Much has been written about the importance of good employee onboarding, with its many benefits including greater retention and productivity and reduced anxiety .
What is Onboarding?
Onboarding is the process of integrating new employees into a company’s culture and preparing them for their work. The process is conducted at the beginning of each person’s employment and helps introduce and lead new members to greater performance and commitment. A strong onboarding program should be the goal of every HR team, but what separates a great one from a bad one?
We’ve compiled 8 best practices for effective onboarding that put your employees on the right track.
Employee Onboarding Best Practices
1. Start Early
Onboarding should start well before the employee’s first day, even preboarding as early as the day they accept the offer. This allows your company to get some paperwork and formalities out of the way before the new hire arrives. In addition, it removes the period of limited contact that can lead applicants to second guess their decisions and potentially accept other offers.
It’s also a great opportunity to go over the logistics of an employee’s first day, letting them know where to go, when to be there, how to dress, what to bring and how their role will contribute to the team and company.
2. Get Everyone Involved
Onboarding often ends up being the side project of an employee who already has a full workload and it shows. You can improve the process immensely by setting up an onboarding team with defined responsibilities and getting the whole company involved.
Having everyone involved in some capacity, including executives, gives new hires a sense of acceptance and can help set the foundation for their education on your company culture. Everyone doesn’t need specific tasks to complete, but they should be looking to make newcomers feel welcome and supported. The team at Barometer makes sure that every new hire has 1-on-1 meetings with their manager on the first day and with the CEO in the first month. Nobody is too important to help onboard employees.
3. Create an Agenda
Organization is key and an agenda helps keep things on track and let your new employee and the company know what to expect. You want to leave enough down time for them to process what they’re learning and get themselves set up, but not enough that they’re left spinning their wheels and feeling useless.
HR is usually under pressure to get people spun up quickly and having a schedule can help make things move smoothly by setting dates in advance to avoid conflict. However, it’s also important to push back to ensure there’s enough time for proper onboarding.
4. Make Them Feel Welcome
New employee welcome letters help address first day questions and ease tensions. Whether it’s HR or a team lead, upper management should properly welcome new employees to demonstrate they value them. An extra nice touch is a new employee gift, ranging from a gift card for the nearest coffee shop to a company-branded bottle or mug. No matter how small, it makes sure they feel appreciated from day one.
It’s also important to have their desk and necessary equipment set up in advance. This should include anything they’ll need for their day-to-day tasks: notebook, pens, a good chair.
Schedule a tour of the office, building, campus, or any other facilities you have. Introduce them to as many people as you can that they may need to interact with. I always make a point to introduce my new team members to every person at the office, including the CEO.
5. Set Expectations
Don’t forget that they also need some face time with their direct manager across the first few weeks to build trust and get to know each other. When I have new team members, I take them out to lunch to get to know them a bit, while also going over first week expectations.
During that first week, I set long term expectations of what will be expected as far as job performance and responsibilities. A lack of preparation and goals from a manager will leave them without a clear sense of how to succeed.
It’s also important to put their role in context of the team’s goals, the company culture, organizational values, and their career. It’s well known that giving employees a sense of their impact on the overall organization is an important factor in employee engagement.
6. Make Training Interactive
Training can be a long and tedious process if you aren’t careful to keep the trainee engaged. There are a lot of ways to do this and it will vary wildly depending on the tasks they’ll be working on, but make sure you aren’t talking at them for hours or drowning them in documentation to read. Not only does the variety help keep people interested, but people learn better using different methods, so you want to touch on as many as possible.
We find its most productive to incorporate multiple training methods, including asking questions, having the new hire teach you about their responsibilities, and having them get their hands dirty with real work as soon as we can. Research from Harvard’s Eric Mazur has shown that learning gains can be more than doubled by asking questions and making trainees defend their answers.
7. Provide Resources
Questions are inevitable, and for most jobs, new employees won’t be fully up to speed for a period of several months, or even a year. It’s important that you make people available to answer their questions and set up follow-up training and feedback.
In addition, it’s also helpful to have a resource database for employees to teach themselves and get answers to frequently asked questions. The team at Barometer records many of our training's and has created an internal wiki employees page that can be used to search for answers to basic questions and details of various procedures. Making these resources available in multiple formats will help people who learn in different ways.
8. Check in Along the Way
The onboarding process doesn’t end on the first day, the first week, or even the first month. It is best practice to perform employee onboarding programs that continue for at least a full year and use both formal and informal avenues during this period. As a manager, it’s important to follow-up and check in on their progress for two key reasons:
Ensure your employee is on track: To stop checking in too soon opens the possibility that early misunderstandings become locked in. Schedule weekly check ins to support them as they take on job responsibilities and plan additional training as needed.
Encourage new employee feedback: Asking for suggested changes or additions to onboarding is important for improving the process for future hires. Being responsive to employee opinions is vital to engagement and retention and can therefore impact company productivity.
Bringing it All Together
In the end, it all comes down to setting the right foundation for new employees to be happy, productive, and engaged members of your team. Following the steps above will help your employees get started on the right foot. Of course, ensuring high engagement isn’t something that can end with onboarding, and you’ll need to employ long term strategies and measurement to inspire passion in your team. Check out our post on employee engagement to learn more!