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The new associate arrived for her first day at the property, accompanied by the telltale set of nerves when starting a new job. She knew what her duties entailed on a macroscale but still had much to learn about the day-to-day workflow and nuances of the organization.

She was greeted in congenial fashion by many of her new coworkers, although many of them quickly returned to their daily tasks. Upon sitting at her desk in the leasing office, she realized that no clear instructions were present regarding which tasks she should begin with or prioritize. She asked questions to numerous team members—who all answered politely—but she couldn’t help but feel she was interrupting them from their obligations.

Although this experience isn’t representative of how things should unfold for a new associate, whether at an entry-level property position or anywhere up the ladder, it’s all too common. In a people-centric business such as multifamily, it borders on unacceptable.

Just as residents don’t want to be forgotten about after they move in, new associates don’t want to be thrown into the proverbial fire with little guidance or resources. A proper onboarding experience is critical, particularly in an industry with fierce competition to retain high-performing associates. Thankfully, organizations can take steps to ensure new hires feel welcome and appreciated as well as have a clear understanding of their duties and performance expectations.

A Proper Introduction and Lay of the Land

To ease the inevitable tensions experienced by new associates, organizations should ensure new hires are formally introduced to team members and familiarized with the workspace prior to engaging in any job duties. A meal with the team and small, personalized welcome gifts, such as company branded swag and a few favored treats, also help to ease the transition and make associates feel welcome. Once assimilated with the team, it's vital to acquaint new associates with any materials or resources they will need for their role and provide a defined, but not overwhelming, agenda for their first few weeks.

Appropriate Training

Associates are often eager to make a solid first impression. Make sure you reciprocate. Proper training from day one ensures new associates don't fall into that helpless zone in which they're not particularly sure what they should be doing. Consider both structured and unstructured learning opportunities: Assign a mentor or go-to team member to the new associate or provide time to complete online learning classes. It may be valuable to provide them with a list of relevant topics to review, including resources from other departments, that can assist in getting them acclimated while affording them with the opportunity to work independently. Keep in mind that providing a solid initial workplace impression heightens the chances the associate will remain with the company long term.

Demonstrate Opportunities for Growth

One roadblock commonly encountered by new associates is the feeling that they won't be able to ascend within an organization. Granted, expectations for three promotions within the first eight months should be tempered, but team leaders should be certain to periodically ask about the associate's ambitions and be prepared to supply them with the learning and development resources needed to evolve. Associates, naturally, are more likely to stay if they can realistically envision their desired career path. This effort should start during the onboarding process.

Utilize an Onboarding Checklist

Move-in checklists have become a must-have on the property side of the business. Onboarding checklists should be just as prevalent on the employee side. This ensures that no items—whether prominent or minor—are overlooked. The checklist should include review and signoff of company documents, an overview of department or position processes along with relevant timeframes, and a list of people or educational resources. It can serve as something of an onboarding schedule, as well, to ensure a consistent learning and development experience for each new hire. One way to gain insight on a successful hiring process is to include a check-in at the 30-day mark to take inventory of the associate’s experience after their first month. Because each associate has the potential to become a key longtime contributor, it's important not to let anything fall through the cracks.

Solicit Feedback

Even if you believe you're doing it right and have thought of everything, the onboarding process can be fine-tuned. Little is more valuable here than the feedback of the new associates themselves, so be certain to gauge their thoughts about their onboarding experience. Additionally, the associate's hiring manager, mentor, or otherwise paired team member can pass along any specifics of the new hire’s onboarding process to the organization’s people support team. That team can help to refine any processes that require an adjustment.

The beauty of an optimal onboarding process is that it isn't a one-size-fits-all practice. Operators can institute an abundance of measures that make new hires feel comfortable and equipped for their duties, and each company can tailor it to fit their niche. But no matter how it's done, a proper welcome, solid training, and a blueprint for career growth all serve as critical components.