Anyone who has started a new job knows the first week is an overwhelming experience filled with paperwork, people, and information about new responsibilities. When it comes to onboarding, sometimes there’s a disconnect on what should and should not be included while getting someone up to speed to become part of the team, especially when it comes to human resources (HR) and the finance department. Everything comes back around to accounting in the end, and there are outdated processes to avoid and best practices HR should adopt to make onboarding smooth and beneficial to everyone in the company, not just the new hire and their direct department.
The Importance of Process
Typically, onboarding consists of a lot of paperwork and basic information from the start from HR no matter what department a new employee is starting in. For those in the field, onboarding is all about safety, project requirements, and receiving the proper PPE. In the office, there’s more information about 401Ks, health care, and in-office policies. In almost all departments, shadowing and learning by doing is part of the onboarding process to get new hires acclimated as quickly as possible to the working environment.
“All new hires start on Mondays and have full-day orientation focusing around Human Resources and safety,” said Matt McCloskey, Operations Controller of Allan Myers. “Then on Tuesday, they report to their respective office location or job trailer. After introductions, they will typically shadow an employee or two for the rest of the week. Starting the second week, they will start to have relevant tasks assigned to them based on what they were shown their first week, and we expect them to ask questions and engage with other employees. We encourage everyone to jump in and get their hands dirty and do expect a certain amount of independence knowing that you will ask questions and use the resources provided to you.”
However, what works for one department does not necessarily cover everything needed to understand how other departments work. That’s where the disconnects start to show in onboarding processes, especially in getting new hires up to speed on understanding how their actions affect the finance and accounting department.
The HR Disconnect
For smaller companies that don’t have an HR department, the ordeal of covering everything needed to know during onboarding is even more difficult. Not having a formal process can lead to miscommunication, important gaps of missing information, and discontent among employees.
“If [new employees] don’t understand their benefits, they get frustrated … We do not meet the shop new hires until months later, and it seems we are always chasing down their benefits paperwork,” said Kimberly A. Hullfish, Controller of C. Abbonizio Contractors Inc. “I wish that we could have a sit-down at some point during their first week and go over everything, so they know when they get their time off and insurance and if there’s an issue with their paycheck, who they can call. Then they can ask us questions. We don’t get that face to face time, which I think is so important.”
There’s also the problem of some HR departments still being stuck in the past or those that do not have the resources to upgrade processes with new technology that better facilitates onboarding for all. What could be a simple, informative time turns into a headache with too much paperwork and need for communication across too many systems – one of payroll, one for timesheets, one for enrollment benefits, etc. – and departments to get all of the information into the right hands.
“In the past, someone would have to fill out a form, scan or copy the form, put it in a folder, and then make sure people have access to the folder and put it in the right spot so it doesn’t get lost or misplaced,” said Shaun McCarthy, Chief Financial Officer of Tilson. “It wasn’t standardized, and it’s so important to be able to have access to the exact information all in the same spot.”