How to Create a Successful Onboarding Process: Checklist & Tips
Attracting and hiring new employees is challenging enough in this tight labor market, but there’s one element in the employee journey that’s even more crucial: once you’ve found that perfect candidate, how do you keep them on board?
Find out how to offer an unforgettable employee onboarding experience and how to set up new hires for success in this article. We’ll also cover the strategic importance of onboarding new employees and share some tips and best practices. This way, you can be sure to retain that new talent for the long term.
- Intro: First Impressions Matter
- What is the Definition of Onboarding?
- Why is Onboarding So Important?
- Benefits of Employee Onboarding
- Creating an Onboarding Process
- Employee Onboarding Automation
- How to Deal with Virtual Onboarding
- Inspiring Ideas
- Best Practices to Make A New Hire Succeed
- Checklist for Onboarding New Hires
1. Intro: First Impressions Matter
You only have one chance to make a first impression. As much as this is true for human beings, it’s also the case for companies. So much so, that almost 90% of all new hires decide whether to stay or go within the first six months of their new job. In a time when the battle to find and attract talent is in full swing and the number of vacancies has risen to record levels, people are more inclined to hop from one job to the next when they don’t feel happy or engaged – especially younger generations. More specifically, organizations with poorly-handled onboarding programs are twice as likely to cause new hires to look for greener pastures – fast. Today these are easy to find, as companies increasingly go the extra mile to entice candidates with competitive compensation, generous benefits packages, and other perks like professional development training.
So given the current job market, companies better keep their new hires engaged from the get-go. That goes beyond offering the newbie a warm welcome on their first day in the office and having them sign the paperwork because that will only get you so far. Instead, it’s all about creating a complete and unforgettable onboarding experience: a key element of the employee journey. When done right, nothing will stand in the way of keeping talents on board for the long term, which will ultimately drive sustainable company success.
2. What is the Definition of Onboarding?
Employee onboarding refers to the process where new employees familiarize themselves with a company and its culture. It’s the time when they learn everything they need to know and are provided with all the right tools to become a fully operational member of the team. It can be thought of as the honeymoon phase between an employee and an employer: the time when they build a respectful and lasting relationship, which can be quite magical if it starts off the right way.
Basically, the foundations for that relationship have already been laid during the recruiting process, where the new employee ideally had a wonderful candidate experience – just like a first date that went really well. If, as a company, your employer branding is on point, that connection probably started even earlier. It’s what made people apply for the job in the first place, as they felt attracted to the company’s brand, what it stands for, and what it has to offer them.
3. Why is Employee Onboarding So Important?
The purpose of onboarding is twofold: on the one hand, it aims to ensure that new employees are productive as quickly as possible. On the other hand – and this is becoming increasingly important – it allows companies to win over the hearts of their new talents. The more they love working for you, the more loyal they will be, and the less easily they will be tempted to move to competitors. However, when the onboarding process is done poorly, chances are they’ll be gone in no time. This is not only frustrating – after all, HR usually puts in a lot of time and effort to attract and hire the right staff – but it also costs money. It’s therefore of strategic importance that companies seize the opportunity for a lasting relationship with their staff, and that all stakeholders within the organization are aware that successful onboarding offers numerous advantages: it has a positive impact on staff turnover, costs, productivity, company culture, and overall ROI.
Onboarding is a magic moment when new employees decide to stay engaged or become disengaged. It offers an imprinting window when you can make an impression that stays with new employees for the duration of their careers.
Amy Hirsh Robinson, Human Capital Strategist and thought leader at Interchange Consulting Group
4. The Benefits of Good Onboarding Are Significant
A solid onboarding process has many benefits, both for the employer and the employee. These are the most important ones, backed up by some significant numbers:
- In 58% of all cases, newly hired employees will still work at the same company three years later if they have gone through a structured onboarding process
- A standard onboarding program can reduce the time-to-productivity of new staff by 70%, which means they will contribute to company revenue faster
- A strong onboarding process can improve new employee retention by 82%
- 33 percent of employees report feeling more engaged after an effective onboarding because they have a clear understanding of the mission, vision, strategy, goals, and company culture
- New employees experience higher levels of happiness and less stress when they had a good onboarding because they feel at home within the company’s social structures, and it’s clear what is expected of them
- Companies with an inspiring and fun onboarding program are a lot more attractive to new talent as it directly influences their employer branding and value proposition
- 78% of organizations that have invested in onboarding have seen an increase in revenue, and 54% have seen significant gains in engagement measures
In other words, there are myriad reasons to invest in the onboarding process. Considering that a new employee takes an average of 8 to 12 months to be fully productive, and the cost of replacing an employee is between 1.5 and 15K, this topic should be high on the agenda of HR departments and management teams.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case: Gallup found that only 12% of employees feel that their company provides a positive onboarding experience. Also, the research shows that only 32% of the companies surveyed have established a formal onboarding program.
5. Creating an Onboarding Process that Works
Let’s take a look at the various stages a new hire goes through and dive into the success factors of the onboarding process:
The preboarding phase includes the time from signing the contract to the first official work day. This is a period when, although the employee has not yet started, they are eager to begin. You want to maintain that enthusiasm. Some tips:
- Send practical information about the position and the organization in advance. This can be the company brochure, the employee manual, the contract, and other onboarding documentation like dress code policies, health care forms, organizational charts, intellectual property, company ethics, an outline of the job description, etc.
- Send a welcome video or organize an online meeting as an introduction. This can be a fun, interactive way to share information informally and make people familiar with the faces of the team
- Invite the new employee to team outings or company events. It’s a great way to help someone build relationships with their new colleagues even before their first day has started. An outdoor day, cooking workshop or escape room are great for team building.
- Remember the practical details at this stage. Schedule an appointment with IT for the proper hardware, software, and login details, prepare a welcome package and clear a desk in advance (provided they come to work in the office). Nothing is more annoying than searching for a workstation on your first day, or having a computer that doesn’t work
2. The first day
If the preboarding is done well, the new employee will already be familiar with the organization, the expectations and the priorities for the first few weeks. However, the first day is still crucial. Here’s how to make it a success:
- Order a cake or organize a festive lunch to celebrate that first day with the whole team. This will help the new colleague feel welcome, especially since the first day can be quite nerve-wracking. Even if someone works remotely, it’s still possible to pay attention to their first day. For example, have a package of goodies delivered and organize an online kick-off meeting to bring the team together
- Discuss the agenda for the day. Make it clear to the new hire what the first day will entail
- Introduce them to the team and their new colleagues. Take the time to set up one-on-one meetings so everyone can get to know the new hire and make it clear who is who within the company
- Again, don’t forget the practicalities. Make sure they have the WiFi password, that their computer is set up correctly and that they have all the necessary logins, as well as business cards and badges. Take a profile picture and check that all information for the personnel file is complete
3. The first month
After a month, it’s time to sit down with the new team member at length. Not only because this often coincides with the end of the trial period, but also because they will now be fairly at ease with their new role, and understand the ins and outs of the company. This meeting usually takes place with someone from HR and a direct supervisor. Discuss how someone is feeling, share feedback and ask if there are things they need help with. Schedule another appointment for the next evaluation right away, ideally around the third month.
4. After 90 days
Just like in a romantic relationship, you need to keep investing time and energy to make it work together, so make sure to do regular check-ins. Onboarding can be a process that can take up to a year, but generally speaking, a new hire will be fully up to speed after 90 days. These 90 days are crucial, as the foundations are laid for future success – but it’s also the phase when people decide if they should stay or go. Three months is a good time to have another evaluation, and start planning the next steps.
Research and conventional wisdom both suggest that employees get about 90 days to prove themselves in a new job. The faster new hires feel welcome and prepared for their jobs, the faster they will be able to successfully contribute to the firm’s mission.
Talya Bauer, Ph.D., author of Onboarding New Employees: Maximizing Success
6. How Employee Onboarding Automation Can Help
HR managers often say that onboarding new employees is an essential and interesting part of their job, but it does take them a lot of time and energy. However, by using smart onboarding software, the process can be simplified significantly. How can technology help with a personalized onboarding process?
- Employee onboarding automation can streamline administrative processes. Rather than giving new hires piles of files to memorize, show them how to use the company’s online portal to find the information they need, view personalized welcome messages and company information – all in their own time
- If your organization uses an app or learning management system, you could use gamification, which allows new employees to absorb knowledge in an accessible and playful way, check off goals, score points by completing different levels, etc. They can also participate in targeted, individual training sessions
- HR and L&D can also use people analytics to monitor a new talent’s progress and productivity, or make the employee journey more personal by identifying where opportunities and challenges lie – for example, when it comes to the development of their personal ambitions and learning new skills.
It’s important to realize that technology can make the onboarding process easier, and more fun. Automated onboarding processes can add to a positive and personal employee experience, provided these three criteria are met:
- Technology should facilitate the process, not force it
- Technology should guide and support people – both employees and managers – not limit them
- Technology is a tool, not a replacement for a personal onboarding process
7. How to Deal with Virtual Onboarding
When new hires work in remote teams, the pre-boarding and onboarding process is equally important. After all, just like their peers, they want to feel included and engaged in their new job, they need to understand what is expected of them, and they want to prove themselves. This became even more evident during and after the pandemic, as remote working and hybrid business models emerged. As a result, onboarding new people will not necessarily take place in the office or face-to-face.
Remote employee onboarding should be seen as a similar path to in-person onboarding, including the various phases. The only difference is that there will be a bigger emphasis on digital tools and onboarding technologies: insightful videos, online learning programs, easy access to digital files, and online meetings to discuss work, and progress and to virtually connect with new colleagues.
8. Inspiring Ideas
Secretary Plus uses an onboarding app, which helps to welcome new hires. It allows them to quickly and effectively learn about the organizational culture, and they can connect directly with colleagues they’ll be working with. It’s easy to use as the information is shared in bite-size chunks, and because of the interactivity, it’s also great fun.
Then there’s Google’s approach to onboarding: just one day before a new hire starts, their future manager receives an email with five small tasks that they will need to do, like “Match the new hire with a peer buddy,” “Set up employee onboarding check-ins once a month for the new hire’s first six months,” and “Help the new hire build a social network.” Why only 24 hours in advance? According to the tech giant, people have the tendency to recall the last thing that happened to them better, so it will keep them sharp and on the case to set up their new hires for success.
At Lepaya, new talents who start on the same day (the 1st or 15th of the month), then join the same intro meetings, resolve the same onboarding tasks, and go through the same process together. This allows new employees to meet people from different departments, and effortlessly establish relationships that help them with their everyday tasks and future career within the company.
9. Best Practices to Make A New Hire Succeed
Take a look at the below best practices and make sure to follow them up, as they are the key factors in making a new hire succeed and stay.
- Prepare the onboarding program from A to Z: from pre-boarding to an evaluation after the first year, and make sure all steps are clear and followed up. Also, test the success of the onboarding process internally: what went well, and what can be improved? This can be done during specific onboarding meetings with the new hires
- Set up a buddy system: pair new hires with a more seasoned employee: someone who helps them get familiar with the organizational structure, culture, and processes during their first weeks or months on the job – sometimes even longer
- Be transparent about the company culture: the sooner new hires are familiar with a company’s core values, way of communicating, and unwritten rules, the better they can decide if it’s a match with their own values and expectations
- Standardize time-consuming processes: HR teams largely set the pace of the onboarding process. The stages someone goes through can be simplified if time-consuming administrative tasks are standardized and/or automated
- Make it personal: take into account that everybody is different. It makes no sense to apply the same onboarding program to everyone; there is a big difference between starters and experienced managers, between designers and sales
- Involve managers and teams: make sure managers are aware of their central role in the onboarding process and agree with them to regularly check in with their new team members. Also, make it clear to everyone on the team that they too have an important role to play in welcoming a new colleague. When people feel included, they are more likely to feel engaged
10. Checklist for Onboarding New Hires
Finally, use the below onboarding checklist for managers, HR, and others who are closely involved in the process.
- Create a 90-day onboarding agenda: set up a timeline and outline the new employees’ responsibilities and priorities for the first 90 days, so they know what is expected of them and what their new job entails
- Organize meet & greets: make sure there’s sufficient time for contact moments between a newcomer and their manager, team, work buddy and (in)direct colleagues. These informal introductions will help them build great professional relationships within the company
- Provide a digital toolkit: create a document containing all essential information and onboarding documentation (vacations, holidays, important contact and confidants, safety regulations, administrative processes, etc.)
- Make sure the new employee is connected: give the newcomer access to the staff portal, learning system, computer, phone, mail, etc.
- Plan 30-60-90 days feedback sessions: check-in and sit down for an evaluation session after those crucial 30, 60, and 90 days
New employees will feel much more involved with an organization after a successful onboarding. This involvement contributes to productivity levels, retention rates, and a positive brand image. With well-thought-out, structured onboarding, it’s possible to create clear expectations, greater job satisfaction, and loyalty among new staff, minimizing the risk of them leaving early. Moreover, it creates a solid bond between employees, teams, and managers. These elements are essential for building a well-functioning team and a healthy, successful organization.
It’s true, of course, that a good onboarding process requires energy and time from HR, and possibly from the rest of the team as well, but that doesn’t make it a supplement: it’s a must. To make the process more effective and efficient, companies can use smart onboarding software and learning programs in addition to a personalized approach, which combined will give new talent a great start.
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