How to Onboard Employees According to Their Personalities

October 17, 2019

I’ll never forget my worst onboarding experience. I showed up on day one to discover my boss was on vacation—for the next two weeks. Someone told me to sit with my new team and that I’d learn by doing the job. There was zero formalized training; it was sink or swim.

I’m the type of person who likes to do things “the right way.” I’m wired to produce error-free work, and I rely on following established policies and protocols to protect against risk.

This company’s onboarding process—or lack thereof—made me feel like I’d been tossed into the ocean with no life jacket. While I managed to survive, the experience left a bad taste in my mouth. And it’s difficult to change a bad first impression.

My story is an extreme example of bad onboarding. Most of the time, the onboarding experience isn’t bad—but it isn’t successful either. For example, a company creates detailed onboarding materials and asks all new hires to read them in silence. While this might be ideal for someone who likes heads-down work, it’s a nightmare for someone who’s extraverted. (Extraverts prefer working with and through others—not alone!)

The business value of customizing your onboarding process

People come in all different packages: dominant, collaborative, extraverted, introverted, etc. So why do most companies onboard new hires in the exact same way? Why force square pegs into round holes? A better plan is to onboard employees according to their personalities.

Nearly one in ten employees (10%) have left a company because of a poor onboarding experience and up to 20% of employee turnover happens in the first 45 days. The business value is clear.

There are various ways to ensure a strong employee onboarding process (i.e., begin onboarding new hires the moment they accept the job offer). Many companies don’t realize they can use employee data to customize the onboarding experience for better results.

Here are five tips for onboarding employees according to their personalities:

 

1. Get to know what makes your new hires tick

There are four factors that determine workplace behavior: dominance, extraversion, patience, and formality. Everyone has some combination of all four. 

I have low dominance, moderate extraversion, low patience, and high formality. In other words, I’m collaborative, detail-oriented, quick, and precise. I know this about myself because my company had me take a behavioral assessment. (Of the 17 Reference Profiles, I’m classified as an Altruist.) 

Behavioral assessments provide insight into a person’s preferred ways of thinking and working. When companies administer these assessments to employees, leaders can tailor the way they onboard and manage new hires. 

If your new hire doesn’t care much for details and prefers to move at a fast pace, swap the onboarding manual for a video—and let them adjust the play speed. If your new hire is highly extraverted, introduce them to people around the office; or give them a “passport” people can stamp following pre-arranged in-person meetings.

 

2. Customize your pre-boarding outreach

Pre-boarding outreach helps to integrate new hires into their team before they show up on day one. Pre-boarding can be as simple as asking existing team members to send the new hire a LinkedIn connection request with a note to make them feel welcome. 

Risk-averse types like to know they made the right decision in accepting a job offer. When their new teammates reach out, these folks get the affirmation they crave. 

New hires with a high degree of extraversion crave relationship building. In addition to sending LinkedIn requests, invite these individuals to join your team at an upcoming event so they can get to know everyone on a more personal level.

 

3. Tailor your welcome email

Your human resources or people ops team likely sends a welcome email with important information to all newbies who have signed an offer letter. It’s simple to customize these.

Your low-formality employees don’t care much for details. Instead of asking these new hires to read a lengthy block of text, consider sharing the information via video. You don’t have to get fancy; a simple Soapbox will do. If they’re also low-patience, they like to go fast. Allow them to change the video speed to watch at their preferred pace.

After they start, HR onboarding systems allow them to go step-by-step to ensure they don’t miss any critical information.

 

4. Personalize your team documents

Hiring managers should share team-specific information (i.e., team member bios, communication guidelines, passwords). How they share this information can vary from person to person.

High-patience employees are process-oriented; they like to work at a steady pace. Create a custom board in your project management software that presents learning activities in sequential order with due dates specified. Use tasks, which they can check off as they go. (Your high formality new hires love checking off list items, too.)

 

5. Pair them with an onboarding buddy

Buddying up new hires and seasoned employees leads to faster integration. But who you pair them with matters. 

Dominant and extraverted new hires feel comfortable steering the conversation. They’ll ask questions to get the information they need. You can pair these individuals with any employee buddy and they’ll fare just fine. 

But less dominant and less extraverted new hires might shy away from asking unusual questions like, “What are the unspoken kitchen rules?” Pair these folks with a highly-detailed employee buddy who will remember to cover all the FAQs. Or go with an extraverted buddy who has a knack for breaking down walls and making people feel comfortable. 

 

Customized onboarding is inclusive

A customized employee onboarding process lets new hires learn in their preferred format. And that means they get up to speed faster—and you enjoy higher productivity.

Onboarding employees according to their personalities can also help them feel safe. Take, for example, my innate desire to protect myself and my company from risk. I would have felt better if my former company had allowed me to learn the ropes before asking me to act.

 

You decide what kind of onboarding experience your new hires receive. You can toss them into the sea or you can customize the process for maximum impact.

 

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Erin Balsa
Erin Balsa
Erin Balsa heads up content marketing at The Predictive Index, the leading talent optimization platform. When she’s not helping business leaders learn to harness the power of people data, she’s running after her two preschoolers. Find her on LinkedIn (where she’s lucky enough to be the only Erin Balsa) or on Twitter. @ErinBalsa

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