Tips to Implement and Perfect your Employee Onboarding Process

Employee onboarding is the process of familiarizing a new employee with the policies and culture of the company. In this guide, you will learn everything there is to know about employee onboarding, from the importantce of the concept, to best practices for the future.

It is a well-known fact that first impressions have a lasting impact. After devoting endless hours searching for, identifying, interviewing, and recruiting the right talent, if the new hire ends up quitting for greener grass, all your hard work will go down the drain, and you are back to step one. Or, what if a candidate accepts an offer, confirms the notice period, agrees to the date of joining but backs out at the last minute? How can you prevent this?

New employees can be vulnerable, out of their element, stressed, and eager to please; they can feel like a child in front of a mountain of stairs that they have to climb, but everything is new, unknown, and scary.

A company’s employee onboarding process is the chance to make a great first impression on new employees, to welcome and prepare them to succeed in their new roles. Conventional wisdom suggests that employees need about 90 days to prove themselves in a new job.

The faster new hires dive into the job’s specific and the company’s culture, the faster they start contributing to the business's overall mission.

Most organizations have their tools to teach new hires the codes, attitudes, knowledge, skills, and behavior.

According to the SHRM “Onboarding new employees: Maximizing success” report: 1 in 25 employees leaves their new job because of bad onboarding experiences.

So, if you are still reticent about the importance of onboarding and want to know more about its role and where it fits into the larger HR context, read this article and learn everything there is to know about employee onboarding.

What is Employee Onboarding? Formal vs. Informal onboarding

The process tends to be almost similar, yet the period and tasks make each onboarding program unique.

Employee onboarding is the process of familiarizing a new employee with the policies and culture of the company. It also involves creating an environment where the employee feels comfortable interacting with their colleagues and establishing social relationships in the workplace.

During onboarding, the employees and employers complete the necessary paperwork for labor law compliance. Employees learn what the organization expects from them regarding skills, communication style, and attitude.

There are two types of onboarding a new employee: informal and formal. The first step to achieving effective onboarding is identifying and selecting the right approach for your company. (Hint: You should go with formal onboarding).

Informal onboarding

Imagine the following scenario: a new employee shows up for the first day of work and finds a chaotic atmosphere: no designated workplace, no one briefs them about what they are expected to do, the supervisor and co-workers barely introduce themselves. They sit around trying to do something useful, then, hours later, they go home, hoping the next day will be better.

A few days like this, the new employee begins to learn the unspoken rules of the workplace while figuring out expectations and policies on their own. A “sink-or-swim” mentality kicks in, and eventually, the employee will acclimatize to this environment. A month goes by, then a year passes, and by then, the employee either leaves to find a better job or becomes part of the system that failed them.

In this scenario, the employee has fallen victim to informal onboarding.

Informal onboarding refers to the process based on which an employee learns what they need to know about the new job without structured assistance from the supervisors or HR department. This type of onboarding process typically causes new employees to become frustrated and develop low morale in the workplace.

Formal onboarding

This process involves a step-by-step program for new employees that helps them integrate, teaches them their roles, presents them with the company’s goals and expectations and workplace-specific norms and rules. Formal onboarding is beneficial to acclimate the employees to the new workplace without unnecessary stress.

Formal onboarding encompasses the organized tasks and procedures that help new employees adjust to their new position. Under formal onboarding, new hires are often segregated from existing employees to experience coordinated activities for orientation, in-classroom training, and socialization.

With a formal onboarding process, you should answer a set of questions before a new employee ever shows up for their first day of work:

What tools and software do they require for performing their activities?

Have your IT folks set up an email address, log-in information, and other necessary software items? Is the new employee included in internal email distribution groups?

Do they have a ready-to-use desk?

Are the offices and access cards ready for their use? Will they need a security badge to access certain rooms and areas of the business?

Are the appropriate office supplies available and put in their work area?

Is there a working phone at their desk (if applicable)?

Have optional items, such as a company cell phone, printer, laptop, or another mobile device, been ordered if the new hire needs them to perform their job?

Have business cards been ordered?

Is an informal organizational chart available to the employee to help them understand who is responsible for what departments and roles? Information like this will help the new person learn names and jobs more quickly.

It is clear why having a formal onboarding process is highly recommended. It alleviates pressure, removes unnecessary stress, and allows new employees to adjust to their new job.


How to onboard new employees?

Onboarding requires a lot of collaboration between departments. It is not just HR and IT, you also have the employee’s department and team leaders involved:

HR manages the formal hiring process, screening, documentation, payroll, benefits.

The IT department manages the distribution of email accounts, company credentials, workstation hardware, software tools, and more.

The team leader integrates the new hire into the team, helping them understand the knowledge and tools they need for the job.

Employees officially become members of your organization when they accept an offer letter.

The next step is to start onboarding them, but first, check and adapt the following list to see what better works for you:

Before the first day

Inform current employees of hire: communicate with the current staff, so nobody is surprised by the new addition to the team.

Assign onboarding roles: be sure current employees know their responsibilities for onboarding the new team member.

Prepare new employee office/ workstation: furniture, telephone, computer, desk supplies, chair.

Prepare facility requirements: includes keys, badges, anything required for physical access.

Looking for an example of a welcome email for new employees? Nothing easier. Customize the example below.


Welcome email in the company

To help you create an email or a welcome letter and save time, find below a concrete example of a new employee email presentation template. Feel free to customize it to your needs and send it by e-mail or traditionally, a few days before the new employee's new contract start date. The content of this message contains the purpose and agenda of the first day of work. This email doesn't have to be very long, or difficult to understand, but it has to be friendly. The message should contain concrete details that will help the new employee to be better prepared for the first day of work.


Subject: Welcome to our team

Dear (Name of new employee)

It is a pleasure to have you in the team, that's why we welcome you!

Surely your experience, knowledge and skills will maximize the competencies of our department.

We are waiting for you at our headquarters on May 6, at 09:00 AM. Our dress code is casual, so come up with something comfortable! You will meet Margaret at the reception. She will give you the access badge. As soon as I find out you've arrived, we'll meet in the lobby to introduce you to the team you'll be working with, and to show you your new office.


Here's how your first day's work schedule looks like:

09:00 AM Meeting with new colleagues and presentation of your new office;

10:00 AM Discussions with Sarah, our HR manager about the job description and setting your goals for guidance, learning and contribution within the company;

12:00 PM Lunch with me and your new co-workers;

1:30 PM Introduction of the software that you will use most often in the company;

2:30-5:00 PM Meeting with Mathew and Ralph - your new teammates with whom you will collaborate the most.

If you have any questions before the first day of work, do not hesitate to call me (mobile number).


Once again, we are delighted to have you on the team and look forward to being with us.

Greetings,

(Manager's signature)

Tip: Use our new employee announcement email if you want the perfect welcome message, but you lack creativity or time.

During the first day

Welcome tour: give the new hire a guided tour of the facilities to get them acquainted.

Personal workstation set-up for the new hire: give your new team members time to get their workstation set up to their liking and any support needed.

HR documentation: individual labor agreement, insurance forms, direct deposit forms, non-disclosure agreements, employee handbook, etc.

Provision of software and accounts: ensure your new hire has access to company email, shared drives, and necessary software tools such as the absence management solution.

Meeting with the direct manager: to establish basic processes and standards.

Review company policies and culture: to better integrate your new hire into the overall organism.

After the first day

Set up early check-ins: early weekly (or more) check-ins with direct management will allow your new hire to start on the right foot.

Further legal/ HR documentation: any further documentation needed for payroll, benefits, etc.

Set plans: set up expectations for the future, as well as set times to check-in, complete surveys, and explore progress.

Organize, if possible, social activities to include the new hire: make sure new faces get invited!


Note: If you want to print such a checklist you can download for free our new hire onboarding checklist.

We would like to stress the importance of having a good onboarding program one more time. According to recent reports, strong onboarding strategies will lead to higher employee retention.


Remote Onboarding

Hiring and orienting new employees are always critical processes for employees' and businesses' success.

And they are even more challenging now, during the coronavirus pandemic when most of us are working from home. How should you welcome, train, and engage new employees with social distancing, little time in the office, and unusual circumstances?

Despite plenty of tips available that you can use to welcome and integrate your new employee, keep in mind your ultimate goal is to help new employees build social capital even when working remotely. Consider that networks of people can provide information helping the new hire learn, evolve, and get their work done.

# Connect people: getting people connected helps them get a jump start on success.

  • Connect new employees with their leader: the best leaders are present, accessible, and super-responsive. They prioritize replying to their team members, especially those who are new. Remote work should not prevent leaders from having daily or weekly check-ins to answer questions and make themselves available to new employees.
  • Connect people with a buddy: recruits will benefit from the assignment of a “buddy” - a member of the team to whom they can go for small but important questions. Assigning a buddy can help new employees feel comfortable and increase their efficiency.
  • Connect people with mentors: employees paired with mentors can offer networking and career advice from the beginning of their employment. Preferably, a mentor is two hierarchical levels above the employee and is not within that employee’s current reporting chain.

# Be explicit: every organization is full of unwritten rules. Those who succeed can quickly discern what they are and navigate the new waters of the company.

However, when everyone isn’t in the office, it can be challenging to figure out the nuances and assumptions behind the behaviors found within an organization’s culture.

For this reason, it is constructive to share essential information about “what goes” and “how things get done around here.”

Do meetings start on time or a little late? How polished must presentations be? To what extent is it acceptable to speak up or question authority? What kinds of behaviors does management reward within the business? What are the pitfalls to avoid?

While these may seem obvious to existing employees, they will be a mystery to newbies. Therefore, it is essential to bring them to the surface and explain them outright.

# Provide information and resources: People need to get their work done beyond the nuances of the organization’s culture. So, make sure they access the workforce, work-related information, and tools.

Provide access to people: if an employee’s leader is not on-site and the employee is in the office, be sure there is someone physically present who can be a resource to the employee.

Provide access to tools and technology: be sure employees have the tools and technology they need when they join. Laptops, software, and access to the right sharing platforms are critical to an employee’s effectiveness and belief that you are prepared for them, welcoming them, and committed to their success.

Provide access to information: during the pandemic, people rely more heavily on their companies to help make sense of data and put it into a context relevant to the company. Access to insights is especially true when employees are new. Use the internal communication channels, increase the frequency of online meetings to provide frequent updates, and make yourself more available for questions and connections.

Provide updates about your approach to the pandemic: every company responds slightly differently in terms of their pandemic protocols. Be sure new employees are clear about your rules for masks, sanitizing, temperature checks, and the like.


Eight effective ways to improve your onboarding process

Poor onboarding can have many disastrous effects. It can set a new employee up for failure, inhibit workplace efficiency, and change an employee’s outlook on your company. The result can be high costs and even higher turnover and attrition rates.

Here are eight ways to improve your onboarding process for employee success:

1. Inform your colleagues beforehand about the new employee

Before the new employee’s first day, inform all employees, either in-person or via email, welcoming them to the company. The announcement should tell them about the new employee’s role, their experience, what they do at your company and encourage other employees to welcome them.

When employees are aware of a new staff member ahead of time, they can be prepared to assist them on their first day. They will go the extra mile to make the new employee feel welcomed.

2. Have the new employee’s workstation ready to go

Having a “home base” ready for your new arrival is crucial to an employee’s first impression of your company. As a new employee, nothing is worse than not having the tools you need to succeed.

Setting up the new employee’s computer, email, and phone numbers ahead of time and providing any necessary office supplies can help a new colleague feel valued from the start.

This action provides the new employee the tools to perform at their best.

3. Make sure your new employee has access to any necessary software and tools

In line with getting their workstation ready, make sure the new employee has access to any programs, software, or electronic files they will need before their first day.

Skipping this step can stunt the new employee’s training, stall their ability to get to work, and, in turn, affect their perspective on your company.

4. Make introductions to key people

Schedule some time for the new employee to meet with key people and departments on their first day. Although they may not remember everyone’s name, this will give them a good overview of where to go to get what they need.

These introductions will also help them understand how your company works and their role in the overall picture.

5. Plan a team lunch

Arrange a lunch meeting or after-work gathering for the new employee and their immediate team members within the first week. This action breaks the ice and allows employees to know their new colleagues in a relaxed environment.

You don’t even need to leave the office for this step – employees can bring their lunch and gather in a conference room. Take the time to learn about your new employee outside of the interview process. When employees feel valued by their team personally and professionally, they are more likely to stick around for the long haul.

6. Allow plenty of time for training

The first week or so with the new employee should focus on training. Even if the employee has performed the same job function elsewhere, there are bound to be differences between companies.

Having a training plan is vital for helping new employees find their feet in an organization. Your training should cover company rules, processes, procedures, and expectations. Detailing what is expected of new employees sets a precedent by which they can measure their comfort in their new role.

7. Assign a mentor or go-to-person who can help the employee settle down

Assigning a mentor from the employee’s department can help them acclimate to their job by giving them a person who is ready to answer their questions and walk them through some of their assignments.

You don’t want to have to show them how to use the copy machine four different times in one afternoon, but chances are they will legitimately need more guidance than one explanation from you. Having a coach they can turn to with questions will help build their confidence.

8. Closely monitor the onboarding process, and don’t forget to follow-up

This step is the most important and often the most overlooked by employers. Schedule an informal 30-day check-in to address any immediate concerns, followed by a 90-day check-in to see how everything is going. Even if the employee is doing well and you feel like they don’t need an evaluation, meet with them.

With these actions, you will have the opportunity to learn more about your company’s onboarding process from the employee perspective. Find out what they liked and didn’t like about your process and make changes as you see fit.


Why is the onboarding process so important?

Effective onboarding helps build a culture of happy employees, which leads to a productive team and company.

A good onboarding process allows you to:

# Attract and retain top talent

With an effective onboarding program, you can build a strong foundation for the intangible elements that create a valuable work culture and use that to attract and retain top talent.

# Engage employees early on

While company values and culture differ depending on the organization, what matters most is employee engagement, particularly soon after joining a company. If you put every new hire through a thoughtful, educational, and fun program, you will go a long way towards fostering motivation and retaining it in the future.

# Boost business growth

Engagement and motivation should be the objective of any onboarding program, not just because it builds culture and rapport but because it also drives business growth.

# Build trust

Good welcome programs educate and inform new hires about organizational practices. Have new hires meet with senior management and hear from them directly about key organizational initiatives and goals.

# Forge connection with employees

Employees who have strong connections with their co-workers and managers are the most engaged ones. Help them build those connections by assigning them a mentor or buddy during their first week or two. Their mentor can serve as a resource and sounding board for their experiences during the first thirty days.

# Encourage open communication

It can be intimidating to share concerns or feedback about your new role and surroundings when starting a new job.

An onboarding program can provide the structure and a setting for new hires to get answers to questions about their new workplace without pressure.

# Decrease in turnover

Implementing an onboarding program goes a long way toward ensuring a better employee/ employer fit right from the start.

At the same time, it opens up the lines of communication and keeps employees engaged in the long term.


Employee onboarding best practices

Many employees are likely to drop out of a job even after accepting an offer. New hire departure is something you may not be able to control. But what you can control is how the employee experience is defined once an employee enters your organization.

The employee onboarding trends are changing now so that automation and upskilling are becoming the mainstay of the onboarding process, and there is a greater focus on the onboarding experience.

Nowadays, even small and medium-sized companies pay attention to the onboarding experience and ensure that they can retain their employees.

These trends are onboarding best practices. While some best practices are evergreen, others are trends evolving into best practices as we head into the future of work.

Let’s take a look.

Help new hires understand team goals, priorities, and success factors

Employee onboarding should cover the firm’s overall mission and goals. However, each team’s onboarding can help the new hire immediately understand the focus and priorities of their new department and team.

Help them know their individual goals, assessment criteria, and career path

New hires will better understand their job responsibilities and what will be assessed by showing them their own individual KPIs, bonus formula, and the elements in their performance appraisal form.

Help them understand and appreciate the impact of their contribution

If new employees immediately know “why” their work is essential and their impact, they are more likely to be productive and focused.

Utilize analytics to improve your onboarding program

Excellence is a must in today’s highly competitive recruiting and retention environment. And you can’t achieve your quality goals unless all major onboarding decisions are made based on data. Survey your new hires who went through your onboarding after 1, 6, and 12 months. Use that survey data to identify the program components that worked, those that need improvement, and those that need to be added or changed.

Wrapping up

Successful onboarding is a vital part of any talent management strategy. With the high cost of recruiting, business leaders must understand that effectively integrating new hires into the organization is crucial to ensure their success.

Onboarding is a significant responsibility, especially when everyone isn’t in the office together - and when the coronavirus has necessitated distance between companies, employees, and colleagues.

To onboard successfully, connect people, be explicit about nuances of the company culture, provide plenty of information and resources, and let people contribute in meaningful ways, right away.

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