Employee Onboarding: The Go-To Guide

By Sabrina Balmick, Marketing Manager, ACA Talent

Recruiting isn’t always easy, but keeping new hires can be even tougher.Employee Onboarding Guide

Companies often spend a great deal of time, effort, and money recruiting top talent. However, onboarding is where all of that hard work culminates, and you can see whether employees will be successful or if they will stay.

A company’s onboarding process, like its recruiting process, serves as a tangible extension of its culture and what a new employee can expect.

In our experience as an RPO­ partner, we’ve found that candidates who were wowed by a highly engaging recruitment process expected the same from their new hire onboarding experience.

Authenticity and transparency are both important for today’s job seeker, and they continue to be important across the employee lifecycle.

What is employee onboarding?

Onboarding is the process by which an organization welcomes a new employee into the fold. Throughout the onboarding process, the new hire gains the required skills and knowledge to be successful in their new position.

The new employee onboarding process itself may differ from company to company, depending on the organization’s size, scope, and onboarding goals. However, employee onboarding usually involves the following areas:

  • New hire orientation, which includes new hire paperwork and basic introductions to policies and procedures
  • Introductions to key stakeholders, including direct managers, executives, and peers
  • Training and on-the-job learning, such as formal classroom training, job shadowing, and mentoring

Why is employee onboarding so important?

Employee Onboarding

According to a study by Engage2Excel, 69 percent of candidates would make a decision to stay or go based on their first day on the job; 59 percent report that they would start looking for a new opportunity immediately if the onboarding experience was poor.

Similarly, a 2009 Aberdeen Group study cited by SHRM reveals 86 percent of HR leaders surveyed believed new hires made decisions to stay or go based on their first six months of employment.

In fact, BambooHR surveyed new hires who had left their positions within the first six months and asked what changes would have prompted them to stay. The findings were as follows:

  • 23 percent would have liked clear guidelines of their responsibilities
  • 21 percent would have liked more effective training
  • 17 percent felt a “friendly smile or helpful coworker would have made all the difference”
  • 12 percent just wanted recognition for their contributions
  • 9 percent wanted more attention from managers and peers

Clearly, new employee onboarding is a critical puzzle piece to retaining the talent you worked so hard to recruit.

To help you develop a water-tight onboarding plan so your new hire can acclimate to your company and ramp up quickly, we put together a mega list of onboarding tips.

Employee onboarding strategies

Employee Onboarding

  1. If you travel often or work offsite, plan on being in the office for at least the first week and throughout the training process so your new employee doesn’t feel at sea without direction and leadership.
  2. Start early. Send out an email to your team prior to your new hire’s arrival. Include your new employee’s start date, title, a brief bio, and a link to their LinkedIn profile, if available. Encourage team members to reach out and welcome your new team member, too.
  3. Make it personal. Send a welcome email to your new hire. You’ve likely already been communicating with your new recruit throughout the recruitment process. This is especially critical if a couple of weeks have elapsed between completing your pre-employment testing process and the start date. For in-demand positions like sales, it’s crucial to keep your candidates warm (even after the recruiting process has been completed) so other employers don’t snap them up.

    Brian Westfall, Senior HR Researcher with Software Advice says, “If new hires get the silent treatment between the job offer and starting a new position, you’re sending the wrong message. Start by creating an onboarding portal new hires can access at home before they start. From there, they can learn about the company and get the required paperwork out of the way on their own time.”

  4. Appearances matter. The desk your new employee will sit at, the phone they’ll be using, and even the chair they’re sitting in should be clean and presentable—make your new team member feel at home. And by maintaining your facilities and furnishings, you’ll also bolster your company’s image to be more attractive to prospective employees.
  5. Your new hire’s arrival shouldn’t feel like an afterthought. When in doubt, Boyscout everything—from setting up a desk, phone, computer, office supplies, even fun, company-branded products—anything a new employee would need to feel welcome and at home in their new role.

    SaaS company ClickTime takes this a step further. Head of Talent Sarah Dabby says, “When we advertise a job opening, we generally list something silly and unusual in our perks section: an ocelot, unicorns, Lego, chocolate, and ponies have all been listed as perks. When an employee starts, we make sure that the silly and unusual perk listed in their job description is waiting for them on their desk, alongside their usual office setup. Ideally, we always try to find something interactive, because it then breaks the ice, fosters team bonding, and always gives new employees something to laugh about.”

    Remember, you don’t need fancy new hire kits to make a good impression—just a clean desk, computer, and office supplies. This will save your new employee from wandering around the office searching for a stapler or pens, and help them focus on ramping up faster.

  6. Related to this, set up any email addresses and database accounts (such as your CRM) your new employee will need, and provide a list of passcodes.
  7. If hiring remote employees, bring them into the office for the first week. This helps them integrate quickly into the company culture and put names to faces. Still, a week isn’t enough time and you’ll want to check in regularly with them. You can use video-based tools like Skype or GoToMeeting to make those meetings more personal.
  8. Get your team involved to help integrate your new hire into your company’s culture. Set up a welcome committee and activities for your new hires outside of training, such as lunches, dinners, or get-to-know-you sessions. New voices underscore diversity of thought and demonstrate your company culture in real-time.
  9. Share a company organization chart with your new hire to provide an overview of your key players Employee Onboardingand reporting structure.
  10. Order business cards and have those ready by your new hire’s start date.
  11. Provide a list of contact names, phone numbers, and email addresses in print and electronic versions.
  12. Beyond discussing HR policies and procedures, discuss your company’s mission and vision: what keeps you in your line of business and why. Employees aren’t only looking for a paycheck—they’re looking for a sense of belonging. Your company’s mission, vision, and core values are key to fostering meaningful engagement.
  13. Teach your new hire how to use your phone system and provide written instructions for reference. Nothing is more frustrating than not knowing how to access voicemails or place calls outside the office.
  14. Take a photo of your new hire and post it on your internal company television or social media feeds. This makes your new person feel welcome, and it also engages your current employee population with the onboarding and welcoming process.
  15. For an extra personalized touch, include a handwritten welcome note from a supervisor and/or the team on your new employee’s desk.
  16. Give your new employee a tour of the facilities and introduce them to team members. This helps your new person put names to faces, as well as figure out the lay of the land. Don’t neglect everyday essentials like the kitchen and restroom.
  17. Talk about your company’s culture, even basics like when everyone goes to lunch, what the typical day looks like, and how many hours everyone works. If there are cultural shifts currently in play, talk about those candidly too. Perhaps you were once a 9-5 office and now everyone works at least until 7. If you’re working longer hours, explain why and how employees achieve balance. Be as transparent as possible without alienating your new hire.
  18. Employee OnboardingMake a point to get the team together on the first day for lunch. If the team’s too big or your budget feels stretched, order in or throw a potluck lunch.
  19. For added impact, get your new hires together on a quarterly basis with your executives. HR consultant Krishna Powell of HR 4 Your Small Biz says, “Not only do new hires love when executives care enough to come meet them, but it also helps to connect your new hire to the organization. They love it when the executive looks them in the eye to say thank you for joining our team.”
  20. Ditch the ice-breakers. They’re awkward and they’re inauthentic. Instead, try engaging your new employees on a personal level: what are they passionate about? Why did they choose to work for you? Illustrate how your company’s values align with theirs through real-life examples of company culture.
  21. Ask for constant feedback. Naomi J. Hardy, an HR expert and management consultant, suggests holding an end-of-day Q-and-A session in which your new hire can ask questions and discuss any concerns.
  22. You can also extend the informal feedback cycle to once a week over the first 30 days of training and then every 30 days thereafter. This quick temperature check will help you understand how your new hire is doing, what challenges they may be facing, and what they like best about their job, outside of a formalized review.
  23. Ask your HR group to set up a formal review process, ideally after the first week, and then at the 30, 60, and 90-day marks to evaluate progress, address concerns, and continue building a career plan for your employee.
  24. Create a training schedule and stick to it. There’s nothing worse than starting a new job and not knowing where you’re supposed to be, what you’re supposed to be learning, and who you’re supposed to be meeting with. Create structure to ease some of the stress of transitioning to a new job. Breaking up training into easily-digestible increments will also facilitate better learning.Employee Onboarding
  25. Training isn’t only about how to do the job—it should also make a case for why the job exists in the first place. “When employees learn the why from day one, they understand how their position fits into the company’s long-term goals, thereby aligning them to the team,” says David Scarola, Chief Experience Officer of The Alternative Board.
  26. Implement a buddy system where your hire new has a company host to help them get to know the company better. This person (likely a peer) can help introduce them to other employees and build relationships faster. It’ll also ease the sense of isolation of not knowing anyone well enough.
  27. If the office location is unfamiliar to your new hire, share key details about the surrounding area, such as restaurants, dry cleaners, supermarkets, pharmacies, and so on.
  28. Illustrate the career path with your company by discussing your performance review process and promotion tracks.
  29. Always try to onboard more than one person, so they have a team to grow with. Employees who start together have the opportunity to build relationships and support networks.
  30. Every company has awards, plaques, milestones, and unique achievements they’re proud of. Don’t leave your new employee in the dark about these.
  31. Make sure your new employee’s seat is surrounded by positive individuals that define your culture. It’s not best to place them in a row with the underperformer or someone who is consistently negative about the company’s performance.
  32. Show how your product or service works in real time, so your new hire can understand the true impact. Sophie Lhoutellier, HR Manager at Badger Maps says, “Our company culture is built around teamwork and a fun atmosphere, so Steve Benson [our CEO] takes each intern class on a scavenger hunt to get to know our neighborhood using our app Badger Maps.”

    Scavenger hunts are also popular with Less Annoying CRM. “On a new hire’s very first day, we send them out on a scavenger hunt through downtown St. Louis with a list of clues about the city. They need to take a selfie with each clue, and at the end of the scavenger hunt, we reward them with company swag and peruse the resulting selfies together. It’s a great way to nudge new employees into the underappreciated parts of downtown St. Louis, and it also gives us a breather in between training sessions!” says CRM Coach, Jesse Yang.

After perusing this list, you may find that the sky’s the limit when it comes to developing an employee onboarding strategy that’s effective, comprehensive, and fun. Remember, welcoming a new hire into your company isn’t only about policies and procedures—it’s about building a long-term relationship with a key member of your team.

In their own onboarding guide, BambooHR writes, “New hires want to learn how to do their job and the inner workings of your company. In short, they want to start doing meaningful work and contribute fast!”

By adding a human twist on essential tasks, you’ll boost employee engagement and drive retention rates, ultimately giving you bang for your recruiting buck.

As we put together this post, several of our employees contributed their ideas to help make it better. We’d like to thank Davi Towbin, Tony Cali, Ashley Crites, and Broderick Deberry for their ideas and insights.

If you have suggestions or updates to this, please feel free to reach out to us, and we’ll be sure to make an update (with credit to you!).

Additional Employee Onboarding Resources:

SHRM Employee Onboarding Guide

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