The Ultimate Guide To Employee Onboarding

  • Brace
  • April 17, 2018
  • 10 min

Giving employees the right start benefits the workplace and new team members. Effective employee onboarding provides new team members with a direct spring into their new job; increasing retention, productivity, and accelerating the learning curve. We’ll discuss why onboarding matters, ways to do it right, and provide key takeaways to quickly bring new team members up to speed.

What Is Employee Onboarding?

At its most basic definition, employee onboarding is a process by which a new hire is integrated into an organization. Depending on the setting, this may take from a few months to more than a year. A 2012 survey of HR professionals found that it takes 8 months on average for an employee to become fully productive. That means that employers need to consider their onboarding process carefully to determine whether it adequately prepares new employees for the job they are being paid to do.

Why Onboarding Matters

Onboarding has tangible benefits for employers: If you teach a new hire how to properly do the job, he or she will be more productive. However, it also has hidden benefits for the organization as a whole. An estimated 20% of employee turnover occurs in the first 45 days of employment. Often, this occurs because new employees realize the culture isn’t a good fit, feel overwhelmed by the job responsibility, or are inadequately prepared for their new tasks. An effective onboarding process ameliorates these concerns, helping new hires feel connected to the organization and supported in their early days of employment.

Goals of Effective Onboarding

Starting a new role comes with many challenges for employees and companies. Employees have to learn a new system and work processes while integrating themselves into a new team. Employers have a role that needs filled and need to get new team members up to speed and productivity as quickly as possible. To bring these ends together, onboarding benefits from pursuing specific goals:

Goals for Onboarding

  • Ease new employees’ transition by facilitating their ability to contribute
  • Make new employees comfortable in their new role
  • Reaffirm a new team member’s decision to join your company
  • Accelerate and improve productivity
  • Build commitment and increase employee engagement

Typical Onboarding Mistakes

Integrating new employees is always a challenge and every workplace has its own needs and style. There are, however, a few easy mistakes that hinder any onboarding effort.

Mistakes to avoid:

  • Getting a late start. First impressions matter and the first days are critical for an employees opinion and perspectives. Studies show that nearly 33% of employees left jobs within the first 6 months, and 86% feel the first months influence this decision. Avoid this by getting an early start with onboarding and help new employees fit into their new workplace and role.
  • Treating onboarding as a one day task. It takes months to bring an employee fully into a team. New tasks and relationships take time to learn and there’s always a fresh challenge on the horizon. Support new hires through this process with an onboarding plan that stays by there side through the whole process.
  • Providing less useful information. Uncertainty is a large factor in employee turnover, but a 2016 Gallup poll found that only 50% of employees have a clear understanding of their role. How vacation and benefits work is of course necessary information, but it doesn’t let new hires know what they can expect from the job, and what’s expected of them. Use onboarding to clarify tasks, company, and where employees fit in.
  • Having no clear end goal. If you don’t know what you hope to achieve with onboarding, then you’re unlikely to see positive results. A lack of direction makes new hires feel more uncertain and management will see less increase in productivity. Make sure your onboarding has clear goals, so your onboarding plan can be effective and productive.

5 Stages of Onboarding

Onboarding truly starts even before a new hire arrives for their first day. Dividing onboarding into its individual parts makes it easier to construct goals and identify the results. Onboarding can be broken into 5 parts:

  1. Prehire: Once a candidate has been chosen, it’s time to clearly define what they need to know.
  2. Day one: Plan a welcoming, informative first day, help the new hire feel at home, and clarify who they can turn to for support.
  3. Orientation: This phase gives employees an understanding of the company, its mission, and the processes of the workplace.
  4. Tasks and training: The new hire should learn what their exact role is, as well as the tools and methods to complete the task.
  5. Performance: New employees are making productive contributions to the company and results.

Key Parts of the Employee Onboarding Process

Given the myriad benefits of strong employee onboarding, HR professionals are always looking for ways to improve the onboarding process. The following components help build an effective program:

  • Compliance with legal obligations. Create a streamlined process to handle contracts, information on benefits, required health and safety training, or other legal obligations. This frees up admin time to address more important components of onboarding.
  • Logistics. When should the new employee report to work? Where will they be working? What desk, phone, or computer will they use? Work out this plan before the person’s first day of work, and your new hire will be impressed with your company’s organization and ability to care for employees.
  • Goal setting. Astonishingly, 60% of companies do not set milestones or goals for new hires. Outlining your expectations up front reduces confusion later on. Present goals in writing, and consider this a collaborative document with the new employee. Adding milestones or a specific timeline will ensure that everyone knows what is expected.
  • Training plan. Before your new employee starts, make a document that contains all of their responsibilities (enlisting the help of the outgoing team member can help make sure that little tasks aren’t forgotten). Next, organize the responsibilities by domain (management, events, sales, marketing, etc.) and create a detailed training plan.
  • Company culture. Your company culture and core mission should be threaded throughout the onboarding process. Remember that this is your opportunity to generate excitement for your corporate mission and values. Companies with official onboarding programs are 66% more successful at integrating new employees into the company culture, while 54% stated that their employees are more engaged.

Dos and Don’ts of Employee Onboarding

Whether you are creating a new employee onboarding experience or improving your existing program, consider these dos and don’ts for the greatest success:

  • Do: Think about what you want your employee to say about their first day of work. Do you want someone to go home and say, “yeah, it was okay. I just filled out a lot of paperwork” or “I think I’m going to really like it there! I got to meet the team I’ll be working with and started learning about our fantastic product”? The choice is obvious. Craft your onboarding experience accordingly to ensure you build engagement from day one.
  • Do: Provide time for questions. No one wants to look foolish in front of a new employer. As a result, many new hires are reluctant to ask questions for fear of making a bad impression. To combat this, build time for questions into your onboarding process.
  • Do: Involve the whole team. Assigning a primary mentor during onboarding improves employee engagement and self-efficacy even years later. In addition to this mentor, involve multiple team members in training and social activities to create a team building atmosphere.
  • Don’t: Assume an employee will just pick things up on the fly. There is no substitute for a structured training plan with clearly defined milestones. Learning through observation is fine, but only if it occurs in conjunction with more structured learning opportunities.

Key Takeaways

  • Up to 33% of employee turnover occurs in the first 6 months, making onboarding a critical factor in keeping top talent.
  • Onboarding is integral not only for giving new hires info about HR procedures, but making them feel welcome and reconfirming their decision to work for your company.
  • Effective onboarding programs have clear goals and teach new employees their role, their team, what’s expected of them, and familiarize them with the tools to succeed.
  • Onboarding is an ongoing task that continues through a new hire’s first months until they are productive and integrated team members.

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