How to Onboard Effectively

When an employee begins a new job, the first weeks and months are a critical time both for them and for your company. While full of promise, it is a period that can all too easily go off course—often because of a weak or non-existent employee onboarding process. Taking time to onboard new employees with care and attention streamlines the transition from new hire to happy, productive team member.

Why Onboarding New Employees Matters

Employee turnover is costly for companies. A 2017 study by Employee Benefit News found that it costs companies 33 percent of an original employee’s salary to hire a replacement when they leave. These costs are related to job postings and the hiring process. But there are also hidden, less easily quantified costs, such as a spike in stress and decreased morale of existing employees who must fill in for the missing employee, as well as lost project or production momentum. For companies with a high turnover rate, the costs are compounding.

Some employee loss is inevitable, such as through retirement or sick leave. But other talent losses can be mitigated. Reducing bad hires, for example, and improving benefits and career development are effective strategies. But one of the most important—and cost effective—solutions is employee onboarding.

What is Employee Onboarding?

Employee onboarding is the formal process that helps new hires adjust to the company culture and their new role. The goal is to set them up for success, while ensuring they are comfortable and productive as quickly as possible. New employees develop their first impressions during this sensitive period and it’s important to get it right. In a 2009 survey of HR and recruiting executives by the Aberdeen Group, 86 percent of the respondents thought new hires decided whether they would remain with a company long term within the first six months of the job.

Done right, employee onboarding launches new hires into the job and your company feeling welcomed, prepared, and empowered. Here are the key elements of an effective onboarding program:

Formalize the Onboarding Process

Establishing a clear onboarding process with the steps outlined in an online or hardcopy guide, and with accountability established for meeting goals. Like people, companies go through periods of increased busyness and stress. Though onboarding is a critical business function, it’s one that is easily pushed aside during these periods. This is less likely when crucial parties have clear objectives and timelines. Creating an employee onboarding checklist keeps the process moving forward.

Keep Onboarding Human

Be wary of a process that becomes rote over time. Keeping the process moving along matters, but keeping it authentic and enjoyable is just as important. People are savvy enough to know when managers are checking off boxes rather than genuinely investing in them as employees.

Make the First Day Count

Day one at a new job is a momentous occasion. It’s incredibly dispiriting to arrive at a job to find your coworkers seem unaware you were starting, or having to wait on a hiring manager who is stuck in a meeting. Every new employee deserves a warm, genuine welcome. Here are simple steps to ensure that happens:

  • Alert everyone a new person is starting, especially those they will work closely with.
  • Organize a meet and greet. This can be lunch out, or snacks and coffee, so long as there is time to learn names and begin getting to know each other.
  • Give them a tour of the office. Don’t put the responsibility on them to find the bathroom or the breakroom.
  • Keep in contact throughout the day and say “goodbye” when the workday winds down.

Pre-onboard Whenever Possible

The period between job offer and first day is tenuous. Often, companies don’t communicate enough with new hires during this time, sometimes not even reaching out at all. This is problematic because it can make new employees feel like an afterthought. To avoid the dreaded ‘radio silence,’ fold a welcome email and time-consuming paperwork into your onboarding plan. Retirement benefits. Healthcare. Career and skills development opportunities. Giving new hires the opportunity to learn more about these perks help make the job a reality and generates excitement. Skipping first-day paperwork also lets new talent get into the mix of work faster once they start.

Offer Tools and Training

Have everything your new hire needs to succeed at the ready when they arrive. If it’s an office environment, they’ll need a dedicated workspace with a comfortable chair and computer. Familiarize them with your organization’s favored communication methods, whether it’s an online collaboration tool, email, or walking to the next cubicle. Consider giving them a ‘Welcome’ plant for their workspace. If it’s a manufacturing or warehouse environment, train them to use key tools and make sure they have all the safety equipment they require. In active, physical environments, niceties still matter. Welcome them, make introductions, and offer a cup of coffee and a pastry as they get to know fellow crew members.

Appoint a Mentor and Encourage Questions

No matter how thorough your onboarding process, new employees will have questions and concerns as time goes by. Ensure they know who to reach out to when these arise. It’s valuable to establish a mentor or a point person who is always nearby and they know they can talk to without worrying about being disruptive. This person should also check in with the new employee regularly, to ensure they are becoming increasingly confident and at ease in their new environment.

Onboard Temporary Employees Too

If your company uses contingent workers for projects, or temporary hires for the busy season, onboarding them matters too. Because they are with you only for a short time, onboarding must be focused and fast. Create a separate onboarding plan for your contingent workforce that only includes pertinent information. They need to know where the break room is as much as a permanent employee. Introduce them to the office communication programs, or train them to use the mechanical tools their job requires. Always treat them with friendliness and respect. Though temporary, these employees are often the face of your business during busy seasons, or offer critical skills for important projects.

Don’t Rush the Process

Longer onboarding yields the best results. For temporary hires, it should probably last throughout their tenure. This helps them feel as though they are part of the team, and increases the chances they will return to your company for future projects or busy seasons. For permanent hires, onboarding should last at least a year. Check-ins and updates between new employees and their managers and mentors will become less frequent, but they shouldn’t fall completely off the to-do list.

Once the onboarding process ends it should transition seamlessly into your company’s employee engagement strategy. Indeed, onboarding can be thought of as new hire employee engagement. The goal is to ensure employees feel supported in their work and career, and that their contributions to your company matter from day one.

Contact LINK today for onboarding that supports an engaged and satisfied workforce.