How To Create A Great Employee Onboarding Process For Your Business
88% of companies mess up their employee onboarding process, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report.
Chances are, yours is one of them. It turns out that most employers start onboarding too late and stop too early. Poor onboarding practices not only lower morale in new employees, they hinder productivity and will eventually cost you money.
How can you leverage your onboarding process to improve employee retention, save money, improve your recruiting, and foster better working relationships within your team?
Learn how to create a clear employee onboarding process that meets your specific needs, promotes employee collaboration, and outlines performance expectations with this simple checklist.
Table of Contents
What Is Employee Onboarding?
It can take a while for a new hire to become part of your organization, integrate into the culture, and ultimately become a fully contributing member of the team.
The various procedures for making this transition as smooth as possible make up what we call employee onboarding.
Employee onboarding is not to be confused with employee orientation. While employee orientation can be a one-day affair, employee onboarding is the entire process of assimilation which can take months, even a year.
What Is A New Employee Onboarding Process?
The onboarding process begins even before the employee starts working officially, in a step known as ‘pre-boarding.’
You don’t just prepare your new hire to work with your team. You also prepare your team for the arrival of their new employee. This ensures that when the new hire arrives, they are better prepared to extend a warm welcome.
New employees can feel awkward not knowing where to sit, where to put their documents, what machines to use, etc. Prepare for every logistical detail ahead of time.
Introduce your new team member to everyone that they are going to be working with. They might not remember everyone’s name immediately, but it does break the ice, making future interactions that much easier.
Even when you are dealing with an experienced individual, you need to invest time in training them. Assign current employees to oversee new hires. It helps to have a mentor who can teach them all the ins and outs of your organization, show them how things work, and alert them to any unwritten rules or expectations of your office culture.
Remember that onboarding does not end on day one, week one, or even at the end of the first month. Check-in with your new employee on a monthly basis until the year ends to see what progress they have made, what challenges they are facing, what lessons they are learning, and their successes and failures. These monthly check-ins will hopefully address any potential issues before they seriously impact the performance of the individual and the team.
If the process is successful, in a year, that new employee should be in a position to onboard the next new employee.
Why Onboarding Is So Important
Onboarding doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. A full 30% of employees don’t feel like their employers were very helpful on their first day at work.
This inattention could be costing companies a lot. An alarming number of employees start job hunting again within months of securing a new job. It is no surprise that 28% of people leave their jobs within the first six months. If your new employees are fully engaged from the get-go, employee turnover may reduce drastically.
According to statistics, the greatest obstacle to managers who want to improve their onboarding process is too many other priorities. This is tragic, particularly considering how expensive high employee turnover can be. The cost of replacing an employee runs up to 1-3 times their salary. This is the cumulative cost of training, development, poor performance, and rehiring (among other costs).
Onboarding is important for so many other reasons as well:
- Productivity: Onboarding helps new employees achieve productivity much faster than they would have without it. New employees need up to eight months to become as productive as the other employees. Onboarding makes the learning curve much shorter. In Britain and the US, unproductive employees hurt companies by costing them $37 billion in losses. Unproductive employees are just plain expensive, and employee onboarding helps to reduce this cost. New employees are 54% more productive when there is a proper onboarding process in place.
- Reduced Stress: Onboarding also reduces the stress of being a new employee on the job. New hires often experience a lot of anxiety in their first year at a new station. Employers can help their new hires to be better equipped for their new jobs and thereby greatly reduce this stress.
- Better Working Relationships: Positive relationships with coworkers are an important part of what makes work a happy and fulfilling experience. So onboarding doesn’t just make new employees happier, it makes everyone else happier by helping to build better working relationships and aligning personal life goals to company goals. From Day One, new employees need to be mentored and feel welcomed and accepted.
- Shorter Learning Curve: It takes a while for new employees to learn everything that they need to learn in order to do their jobs effectively. Onboarding greatly shortens this learning curve.
- Preserved Culture: Onboarding cements organizational culture. When new employees join your organization and fit in well, the organizational culture of your company is preserved. Such traditions help to cement a common understanding of what it means to work in your company.
- Opportunities For Leadership: Onboarding helps to create and establish comradeship, mentorship, and leadership among your employees. Mentorship relationships can be established and nurtured through new employee onboarding. New employees feel closer to their colleagues and they feel equal when they can keep up with their more experienced colleagues’ performance. These positive relationships will play a role in keeping employees engaged and motivated to remain.
- Increased Accountability For Managers & New Hires: One of the main causes of high employee turnover is poor handling by immediate supervisors. Comprehensive employee onboarding programs force managers to be more accountable for how they handle those under them. By regularly checking in with managers on the progress of their new team members, you are keeping track of the well-being and good relationships that will make you retain staff. Employees also have the opportunity to provide valuable feedback. Good managers check in with their employees daily to see how they are doing and whether there are any issues affecting their performance This daily check-ins help to address issues as they arise. With the digital tools available to us today, managers don’t need to be there physically to conduct these check-ins.
How To Create An Employee Onboarding Process
The process of creating an employee onboarding program that works for you should be constantly improving from one hire to the next. Effective employee onboarding starts before your employee reports to work, during the recruitment and selection process. This is what some refer to as ‘pre-boarding.’
1) Start With A Strong Hiring Process
As part of employee onboarding, you want to make sure that your hiring process draws in people who are most likely to fit in well.
Hiring begins with identifying your need before you can set out to find someone who will meet that need. Be careful not to follow a generic formula but customize it to fit the unique needs of your business.
You may be hiring because someone has quit. On the other hand, you may be simply trying to compensate for increased workload, or a new business opportunity that you want to exploit. You may be filling a position that was vacated, or creating a new position that was not there before.
Whatever the situation, work closely with your HR department to create a recruitment plan that involves a detailed description of the new position, clear criteria for selection, a well-designed interview process, and a plan for the right person or people to conduct the interviews.
Your job description should include a list of job requirements in order of priority, specifying any desired qualifications, and envisioning the kind of characteristics and experience that you want. You also want to know exactly what kind of salary and benefits you are prepared to offer.
You’ll also need to create awareness about your new position both internally and externally. This means that people within your organization should be made aware of the new position so that they have a fair chance to apply for it.
Overall, your strategy to advertise the job should be designed to attract the kind of person you have envisioned. If you are strongly interested in filling the position internally and you have a sufficient pool of candidates internally, then you may be satisfied with publicizing it in-house. Recruit people in a way that works for you, and that helps you to get the kind of people you want.
Once the applications have come in, you can begin the selection process by reviewing applications.
The initial screening process may begin with phone calls before the actual interviews. HR officials can call the applicants in an effort to cut down the list of candidates and save on resources. Some companies may use personality tests, like the Predictive Index, or other tools to help them determine how candidates stack up when it comes to reasoning, reading comprehension, problem-solving skills, practical job skills, personality traits, IQ, or emotional intelligence.
Conduct interviews one-on-one or with a panel. Again, brainstorm with the entire team on ways to design an interview process that works uniquely for your needs.
A background check on each employee should be the next step. This includes verification of employment history, references, credit score, criminal records, or digital footprints where necessary. Some jobs may even require drug tests.
Choose the best option among the selected candidates. The time between recruitment and making a final decision needs to be reasonable. If you jump the gun, you may not make a well-considered decision. If you take too long, some candidates may have already moved on. (If no one meets the selection criteria, it is time to revisit the entire recruitment process with a view of yielding a better pool of candidates.)
Prepare an offer for the selected individual. The offer needs to include salary, benefits, time off, expected starting date, and any other benefits of working with you. Work with HR to decide which terms are negotiable and to what extent.
After this, you can begin the onboarding process for the successful candidate.
2) Get Your Ducks In A Row Before Day One
You want your onboarding process to work for you and your unique needs, so stay on brand as you create your employee onboarding guidelines. Start by designing a hiring process that attracts people who fit in better with the organizational culture, vision, mission, and goals of your company.
A prospective employee will probably visit your website at some point before or during the recruitment process. Make sure that your website’s career section gives accurate and relevant information about your company, its culture, and its goals. Anyone who walks into an interview should already have an idea of what they are signing up for. (Remember, people whose culture and values are compatible with yours will probably become more engaged and productive employees.)
Prepare the paperwork ahead of time: a formal offer letter, employee handbook, contracts, and everything you will need to process payroll. Some of these documents can be shared with the employee before they report to work, to avoid overloading them with new information. If they are going to be fitted with uniforms, have their measurements taken before they report. Before the new hire arrives, they should have a checklist of how to dress and what documents to bring.
Make sure to let all your current employees know ahead of time about the new hire so that they are mentally prepared to welcome them.
Everyone needs to be on the same page when onboarding the new employee: HR, Finance, IT, Team Managers, and everyone relevant should prepare together. It helps if you have the right tools to automate these systems.
3) Make A Schedule For The First Day
By Day One, you should have created a solid plan for what that day will look like on your end and from the perspective of the new hire.
New employees are not likely to ask questions whose answers they feel they ‘should’ know. Are there things they should know but might feel shy about asking? You don’t want them struggling to figure out where the copy machine is, or where to find the kitchen or toilet. Think through the typical day of that employee at work and list the most basic and essential information that they will need. Answer those questions first, before they have been verbalized.
Overloading your new hire with information is just as bad as giving them too little information. So Day One should be reserved for the most essential bits. Who will the new hire be directly reporting to? Make sure that this person is present on Day One.
4) Prepare A Welcome Pack
Prepare the physical items your employee is going to need. This could include a badge, uniform, nameplate, work station, email account, software, phone, business cards, etc.
Some of these resources, like phones and work stations, might be shared with other employees, so you’ll want to prepare everyone involved.
5) Designate A Welcome Person
Assign someone on the team to answer your new employee’s questions. This person will show them where to park, the location of the restrooms, the location of the copy machines, the cafeteria, and how to use the equipment they have been assigned.
They will answer any questions the new employee might feel too shy to ask you.
Find ways to personalize the process. If you are dealing with someone who is self-aware (which you should be, if your hiring process was right), it might be a good idea to ask them how they prefer to be managed. This will help their new supervisor to learn how best to manage their performance going forward.
(Please note that this might not work well for an entry-level individual who may not understand themselves that well, yet. For someone who is reporting for their first job, a personality test might be a better idea.)
To make the process even more personalized, you might want to do a one-on-one discussion about the new hire’s personal goals vis-a-vis the company vision, mission, and goals. If the two can align, then you are more likely to end up with an employee who stays with you for the long run. In some large companies, the CEO periodically joins in to orient new employees; the idea is for them to understand the company vision directly from the vision bearer. However you choose to handle it, the new staff member should come away with an appreciation of the big picture and the ultimate vision of the company.
Your employee should also have a clear roadmap to their own personal success at your company. How does your performance appraisal scheme work? If they understand it well, they will probably focus on what matters instead of wasting time on unimportant things.
Someone who can see a clear path ahead of them will stick around for the long run.
6) Cultivate Relationships
Your onboarding process should take into account creating positive relationships with co-workers because these are an important component of job satisfaction.
Social ties in the form of healthy relationships with co-workers can facilitate a positive work experience. Assigning an accountability partner will help you to get the most out of your new hire.
7) Focus On Company Culture
Create an onboarding process that is aligned to your company culture, and design it to last over the next year or so. After the first day, work with the employee’s direct manager to check in with them on a monthly basis to keep track of their performance and to deal with any challenges that may have come up.
Check-ins should occur at the end of day one, week one, and then on a monthly basis for 8-12 months. These check-ins will help you to manage the employee better, and the feedback you get from them will help you to do better with future hires. Get feedback on the recruiting process, their experience working with technology and the tools at the workplace, and their own strategic goals. This will help you to see how well-engaged they are.
See the employee onboarding process as a work in progress that you perfect with every employee that comes in. Work with managers to achieve better results from each employee.
Best Employee Onboarding Tips
Follow these tips when creating your onboarding process to get the best results possible:
The process of successfully onboarding employees needs to be well thought out. Think ahead at every stage and prepare for the next step. Putting yourself in the shoes of the new employee and envisioning every stage will help you to create an effective employee onboarding process. To anticipate successfully, you have to start onboarding early.
Collecting feedback from your employees both old and new will help HR to create a better employee onboarding process every time. With constant iteration and willingness to learn from previous experiences, you will have an onboarding process that works better and better for you.
3) Start Early
By the time your new hire walks in, it’s too late to begin onboarding. Start early.
4) Make your Expectations Clear
New employees need to be given a fair chance to succeed. This begins with setting clear expectations from the beginning. Don’t make misleading promises, and let them know exactly what they need to do to succeed with you.
Get Started With This Employee Onboarding Checklist
Employee onboarding may seem like a lot of trouble, and there are many other competing priorities for your time, but it is certainly worth every effort you put into it. An effective onboarding process will save you money, help retain employees, increase morale, improve communication, and prepare new hires for success.
For a simplified roadmap to creating an effective employee onboarding plan, just follow our employee onboarding checklist.