Employee onboarding is more than just paperwork and protocols. It’s an experience, a first impression, and a critical period that can shape an employee’s journey and ensure long-term organizational success. A study by Brandon Hall Group found that organizations with a robust onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82 percent and productivity by 70 percent.¹
Yet, in Gallup’s survey, only 12 percent of employees strongly agree that their organization does a great job onboarding new employees.² In this article, we’ll provide a road map for creating a welcoming, productive, and engaging environment for your new hires, ensuring successful integration into your organization.
Understanding the Onboarding Process
It takes about 8 to 26 weeks for an employee to become fully productive in their new role. So, onboarding is not just a one-time thing; it’s a continuous process that begins when a candidate accepts a job offer and extends through their first year. The critical aim of this process is to enhance employees’ understanding of their roles, how they fit within the larger organizational structure, and how they can contribute to the company’s goals.
This involves training new hires for specific job responsibilities, establishing performance expectations, and providing ongoing support and development opportunities.
Pre-Boarding: Laying the Groundwork for a Successful Start
According to Michelle Smith, VP of Marketing for O.C. Tanner, 20 percent of turnover occurs within the first 45 days of employment.³ Recognizing the significance of this statistic, the pre-boarding phase emerges as a crucial period because it sets the tone for new employees.
From the moment an employee accepts your job offer until the first day of work, you have the opportunity to build excitement, establish communication, and simplify the transition into the new role. Here’s how to make the most of this phase:
1. Personalized Welcome
This could be from a direct manager, a team leader, or a welcome committee. The key is to make the new hire feel expected and valued. You can also provide small gestures like welcome signs, personalized welcome notes, or company-branded gifts.
2. Provide a Clear Itinerary
Share a detailed schedule of the first week, including orientation sessions, training, and meet-and-greets to help reduce first-day anxiety and set clear expectations.
3. Streamline Administrative Processes
You may utilize digital tools to make processes more accessible, allowing new hires to focus on integration and training. This includes contracts, tax forms, benefits enrollment, policy, and acknowledgments.
4. Set Up Technology and Workspaces
Ensure all necessary work accounts are set up, and that physical or virtual workspaces are prepared in advance. If you offer remote work, consider sending digital welcome kits, branded merchandise, or work equipment.
The First Day: Ensuring a Memorable and Positive Start
As a hiring manager, this is your golden opportunity to set a positive tone and demonstrate the company’s values and culture. Here’s how you can ensure the first day helps new hires feel at ease and lays a strong foundation for their future:
1. Comprehensive Orientation
Instead of just touring in the office, provide an overview of the company’s history, mission, vision, values, and how their roles contribute to the organization’s larger goals.
Consider using multimedia presentations or interactive activities to make these sessions more impactful.
2. Introduction to the Team
Introduce them to team members and key personnel in various departments. Depending on your company’s size and preference, these can be simple meet-and-greets or scheduled meetings.
3. First-Day Work Plan
While the first day should not be overloaded with tasks, providing a clear outline of the day’s schedule and some initial light work or training can give a sense of purpose and direction. This could include reviewing key policies, setting up workstations, or beginning basic training modules.
The First Week: Facilitating Smooth Integration and Building Connections
This week should focus on deeper integration into the team, understanding their roles and the company culture. Here are crucial elements to ensure a comprehensive and effective first week:
1. Structured Integration Plan
Consider developing a structured plan for the first week that balances orientation, training, and initial work assignments. This plan should gradually introduce the new hire to various aspects of their role and the organization, allowing them to acclimate without feeling overwhelmed.
2. Role-Specific Training and Orientation
You can start with more detailed training sessions specific to the new hire’s role. These sessions should be interactive and practical, allowing the new employees to begin applying their skills and knowledge. It’s essential to balance the training with actual hands-on experience.
3. Clarification of Expectations and Goals
Communicate expectations, short-term goals, and success metrics for the new hire. This could be done through one-on-one meetings with their manager or mentor, where roles, responsibilities, and objectives are discussed in detail.
4. Support and Resources Accessibility
Ensure the new hire can access necessary resources, support systems, and information. This includes having a point of contact for any queries, access to documentation or internal knowledge bases, and the necessary tools and technology to perform their duties.
The First 90 Days: Nurturing Confidence and Building Professional Foundations
The initial 90 days are pivotal for new hires, marking a transition from initial onboarding to becoming fully integrated team members. This is when they build confidence in their roles, understand the company’s processes, and establish a trajectory for future growth and contribution.
1. Regular Feedback and Check-Ins
Starting from day one, establish regular check-ins. These sessions are essential for gauging comfort level, checking progress, discussing challenges, and adjusting the development plan. It’s also an opportunity for your employees to ask questions and seek guidance.
2. Hands-On Projects and Responsibilities
Gradually increase the complexity and responsibility of tasks assigned. Engage them in real, impactful work to help build their skills and confidence to contribute to the team.
3. Cultural Immersion Through Team and Company-Wide Activities
This could range from team meetings to company social events. These experiences are crucial for understanding the company culture and building relationships with colleagues.
4. Performance Review and Forward Planning
Consider conducting a formal performance review at the end of the 90 days. This review should assess the new hire’s progress against their initial goals, provide constructive feedback, and set the stage for their future role within the company.
Beyond the First 90 Days: Fostering Continued Growth and Engagement
Moving beyond the first 90 days, the focus shifts from initial integration to fostering long-term engagement and professional growth for your employees. This phase is about consolidating the learning and experiences of the first three months and setting the stage for ongoing development and a more profound contribution to the organization.
1. Career Development Discussions
Initiate conversations about your employees’ career aspirations and explore opportunities for advancement, additional responsibilities, or lateral movements that align with their interests and skills.
2. Advanced Training and Skill Enhancement
Continue to provide opportunities for further learning and development. This might include specialized training, attendance at industry conferences, or participation in advanced projects. The goal is to continually enhance the employee’s skills and knowledge, keeping them engaged and prepared for new challenges.
3. Mentoring and Leadership Opportunities
Encourage the employee to take on mentoring roles for even newer employees or to lead small projects or teams. This contributes to their professional growth, helps build leadership skills, and fosters a deeper sense of belonging to the organization.
4. Integration into Strategic Initiatives
Gradually involve them in more strategic aspects of the organization, such as participating in planning meetings or contributing to departmental strategies. This inclusion can provide a broader perspective of the organization and a sense of contribution to larger goals.
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1. “The True Cost of a Bad Hire” Brandon Hall Group, Aug. 2015, b2b-assets.glassdoor.com/the-true-cost-of-a-bad-hire.
2. “Why Onboarding Experience Is Key to Retention.” Gallup, www.gallup.com/why-onboarding-experience-key-retention. 14 Nov. 2023.
3. Hirsch, Arlene. “Reducing New Employee Turnover Among Emerging Adults.” SHRM, 2 Jun. 2016, www.shrm.org/Reducing-New-Employee-Turnover-Among-Emerging-Adults.