After months of advertising and interviewing, you have finally appointed that rock-star employee you have been searching for. Congratulations! However, if you want to develop a long and fruitful relationship with top talent, you need effective employee onboarding.
Onboarding ensures your new employee feels part of the business and reaches their optimal performance level as quickly as possible. Plus, it’s your opportunity to create a solid first employee experience, leading to long-term worker engagement and retention.
Let’s be clear; there’s a lot at stake. Get employee onboarding wrong, and you could find yourself spending valuable time and resources on replacing an employee that leaves prematurely. According to career specialists Zippia, workers who experience great onboarding are 69 percent more likely to stay for three years. How you handle those first few days and months is crucial.
Here we share the latest best practice insights to ensure your employee onboarding process is robust. The steps we outline are relevant to businesses of all shapes and sizes. And they can be easily adapted to suit your needs.
Let’s get started with a definition.
What Is Employee Onboarding?
Onboarding is the process a recruit goes through to learn about and adjust to a new job and organization. It goes beyond having a functioning workstation from day one or a warm and friendly greeting from colleagues. Of course, these play a big part in taking the stress out of the process for any new employee.
However, formal onboarding is about much more. It involves creating organizational mechanisms to ensure new employees have the information, tools, and relationships they need.
You know you have done an excellent job when the recruit can tick the following boxes:
- I feel at home in the organization.
- I understand my role and what’s expected of me.
- I know the company mission and my contribution to achieving business goals.
- I have access to all the tools and resources I need to do a good job.
- I have built solid relationships with my team and co-workers.
- I have a great relationship with my direct manager.
Employee onboarding is sometimes called induction or orientation. However, these are more short-term in focus and tend to be about the first day or week in the workplace. Onboarding is something different. It’s about putting in place long-term, job-specific support.
Nowadays, best practice is for onboarding to be a minimum of three months. And many companies extend their programs to cover the employee’s first year. A lot depends on the individual and the requirements of the job. Onboarding officially ends when the employee is working productively and independently.
Benefits Of Effective Employee Onboarding
Every HR manager knows the business cost of losing an employee is high. Some estimates put it at around 1.5 to 2 times the annual salary. According to Work Institute, voluntary turnover costs US businesses $630 billion each year and climbing.
The math is simple. Retaining existing employees is more cost-effective than recruiting new ones. And onboarding provides the foundation for a long and productive relationship between employer and employee.
However, it’s not all about recruitment and retention. There is a range of other hidden costs to consider. These include:
- Lost productivity. Recruits need time to achieve the productivity levels of an existing staff member.
- Poor customer service. New hires typically take longer and are less adept at solving customer problems. And a newbie is more likely to make mistakes that can be costly.
- Team morale. When valued employees leave, it can have a knock-on effect on the morale and productivity of other team members.
However, research shows that effective employee onboarding makes a difference.
- 77 percent of workers who went through onboarding achieved their first performance goals
- 93 percent of employers believe good onboarding was critical to a worker’s decision to stay with the business
The bottom line is comprehensive onboarding makes good business sense and saves money in the long run. Your recruit quickly feels at home and gels faster with the team and organization. Plus, they have the skills, knowledge, and tools to become fully productive team members in no time.
Effective Employee Onboarding For Organizations
So, what does effective employee onboarding look like? If you are charged with developing a program for your business, we will take you through the essential elements.
Best practice has identified the following five stages of effective onboarding:
- The first day in the workplace
- The first week
- The first 90 days in the job
- The end of the first year
Below we discuss each stage in detail. We explore what needs to happen and the critical goals you should achieve.
Critical goal: To create a great first impression and give prospective employees a sense of the company’s mission, values, and culture.
What needs to happen: Effective onboarding starts long before the employee’s first day. In fact, it begins as soon as the recruit signs the offer letter. You want to get the relationship off to a positive start. Rather than sending a cold email, why not phone the successful candidate after the interview. The personal touch can make all the difference.
Next, follow up with a warm and friendly welcome letter. Think about what information the new worker needs. Try to answer the questions buzzing around in their heads and take away some of the inevitable anxiety:
- What time should I arrive?
- Where do I need to go?
- What do I need to bring?
- Should I bring lunch into the office, or are there places nearby?
Some companies find a pre-employment office visit is a great icebreaker. The new employee can meet colleagues informally before their first day, taking away some stress for new staff.
You could also share one or two critical corporate documents, such as the annual report or departmental plans. You don’t want to overload the recruit with too much reading material. However, a couple of well-chosen documents can provide a great introduction to your business.
If possible, you could include a preliminary timetable for their first week. This confirms that you have adequately planned for their arrival and makes the new worker feel valued and appreciated.
The weeks before the new employee starts are the perfect time to get ready as an organization. You want everything in place on day one, so make the following arrangements now:
- Prepare your new hire paperwork – employment agreement, staff handbook, payroll forms, and so on
- Set up the new team member’s online accounts – company email address, intranet access, accounts on any software you use, building access fob
- Prepare the employee’s workstation – identify a desk space, order a laptop or desktop, mobile, and office phone, print business cards, and put together a basic stationery pack
- Arrange introduction meetings with team members and other key contacts
- Identify an office buddy who will help the recruit settle in and be their go-to problem solver
Don’t forget to double-check everything is in place a few days before the worker arrives.
Critical goal: To develop a personalized experience, making the employee feel welcome and excited about starting work.
What needs to happen: Most new employees are nervous and anxious on their first day, so a warm welcome is vital. Make sure reception staff know of the start date and are ready to greet the recruit. The first day is all about getting the employee settled and orientated. Here are the vital tasks needed to achieve that goal.
- Take the new team member on an office tour. Cover all the basics, including restrooms, elevators, meeting rooms, and printers. And perhaps most important of all, show them how to use the coffee machine.
- Set up a team meeting to introduce co-workers and develop a sense of belonging
- Take the new employee out to lunch or have a shared team lunch to build informal connections
- Allow the new worker time to complete all the paperwork
- Give the employee downtime to get familiar with the company intranet and software apps
- Complete all the formal HR processes by explaining company policies, employee benefits, vacation entitlements, and so on
The first day is likely to be a blur for the new staff member. Be sure to check in with them at the end of the day and resolve any early hiccups.
The First Week
Critical goal: To help employees understand expectations of what’s required and to set some objectives.
What needs to happen: You want the worker to be up and running as soon as possible. The first week is vital for ensuring your employee is best placed to do just that. Here’s what you need to do.
- Set up meet-and-greet sessions with key collaborators across the company
- Arrange sit-downs with co-workers and direct colleagues
- Introduce the new worker to the whole organization with a shoutout on business IM or a news story on the intranet
- Discuss and set projects, tasks, and objectives for the employee’s first three months
- Provide regular, quick feedback on their initial work
- Check in with the employee regularly to track progress and deal with any issues
The First 90 Days
Critical goal: To consolidate progress and ensure the worker is confident and capable.
What needs to happen: By now, the worker will have completed some initial tasks and should have developed a sense of belonging. This period is about consolidating and building on that progress. Onboarding tasks to complete during this critical 90-day period include the following:
- Continue with regular one-on-one progress meetings
- Set meaningful tasks, goals, and key performance indicators for the next six months
- Hold a formal 90-day check-in to see how everything is going and resolve any issues
- Ask for feedback on the employee onboarding program so that you can improve the process for other new staff
End Of The First Year
Critical goal: The end of the first year is traditionally when onboarding concludes, and retention starts. Your goal now switches to career progression and professional development. You want to retain what should be by now a high-performing team member.
What needs to happen: The following tasks will help you achieve a smooth transition from onboarding to retention.
- Complete a formal review. Assess performance and identify any support, resources, or equipment needs
- Set targets and objectives for the next 12 months
- Talk about career progression and professional development
- Check on any issues or concerns from the employee
- Ask for feedback on the entire employee onboarding program
Employee Onboarding Best Practices: Final Thoughts
Employee onboarding is a multi-layered process with many steps. It’s easy to miss one, which can compromise the whole experience for the employee. That’s why many best-practice companies use onboarding checklists and automated workflows. These handy tools streamline the process and ensure a consistent approach for all recruits.
Checklists and workflows help executives to manage onboarding smoothly. And they are also a valuable resource for incoming employees. They can easily see what’s required and when. And it confirms the value the organization places on giving new employees the best possible start.
The Great Resignation has shown that candidates currently have the upper hand in the job market. Businesses are finding it harder than ever to recruit the best people. And those companies that neglect the onboarding process will find it impossible to hang to them.
Use the best practice guidelines we have shared here to ensure your employee onboarding is fit for purpose.
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