to unearth company lore, stories, and traditions. Make it fun!
- Point out the best neighborhood coffee shops and lunch spots. Environment extends beyond the walls of the office; help your new employee really feel like a local.
2. Creating community: Belonging and esteem needs
If we refer back to Maslow’s hierarchy, a strong sense of community and accomplishment are foundational for reaching one’s full potential. That’s why a warm welcome celebrates your employee’s arrival, helping them feel chosen, special, and immediately part of the tribe.
- Make welcoming a team member is a company-wide effort. Here at Gusto, teams sign a welcome card for each new employee and adorn their desk with balloons and streamers. This adds a little sparkle on that first day.
- Send a company-wide email introducing each new hire. Throw in some fun facts while you’re at it, easing future ice breakers among co-workers. You can use these email templates to make it easy.
- Amidst our digital age, don’t forget the power of in-person intros. Facilitate meetings with key people your new employee will often work with.
- Communicate just why you’re excited about this new employee in particular. What shone bright through the interview process? Where do you see future contributions? Make them feel special.
- Assign an experienced mentor who can provide advice outside of their immediate team.
3. Reaching full potential: Self-fulfillment needs
Once you’ve supported environmental, psychological, and emotional growth, your employees are on their way to reaching peak performance. Though it may take a few months before your employees crush it, there are some things you can do to start supporting their strengths early on:
- Encourage new employees and their direct managers to discuss strengths and areas of growth from the get-go. You can provide a loose template for this conversation, including past achievements, when that employee has felt most happy and accomplished at work, and areas they can’t wait to work on. This can set a basis for future check-ins.
- Provide clarity and guidelines for each person’s role. At Birchbox, onboarding lasts for 30 days, with regular check-ins that support the newbie’s development. Through this process you can underscore the importance of someone’s role on the team and in the company by tying what they do to KPIs.
- Carefully assign a starter project for your employee: you want it to be challenging, but also allow that employee to knock it out of the park and get an early win.
Who knew an age-old psychology theory could help you build a great onboarding experience? Whether your program lasts one day or one month, we hope these tricks will help your employees power up to full awesome so they can realize all their wants (and needs).