By John S. Gannon, Esq.
The new year often brings new challenges to your business. But it also brings new opportunities. Picture this scenario: after months of searching, you have just recruited a person who seems like the perfect fit for a position you have been struggling to fill.
While this is certainly good news, there is more heavy lifting to be done. Employers must create and implement an effective onboarding experience that will help improve employee retention and increase job satisfaction. Here a few tips and suggestions that can create positive and effective onboarding experience for new hires.
Have a Plan
As with most things in the workplace, employers should have a carefully considered plan in place when it comes to onboarding new employees. This means devising an onboarding strategy aimed at ensuring new hires get the most out of the introductory period. Leaders from different departments should be included in the overall onboarding strategy to make sure important aspects of mission statements, strategic plans, and workplace culture are effectively communicated to new employees.
Remember that onboarding is more than a one or two-day orientation, and a successful onboarding plan takes a true team effort.
Ensure Legal Compliance
New hires also come with new legal obligations. For instance, all new employees must complete a form I-9, and employers are required to review the proper employment authorization documents to establish employee identity and authorization to work in the U.S.
Employees should also know what their compensation and benefits package will look like. And, depending on the size of the business, distribution of polices on benefits like sick time and paid family leave should be part of the onboarding process.
“Leaders from different departments should be included in the overall onboarding strategy to make sure important aspects of mission statements, strategic plans, and workplace culture are effectively communicated to new employees.”
Finally, although not legally required in Massachusetts, employers should strongly consider conducting education and training programs on preventing harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Keep in mind that this type of training may be required as part of the onboarding process if you have employees working outside Massachusetts.
Protect Confidential Information and Trade Secrets
Sometimes, what you don’t know can hurt you the most. Unfortunately, bringing on new employees can put businesses at risk of unwanted access to sensitive trade secrets and other confidential business information of your competitors.
For instance, suppose you bring on a new sales executive who has worked for one of your competitors for the last decade. What if that person brings spreadsheets or other documents with sensitive information about his former employer’s top accounts? If handled improperly, this could expose the new employer to legal risk for misappropriation of trade secrets and unlawful inference with business relationships. Similarly, if new employees try to recruit their former colleagues or contact former clients to drum up business in violation of anti-solicitation provisions, this could create legal risk for the new employer.
On the other hand, businesses need to take steps to protect their own confidential business information from disclosure into competitors’ hands. This can (and should) be addressed during the onboarding stage. First, new employees should be instructed in writing not to take any documents, data, or other sensitive business information with them when they leave their former employer. In addition, new employees who have access to your confidential information should be required to sign agreements confirming they will not take or otherwise misappropriate your sensitive data.
These are commonly referred to as non-disclosure agreements, or NDAs. If your employees have access to sensitive or confidential business information as part of their jobs, and you do not have up-to-date NDAs in place, consult with labor or employment counsel with experience in trade-secret protection strategies.
Consider Using Mandatory Dispute Resolution Agreements
In a perfect world, every employment relationship would be smooth and harmonious. However, there are times when employees and employers disagree. In most instances, these differences can be resolved through internal dialogue without resorting to outside resources, such as lawyers and court systems. But, of course, disputes do arise where internal dialogue does not produce a satisfactory result.
One way to avoid costly employment litigation when disputes cannot be resolved internally is through the use of alternate dispute resolution (ADR) agreements, which call for private mandatory mediation and/or arbitration in lieu of court.
Mandatory ADR agreements have a number of practical advantages for employers. First and foremost, mediation/arbitration is typically both less expensive and speedier than a jury trial. Alternate dispute resolution can also shield businesses from unwanted publicity associated with public lawsuits. This is because mediation and/or arbitration involve private hearings that typically do not reach media outlets.
If ADR agreements sound like they might work for your business, they definitely should be part of your onboarding plan.
John Gannon is a partner with the Springfield-based law firm Skoler, Abbott & Presser, specializing in employment law and regularly counseling employers on compliance with state and federal employment laws, trade-secret protection, and strategies for alternate dispute resolution; (413) 737-4753; [email protected]