What is your onboarding process for new employees in your organization? If new hires are not transitioning smoothly into the workplace and adopting the values of your company, it could be that your current onboarding process is not as effective as it could be.
In this guide we will explain why the employee onboarding process is so important. We also will walk you through the steps to successful employee onboarding, best practices, and software tools that can help.
What is Onboarding?
Before we explain how this process works, let’s define onboarding. “Onboarding” refers to the process by which you transition a new hire into your organization.
During that transitional period, you familiarize your new employee with your organization’s:
- Company culture
- Required skills
How is that different from orientation? It comes down to the scope and timeline. Orientation is a brief, standalone event. It might last hours or days, but once it is over, it is over.
Onboarding, on the other hand, is a process that unfolds over time. It takes at least 3-4 months, and is integrated with the everyday experience a new hire has at a company. In many cases, onboarding lasts as long as a year.
Key Point: Onboarding is a months-long process through which an organization helps a new hire adjust and fit in.
Why is Effective Onboarding for New Employees Important?
Did you know that as much as 20% of employee turnover happens within just 45 days of hiring?
There are multiple reasons new hires may quit in their initial months with a company. But often, it comes down to poor onboarding (or no onboarding).
- Without onboarding, new employees may feel lost. They may struggle to learn the systems your company relies on to get things done, and may have a hard time aligning with the company culture. Assuming they are a poor fit, they quit. But with proper onboarding, it is easier for new hires to find their place in the organization and feel like they belong.
- Taking the time to onboard your employees effectively sends them a message that they are important and you care about their success. This improves morale.
- With effective onboarding, new hires more rapidly learn the ropes, quickly transitioning into higher productivity and quality work.
- Onboarding should be part of your company culture. It can be the foundation of solid team-building. An excellent employee onboarding process can help employees develop loyalty to each other and to the company as a whole.
- Your onboarding program helps you keep an eye on middle management. New hires who have bad experiences with their direct supervisors often quit. An onboarding program not only acclimates new hires to your company culture, but helps you ensure supervisors are also conforming to that culture and treating new hires with respect.
- Your competitors are already using effective onboarding policies. If you are not, you will lag behind them in employee retention and productivity.
With an effective program for onboarding new hires, you can boost retention by as much as 25% and potentially see an 11% increase in performance.
Key Point: Employee onboarding is the key to retaining new hires, helping them learn productive habits, and improving morale, loyalty, management and teamwork.
Onboarding Process Steps for New Hires
Now you understand the importance of a quality new employee onboarding program. But what should your onboarding process be like? Let’s discuss your new employee onboarding schedule and steps.
The exact timeline and steps for onboarding vary from organization to organization. They depend on the industry you are in, the size and structure of your business, and even the specific job role for a new hire.
Nonetheless, we can offer a basic set of steps. These should serve as guidelines; you can modify them as needed to fit your company.
1. The recruitment process
Onboarding begins before you even give a new employee their contract. Throughout the recruitment process, you send messages about your company values, culture, and processes.
Make sure that the messages you are sending are clear and consistent. From the moment the prospective hire reads the job description, they should have an good idea what to expect.
Likewise, during the interview, the interviewer should demonstrate the company’s values and culture while also explaining them directly. This is also an opportunity to explain company policies, processes, and so forth.
Either during the interview or after, prospective employees should receive a tour of their future workplace. You also can introduce them to staff along the way.
2. The offer
Make your offer to the candidate you want to hire. Personalize the offer. Once again, demonstrate your company culture and values through the language you choose.
Go over expectations one more time in writing. The more clarity you provide, the less likely it is that a hire will accept a job for which they are not a true fit.
3. The weeks leading up to the start of work
Your new employee probably will not start work immediately; they likely will have a few weeks to wait.
This is not a time to blow off a new hire. It can be frustrating waiting for work to begin (and sometimes financially draining).
During this time, you can:
- Send a welcome package to your new employee. Company swag will make them feel like they are a valued member of the team.
- Provide the new hire with more details about what they will be working on.
- Create and send a personalized welcome message (i.e. a video).
- Be available and responsive if the new hire has questions or concerns.
4. The first day
Most of us have experienced a poor first day at a job at some point of our lives. When you look back, you will realize that most of those experiences were plagued by subpar or nonexistent onboarding.
But an employee’s first day at work does not have to go that way. It can be inviting and fun.
You should check in with new hires at the start and end of their first day. Give them a welcome package if you did not already do so, provide any resources you did not send in the weeks before their start date, and schedule a lunch to introduce them to the team and help them get to know their co-workers.
Try not to spend the entirety of lunch (or any of it) talking about work projects. The newcomer will be too out-of-the-loop at this point to find those conversations rewarding, and focusing on work too much may just emphasize their feelings of still being an outsider.
Instead, put the focus during lunch on the people sitting at the table. Have everyone at the table share a little about themselves.
It can sometime be easier to break the ice on such occasions if you find a way to turn introductions into a game. There are literally dozens of different ice breaker games out there for companies, so you should have no problem finding some fun ideas to try.
5. Initial Weeks
On the first day, your new hire got to know the people they will be working with most closely, but they probably still have not met their more distant teammates.
Continue to find ways to introduce them to more people at the company. This can involve a combination of in-person, scheduled meetings and new hire announcements.
Keep following up with the new employee to make sure they understand their role in the company and have everything they need to execute their new responsibilities.
This also is a great time to tell the new employee about career growth options that may be available to them in the future.
That might seem like something that you would not need to touch base about so early on, but it is actually a very good idea.
Why? When candidates apply for jobs, they are often thinking not only about where they want to be tomorrow, but also five or ten years from now. If you want to retain top talent, you should make it easy for them to visualize how you can help them achieve their long-term career goals right from the start.
6. Continue to follow up for the first year
Companies often abandon the onboarding process after several months, figuring that is all the time new hires need to adjust. In reality, the process should continue for the rest of the first year.
As the year progresses, new hires should need less monitoring and intervention. Nevertheless, they will appreciate if you check in on them every few months to make sure that they stole have everything they need and are fitting in okay.
Periodic performance reviews can help everyone to get on the same page and stay on the same page.
Also, do not forget that feedback goes two ways! While you are providing feedback to your hires, ask them to provide feedback on their experiences to date.
After the first year, the employees you onboarded should no longer need much in the way of training for their current positions. But they may appreciate efforts to help them further their professional growth (i.e. continuing education opportunities).
7. Keep facilitating teamwork and relationship-building
Once employee onboarding is over, you should not let seasoned employees languish. You put a lot of effort into showing them how much you cared when they first joined your company. But over time, their value as longstanding employees only grows—and how you treat them should reflect that.
So, continue to invite them to team-building events and games. Organize fun or educational events for all of your employees to participate in. Keep building relationships and offering a rewarding experience.
Key Point: The employee onboard time lasts around a year, even though many companies cease their efforts after several months. The process involves a number of steps starting as early as recruitment. A strong onboarding process assures employees that they are where they belong, and reduces the chances that top talent will quit.
New Hire Onboarding Best Practices
Now that you are familiar with the basic steps of onboarding, let’s go over some best practices for success.
- Create a new hire onboarding checklist. In fact, you should put together a whole set of checklists for different types of hires. For example, a remote hire would have a different onboarding checklist than a local hire who will be working in your company’s offices. Likewise, there may be different onboarding requirements between teams and departments.
- Get ready early on the new employee’s first day. Make sure their workstation is all set up and ready to go. Send out reminders to HR and team members so that everyone takes time to welcome the newcomer. If you need extra time to prepare, it is often easier to have the new hire come into work on their first day an hour late than it is to ask everyone else to show up early.
- Choose a mentor or buddy for each new hire. New employees or contractors are going to have many questions as they are getting used to their new positions. So that that they have a go-to person to ask, it is helpful to assign them an appropriate mentor or buddy. While you might be tempted to simply assign their supervisor to this role, it may be easier for new employees to feel comfortable and open with other teammates. Those teammates may also have more valuable perspective and advice if they perform in similar roles to the new hire but have progressed into more senior positions.
- Adjust the pacing of onboarding to the newcomer’s skills, responsibilities, and disposition. In some cases, it may not be appropriate to pile responsibility on a new employee too fast. But in other cases, it might be inappropriate not to immediately treat the hire as an expert.
- Onboard everyone. When we think of onboarding, we usually think of getting a new hire up to speed. But it is important to remember that hiring a new employee impacts everyone on that person’s team. Make sure everyone on the team is in the loop. When bringing in new people, it is important for loyal employees to know that they are valued.
- Introduce the hire to the whole company. You will be spending most of your time during onboarding helping your new employee understand their direct role within their specific team. But if you do not go any further than that, you may severely limit the new hire’s understanding of exactly what it is they do with the company and why and how it matters to the company as a whole. By broadening their understanding, you may help them perform their duties better. You may also give them a sense of their ultimate importance within the organization.
- Do not stop onboarding early. Despite the fact that it can take as long as a year for an employee to get used to working at a company, it is common for organizations to cut off their onboarding efforts within several months. Although we have already mentioned this, it bears repeating because it is such a common mistake. Many employees do quit their jobs within the first six months. If you continue onboarding through that time period and beyond, you should see retention rates rise.
Try and learn from your onboarding experiences. Since you are busy teaching new employees about the company culture and how to perform their jobs, it is easy to overlook the learning experience that you are also having.
As you onboard employees, you will find out what works and what doesn’t. You will also discover individual nuances. What works well for onboarding in one department may not be a fit for another. What one personality responds to, another might not.
Over time, you can fine-tune your processes so that they are more effective overall. But with each individual, you also can adapt on the go. While the new hires will have to be making most of the adjustments to fit into your organization, there is no reason you cannot also make adjustments to accommodate individual employees when it makes sense.
Key Point: The best onboarding practices above can help you successfully integrate new hires into your existing team structures and company culture.
New Employee Onboarding Software Recommendations
Having gone over what you need to know about the process of employee onboarding, let’s share some tools that can streamline the this transition and make it easier and more successful.
You will see that some software suites for onboarding for new hires are designed to provide comprehensive tools suited to a wide range of industries and situations. Others are aimed at onboarding specific types of workers (i.e. remote contractors or sales associates).
One of the top programs for employee onboarding is Sapling HRIS Software. Using this software, you can quickly and easily send documents for new hires to e-sign. Employees can fill out personalized profiles, and you can create a color-coded organizational chart for your teams.
Sapling also offers tools for time-off policies, team feedback, repeatable tasks, bulk data edits, and more.
Best For: For an all-in-one people workflow suite that includes “onboarding to offboarding and everything in between,” you cannot go wrong with Sapling.
These days, more companies than ever in the past are relying on remote workers. The aptly-named Remote is an HR software suite that gives you the tools you need for an easy onboarding process for your remote contractors no matter where around the globe they are located.
This program provides you with the tools you need to ensure you are compliant with international hiring requirements, are offering benefits that workers in every country will love, and receive the support you need from local experts.
Best For: If your company does a lot of work with international contractors, this program makes onboarding simple.
Onboarding is not all about paperwork and compliance—it is also about fun and team-building. If you are looking for tools that will help you incorporate activities and experiences into the onboarding process, Confetti is worth a look.
If you have had a number of new personnel join your team recently, consider ordering a team-building game or shippable experience for the whole team to enjoy.
Best For: Help recent hires integrate with other team members and build camaraderie with Confetti experiences. These experiences also are a great way to show appreciation for longstanding employees.
Rippling is an HR software suite that can help you handle payroll, benefits, time in attendance, recruiting, onboarding, learning and engagement.
The company that makes Rippling says that you can “onboard new hires in 90 seconds.” Not only that, but you can do it in a single click after you input the basic information for the new employee.
Best For: Consider choosing Rippling if you are looking for ease-of-use, speed, and automation for your new employee process workflow.
Looking for software specifically for helping you to rapidly acclimatize sales team hires? Mindtickle promises that it can “get your team ready in half the time.”
This software helps you train new sales team members with on-demand and live content. With the help of AI, sales employees can practice their skills and complete exciting challenges.
So, not only do new sales associates learn more quickly, but they may also be more effective by the time you have them work with real customers.
Create a Smooth Transition for New Employees With an Effective Onboarding Process
The new employee onboarding process is so much more than orientation. It is a months-long process by which new hires are able to assimilate seamlessly with your existing team.
With the onboarding tools we have shared as well as our step-by-step overview, you should now be ready to make that process a successful one.
While it will take time and effort to put a new employee onboarding plan into effect, in the long run, it will pay off.
You will spend less time in the future managing people workflow, and you will achieve better results. Employee retention will improve along with productivity. You will also have the satisfaction of knowing your onboarding process is consistent with your company’s values and goals.