Employee onboarding 101: 9 best practices for a seamless start
Onboarding is a great time to establish company culture and introduce new members to the team. Here are nine time-tested tips for a successful onboarding.
By Darcy Hogendorn in
Great employee onboarding practices are an absolute must for any organization. With new hires given at least 50 tasks to complete as a part of onboarding, it’s crucial to have a smooth, well-organized process in place to help facilitate their goals.
And yet, according to a Gallup poll, a staggering 88% of organizations fail to handle onboarding well.
This number is definitely eye opening — but the employee onboarding experience is about more than making sure new hires stick around. It’s also critical to creating the kind of culture in which everyone is comfortable, happy to do their tasks, and more productive.
So, how do you create that kind of onboarding process? From welcome videos and other pre-recorded resources to setting clear expectations, we’ve got some guidance below to help elevate your onboarding process.
Here’s another interesting statistic: 20% of new hires leave within the first 45 days on the job. This speaks volumes about the value of a solid onboarding strategy. The first few weeks of a new job are heavily focused on orientation and getting up to speed. But a poorly organized process (or one that puts too much emphasis on paperwork and not enough on the new employee’s needs) creates a negative first impression of your company, and may send new team members running for the hills. Below, we’ll dive into why it’s critical to invest time and effort into building an excellent onboarding system.
Most of us have had awkward first days at work. But some people experience first days so bad that they question whether it’s worth sticking around. While it’s true that not everyone who has a rocky onboarding experience will immediately start looking for other jobs, smoothing out the process is still a smart choice.
Think of it this way: It takes a lot of time and money to find the perfect new employees for your roles. Onboarding those people the right way is like an insurance policy — it works wonders to make them feel at home, which is one of the quickest ways to create loyalty to your organization.
Effective onboarding should skip past the paperwork, setting up new computers, and all the rest of those administrative tasks. Instead, the process should get right to the point: showing new team members what your organization is about, and what your mission really is. It’s all about strengthening your company culture by instilling values, your vision, your mission, and expected behaviors right from the start.
Smoothing out your onboarding process also enhances productivity in several ways. First, it sets clear expectations right from day one. It also minimizes confusion, paperwork errors, and other problems that are common during the chaotic orientation period.
It also saves both you and the new team member a lot of time. From the first day, they can start learning the ropes and working on projects rather than dealing with the organizational side of things.
You can see how crucial it is to develop an onboarding process that makes new team members feel welcome. If you need some guidance on how to start implementing a solid onboarding process within your organization, below we’ve identified nine best practices that you can begin incorporating today.
There’s no reason to wait for a new team member’s first day to get started with the onboarding process. In fact, silence between offer acceptance and the first day can be quite unsettling for some people.
Rather than wasting those valuable days or weeks, get started on the onboarding process early. There are several things that can be done before the first day:
- Prepare payroll, benefits, and other new hire paperwork in advance.
- Set up the technology. Whether it’s setting up an office with a new computer, getting a company email up and running, or sending out tech essentials that remote workers will need, this should all be done ahead of time.
- Develop a series of onboarding videos. This is a great way to get the new hire orientation process started — and new team members will be able to watch them as they have time leading up to their first day. You can even pre-record training sessions so that team members have a head start and can arrive for their first day with any questions they might have.
It should be obvious, but surprisingly, a lot of employers miss this detail. All new hires deserve a warm welcome on day one, and it’s a simple gesture that goes a long way. Here’s what you can do:
- Start with a welcome note. It can be a letter, but these days, an email that expresses a warm welcome and recounts the reasons why you hired them works wonders.
- Even if you’ve already set them up with the tools and supplies you think they need, be sure to check in and ask if there’s anything else they need.
- Some company swag doesn’t hurt, either. A coffee mug, t-shirt, desk toy — give your new hires something cool that they’ll use and enjoy.
Another great way to help new team members settle in is a welcome presentation. You can gather team leaders in the conference room (or Zoom meeting) to say hello and to speak about the work your organization does, or you can create welcome videos that new hires can watch during slower periods of their first day. Whether in real time or pre-recorded, welcome presentations are important for helping new hires get to know key team leaders and your organization’s missions.
If you want to create welcome videos that you can use again and again whenever you onboard new hires, try Rewatch. It’s the perfect platform for organizing and storing videos on the cloud, and it’s easy to share videos with new team members throughout the onboarding process.
There is an app for everything these days — and you can smooth out the onboarding process with the right software. In fact, it doesn’t even necessarily have to be an app designed specifically for onboarding. However, it should serve as a one-stop shop for everything that new hires need.
If you do use human resources software, then make sure to set it up in advance so that it provides an automated, integrated way for new hires to fill out paperwork, check out the employee handbook, and perform all the other new hire HR tasks.
Beyond the human resources side of things, it’s also a good idea to create an onboarding portal, video library, or video wiki where people can dive in and watch everything from trainings to pre-recorded greetings and introductions from their new colleagues. If you already have a video library with a collection of orientation materials, then it’s a simple task to assign new team members to the right groups as part of the employee onboarding process.
While this may not be a day one practice, it definitely needs to be part of the process for the first week or first month — and you should consider having your first formal check-in meeting on the employee’s first day if possible.
There are a few reasons for this. First, it helps you set expectations right from the get-go. It’s also a good way to get to know each other. From there, you can build out a schedule of regular formal 1:1 check-in meetings.
Beyond that, it’s also smart to schedule some casual check-ins and meetings, too. Be sure that during the employee’s first week, they get to meet with all of their colleagues to get to know them. As team leader, make it your job to check in to make sure that new team members have everything that they need and that they’re starting to get the hang of their workflows.
All of this is all part of making new team members feel like part of the team, and making the onboarding process a positive experience.
Balance is the most important thing to remember. When you’re creating the schedule for a new hire’s first week (and as the manager, you should create the schedule rather than leaving it up to the new hire), you’ll need to make sure that it’s tightly structured so that you can fit in all the necessary trainings. But you’ll also need to make sure that the schedule includes plenty of breaks and space.
To put it simply, endless training sessions, introductions to new people, and a tour of the office are exhausting. This is why a great onboarding process is a balanced one. Don’t skimp on the breaks, and be sure to balance out the schedule with some less taxing duties to make the employee feel comfortable — not like they’re drowning in new information.
When you’re designing the schedule, consider what new team members need to know during the first week, and what they need to know in the first six months or first year. Then schedule accordingly — highest priorities first, with the rest spaced out over a reasonable timeframe.
Incidentally, a well-structured schedule also helps you to make a great first impression. It speaks of a team that plans ahead and values organization rather than one that periodically slips into chaos.
The best way to get things off to a great start is to set clear expectations and goals from the beginning. To do this, create a set of realistic short-term and long-term goals while keeping in mind that new employees won’t be quite as productive as veteran team members. Account for the fact that they’re still learning — and be sure to check in regularly to see what you can do to help newcomers effectively learn their new role.
When you want to get better at what you do, feedback is your friend. By that token, make sure that you provide plenty of opportunities for new team members to offer feedback. It could be thoughts on what could make the onboarding process easier or fresh new insights into your projects.
While it’s unlikely that new team members will give a harsh critique so early into a new position, another thing you can do is offer anonymous surveys to groups of new employees to encourage them to share their thoughts.
Where remote workers are concerned, be open to any ideas new hires may have about the way you teleconference or how you handle collaboration. You may find that a fresh new perspective offers up ample ways to improve remote processes.
A sure sign of poor onboarding is an employer who wants new hires to “hit the ground running” on their first day. It’s a stress-inducing phrase that speaks of a strenuous workplace culture where unreasonable expectations are the norm.
Instead, make sure that extended deadlines are part of your onboarding plan. This helps people settle into their new job comfortably, secure in the knowledge that they’ll have time to learn before things really start to ramp up. It’s a good way to set the stage for long-term employee satisfaction.
These employee onboarding best practices will get you off to a good start in creating an effective onboarding process that creates a welcoming, productive environment on the new hire’s first day. To build out an onboarding program for in-office or remote employees, try Rewatch. With our platform, you can create welcome videos, lay out your company values, provide training, and even help new team members get to know the rest of the team. Book your demo today!
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