8 Tips to Help Successfully Onboard New Employees

  •  05/26/2021
  • By Andrea Collatz
  •  Compliance , Criminal Background , Employer

It’s a new employee’s first day working for your small business. Do you want them to remember how easy it is to use the cappuccino machine, how easy the first-day paperwork and compliance tests were, and how welcoming coworkers have been? Or do you want a new hire commuting home thinking, “That place is a hot mess, what the heck have I gotten myself into?”

Hiring a new employee is an exciting time for your business—it generally signals that business is growing, profits are increasing, and overall, things are going well. But all too many businesses forget one of the most important steps in the hiring process is onboarding. According to a research brief authored by the Brandon Hall Group and available through Glassdoor®*, effective employee onboarding programs increase retention by 82% and boost productivity by 70%.

According to Glassdoor, organizations with advanced onboarding processes improved new hire retention by 82%

*Trademarks mentioned in this blog are the property of their respective owners, and no affiliation or endorsement is implied.

So why do nearly half of the employees feel that their new hire experience could be improved? It might have to do with the fact that so many employees say their company’s onboarding program was primarily focused on paperwork and process. Or perhaps, it’s because some companies don’t offer an onboarding program at all.

Bottom line: onboarding new employees is an essential part of the hiring process—perhaps second only to running a pre-employment background check. Not only is onboarding a medium for establishing expectations, outlining the qualities of a strong employee, and reviewing company policies, it’s also a formative time for employees to assimilate into the company culture and boost their confidence as they transition into their new role. To learn how to onboard more efficiently, check out this guide for 8 tips that may help you when crafting an employee onboarding program that’s engaging and effective.

What is Employee Onboarding?

It can be difficult to define the specifics of employee onboarding, as every company has its own process and goals to meet when bringing on new staff members. The Society for Human Resource Management* (SHRM) breaks down employee onboarding into three main objectives:

  • Acclimation: One of the biggest contributing factors to an employee’s success at an organization is their comfort level in a new work environment. Introducing your new employees to your company culture, organizational values, and colleagues is more beneficial. Humans are just as socially driven at work as they are outside of it.
  • Engagement: According to Gallup, companies with engaged workers see 22% more profitability, 21% more productivity, and higher performance in customer ratings when compared to companies with low levels of engagement. SHRM says effective onboarding plans foster positive relationships between new hires and management.
  • Retention: Providing new employees with the knowledge and resources they need to succeed in their job can help retain employees and improve their experience. Losing an employee is a hassle at the least, and heartache if the person played a pivotal role on your team. Whether you’re running a small business or a large corporation, costs from employee turnover can certainly add up.

From podcasts to instructional videos to on-the-job teaching, how you decide to format your onboarding program is up to you, just make sure it’s as engaging and informative as possible.

*Trademarks mentioned in this blog are the property of their respective owners, and no affiliation or endorsement is implied.

Is employee onboarding only for new hires?

Employers should consider doing employee onboarding for both new and existing employees. Ideally, your employees will all be onboarded when they are first hired, but there are some circumstances that may warrant you thinking about additional training and onboarding:

  • An employee was hired before an onboarding process was initiated
  • Your organization has changed the onboarding procedure since the employee was hired
  • The employee received a promotion or is changing positions within the organization

What should employee onboarding cover?

The specifics of your onboarding program mostly pertain to your objectives as an organization and your company’s culture, but some common elements of employee onboarding include, but are not limited to:

Graphic showing the key components of employee onboarding programs in the U.S.

  • Compliance and Safety Training
    • Fire safety
    • Sexual harassment training
    • Workplace health and safety
    • OSHA safety
  • Processes and Procedures
    • Employee manuals
    • Company policies
    • Benefits
    • Time-off
    • Human resources introduction
  • Technical Skills Development
    • Job-specific training
  • Soft Skills Training
    • Team-building
    • Communication training
  • Company Culture
  • Products and Services Training
    • Demos
  • Technology, Tools, and Systems
    • Computer set-up
    • Introduction to project management systems
    • Training on related technology

How long should employee onboarding last?

The length of your onboarding process depends on your organization and the complexity of the position. Just ensure your employee has the chance to settle into their position and workplace with ongoing support throughout their tenure, not just for their first day or first week at work.

Consider these basic recommendations for onboarding new employees:

  • Before you hire: Be transparent in the hiring process—post a clear, accurate job description, keep candidates updated on status throughout the recruiting process, and exercise the utmost professionalism when conducting interviews. This time of “discovery” could also include running a comprehensive background check. We’re biased, but we recommend ShareAble for Hires for near-instant insights into someone’s credit, criminal and identity-matching reports.
  • When you make an offer: Present your initial offer over the phone followed by a written offer outlining details about the position, their start date, and how they can reach you in the meantime.
  • Before their first day: Prepare your new hire’s paperwork, set up their desk and equipment, schedule their primary onboarding session and HR meeting, and loop your new hire in on any additional details they should know about their first day.
  • On their first day: Introduce your new hire to the team, take them on an office tour, and review their itinerary for their first week at work. Treat them to lunch with some of their colleagues. Then, complete their initial onboarding meeting which should include a review of company policies, information about benefits, instructions to request time-off, and an overview of the team culture and your company’s overall mission.

Employer introducing new hire during onboarding process

  • Within their first few months: Set goals to create structure and motivate throughout your new hire’s first 90 days. Managers should hold regular one-on-one meetings to review progress and get a gauge on how the person is adjusting to the job and company as a whole. Finally, wrap up your onboarding process with an opportunity for both new hires and their managers to exchange feedback.

Want to learn more creative ways to onboard? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know.

What are some of the challenges associated with a weak onboarding program?

Employee onboarding is an extremely important aspect of the hiring process. It impacts profitability, productivity, and improves employee satisfaction.

So, what makes an onboarding program bad?

The Society for Human Resources Management says these faux-pas can be detrimental:

  • Managers or colleagues who don’t know how to conduct training or can’t answer vital questions
  • Leaving new employees alone for lunch on day one
  • Welcoming a new employee into an office space that’s messy or dysfunctional
  • Giving the new employee a desk that’s not set up properly
  • A manager that uses intimidation tactics rather than offering support
  • Spending too much time on boring topics instead of engaging employees

Tips for Successful Employee Onboarding

1) Be prepared

If there’s one thing that dating and onboarding have in common, then it’s the importance of a good first impression. In the first few weeks of work, new hires are trying to figure out where they fit into the company culture and their professional role. That’s what makes this stage so critical to your company’s success.

When your new employee(s) arrive on their first day, make sure to have all of the materials you need for training in order. This includes new hire documents, technology, equipment, and meeting spaces. In addition to preparing training items, you should also ensure that anyone that’s conducting onboarding is well-equipped with answers to common questions and that the trainee has a detailed itinerary to fill their time.

Showing your new hires that you’re ready for their arrival and determined to help them succeed may contribute to their first impressions in a positive way, and hopefully, set them up for growth within your organization.

2) Present information in different ways

Everyone learns differently, whether you’re talking about speaking a new language, solving a math equation, or learning the ropes at a new job. To help make your onboarding process as effective as possible, employers should consider how to present the information and how they can translate it to different formats if necessary.

For visual learners, step-by-step training videos could be a good option; for those who prefer written directions, an employee manual could do the trick.

3) Involve major players

Oftentimes, onboarding programs involve just a few team members, which makes it easy to pigeonhole new hires into one department rather than giving them the opportunity to mix and mingle with other teams or executives.

By including executives and other departments in your onboarding process, you can:

  • Empower new employees to learn about how the company works as a whole
  • Encourage them to make broader connections
  • Eliminate intimidations they might have with executives and upper management

4) Outline a path for professional development

So far, we’ve talked about employee onboarding as a place to:

  • Educate new employees on office protocol
  • Train staff on job-specific duties
  • Foster professional connections
  • Improve retention and productivity

But, how does a strong onboarding program impact an employee’s long-term success within a company? For one, a strong onboarding program gets new employees started off on the right foot and primed for growth.

The key to facilitating professional growth during the onboarding process is making it a point to discuss goals. Once you establish something specific for new hires to work toward, you should schedule regular check-ins to review where they’re at and address any other matters that could impact how they’re adjusting to their new workplace.

5) Be original to better retain

Your onboarding process doesn’t have to be all about company policies, paperwork, and processes. In fact, as we mentioned before, focusing on these elements could actually hurt your program.

Here are a few creative ways to onboard new employees:

  • Incorporate team-building games and activities
  • Hold an orientation session for a group of new hires
  • Craft an onboarding kit with need-to-know information and company swag
  • Partner new hires with a mentor or buddy for the first year of their employment
  • Take your new employees out for a welcome lunch with key team members
  • Have trainees do an art project related to your company’s values
  • Create a checklist to ensure they meet their onboarding goals
  • Give new staff a dictionary of terminology that’s specific to your organization or industry
  • Have new employees complete a scavenger hunt to get them familiarized with the office space
  • Post their photo and professional bio in the employee breakroom to introduce them to existing staff

6) Treat onboarding as a process, not an event

Onboarding should be viewed as a continuous process, not a single-day event. Think about it: if you tried to answer every new hire question over the course of one workday or even their first week, you’d likely miss a few key points, and you’d certainly overwhelm your new team member with information.

Depending on the job and your company’s preferences, your onboarding process might last up to three months. This strategy facilitates strong connections, establishes a sense of transparency and support, and can ultimately improve the experience and tenure of new employees.

Onboarding your employee may take up to several months

7) Delegate onboarding responsibilities

One of the main factors that prevent companies from implementing onboarding processes is the concern over budget. Yes, onboarding does require money and resources, but when compared to the cost of employee turnover, the money needed to onboard doesn’t sound so bad.

One way you can combat money and resource-draining is by distributing onboarding and training responsibilities. When you have one person in charge of the process, you’re taking them away from their work, limiting productivity, and narrowing the new hire’s perspective down to just one source of information.

By delegating tasks among different staff members, you can get people back to work, while also improving the onboarding process for your new hire.

The “buddy system” is a popular method that organizations use to share training responsibilities and foster strong professional relationships between team members. This strategy partners the new hire with a veteran colleague to help them adjust to the new role. While their “buddy” might not join all the training sessions, they’re made available to help with other matters that will help ease the new employee’s transition.

8) Measure effectiveness and adjust

No matter how detailed you are in your planning process, it’s unlikely that your training program will be flawless from the start. The good news is, you can lean on your initial program (and this guide) to help you adjust and improve as your staff and training systems grow.

Since the onboarding process should ideally span the first few months of employment, employers should wait until the entire process is complete before surveying staff. Here are some ways you can get insight into your onboarding program:

  • Have new hires meet with their managers one-on-one to discuss the onboarding process
  • Send out a survey to all recent hires asking them to rate certain parts of the program, and ask them for feedback on how the process can be improved
  • Conduct an open forum meeting for recent hires to ask additional training questions and discuss onboarding processes

Use the information you collect to tailor and improve your onboarding program for future hires. Employers should also keep in mind that your new hires aren’t robots, so it’s unlikely that they’ll absorb everything right away.

What this means for you: managers should be prepared to review questions and information over the first few months of the new hire’s employment.

Before Good Onboarding, Screen Out the Wrong Applicants

Despite so many advantages, some companies are still behind the curve on employee onboarding. It’s crucial for employers to put forth the effort to retain their roster, but it’s also important to attract top-quality talent in the first place.

By conducting an online background check from ShareAble for Hires before making an official offer, you can save yourself time and money. ShareAble® for Hires is designed for small business owners and hiring managers to quickly and legally access credit, criminal and ID-verification background reports of the people they want to hire.

Relying on Google search results, Facebook posts, or LinkedIn connections* to screen out job applicants could get you into hot water with respect to labor laws. Better protect your business from lawsuits and fines with compliant employment screening reports that are delivered to your inbox within minutes. The one-time cost of an employment background check may prove to be well worth it if your company takes on a high-quality candidate. When you start your hiring process off with good screening, you start your onboarding process off with good employees. Screen confidently with ShareAble for Hires.

*Trademarks mentioned in this blog are the property of their respective owners, and no affiliation or endorsement is implied.

Learn more about employment screening

Senior Marketing Analyst, TransUnion ShareAble

Andrea Collatz

She focuses on topics that empower small business owners through data, insights and industry best practices.

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