Great Leadership

Employee Onboarding - Process + Checklist

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Simon Deignan2022-01-03

Gone are the days of "here’s your desk, now get to work". Nowadays, many of us will, thankfully, go through a series of onboarding sessions designed to help us quickly assimilate into our new work environment. But what many may not realize is just how beneficial a good onboarding process is to both a company and their newest members.


What exactly is onboarding?

While the term onboarding may be common in the lexicons of recruiters, talent acquisition specialists and HR professionals, it is still a foreign concept to many. In simple terms, onboarding refers to how a company integrates its new employees. This may include training sessions, meet and greets, and general orientation. 

It can be the perfect opportunity for a company to help bring their new hires up to speed, welcome them into new teams and ensure they feel comfortable in their surroundings. More and more companies worldwide are investing increased resources into their onboarding strategies so they can reap the wide variety of rewards. Key onboarding statistics

But… is onboarding important?

In a word - YES!

A look at a variety of HR and recruitment metrics highlights just how beneficial and cost effective it can be to implement a strong and sustainable onboarding program. 

  • Employee retention rates can be improved by up to 82% while productivity, likewise, may increase by over 70%.
  • Those who expressed displeasure with their onboarding process were twice as likely to look for another job in the not too distant future.
  • 9% of employees surveyed by CareerBuilder expressly stated that they left a job due to a poor onboarding experience; 29% said they didn’t believe their organization put them in a position to succeed.
  • Those with a positive experience were 18 times more likely to feel highly committed to their new organization. This is in stark contrast with those who felt dissatisfied.  

Employee satisfaction must be a key consideration here as a poor first impression can be hard to overcome. We see that content and well integrated new hires will, not only, feel more at ease in their new work environment, but are more likely to stay longer thanks to this greater sense of belonging. All of these factors combine to reduce recruitment costs, improve employee feedback and enhance an organization's brand image.

Onboard checklist

  1. Roadmap the process
  2. Communicate with relevant parties
  3. Tailor it 
  4. Avoid overload
  5. Think long term
  6. Gather feedback
  7. Experiment

Roadmap the process

Having a good and clear roadmap will not only help your new hires to know what to expect and what is expected of them, but also to help coordinate each member of your HR team. Furthermore, when gathering feedback about the onboarding process it can be easier to tweak it as needed when you have a solid roadmap in place. You can easily distinguish what needs to be improved or where you need to dedicate more resources. 

While there is no set time for how long onboarding should take (experts seem to vary in their opinion on the matter), the process can last a few months. If this is the case then good planning and organization is crucial. Ensuring no one misses sessions because an email invite was not sent or that important meetings clash with one another can easily be avoided. This overarching structure will help everyone involved in the onboarding process to keep abreast of the schedule, important meetings and dates, and feedback surveys.

Communicate with relevant parties

Early and often communication with your new hires is obviously an important part of the onboarding process but so is maintaining regular communication with their prospective managers and colleagues. Acting as a go between in the initial period will help to clear up any questions and queries on the part of the employee. 

Sending out all of the relevant calendar invites well in advance will also help to ensure there are no time conflicts and plenty of time for onboarders to decompress and take everything in. This can also help managers and teams plan their own onboarding activities for new team members to help them feel more welcome and to help get them up to speed on day to day duties. 

Along with this having a dedicated platform for all of your new colleagues to ask questions is another way to help make communication a priority. Creating a Slack channel for #onboarders or a Teams group for onboarders and trainers can act as a forum for both questions and updates.

Tailor it 

The workplace now means something very different to all of us. For many it still means a desk in an office, but for many that office is a room in their home and not a company owned property. Many people will be more comfortable doing all of their onboarding remotely while others will be eager to return to the office. There will therefore be a need to make onboarding meetings both remote and hybrid friendly. Investing the tools to make this process easier will go a long way to ensuring that no matter where people onboard from, they receive the same experience as their colleagues. 

Likewise, if welcoming new employees that are relocating specifically for this job it may be a good idea to include additional sessions that focus more on learning about your country, city, and culture. Both starting a new job and relocating can be nerve wracking and incredibly exciting. Helping new hires get up to speed on local customs, the layout of the city, as well as particle advice on apartment hunting can help them settle into both work and regular life. 

Avoid overload

There is undoubtedly a lot to learn when arriving at a new company, and some jobs have a much steeper learning curve than others. Many companies, likewise, will have HR workshops on company culture, vision, and goals. It is vital to manage the time of new hires smartly in this regard as long onboarding sessions that are information heavy tend to be a very tiring experience. The first week of onboarding, for many, is exhausting.

Understanding this and knowing how to spread sessions out over time and drawing out the initial phase of onboarding can help new hires process and retain important information rather than becoming overloaded and stressed. This can go a long way to helping them see how they fit into the company structure and thus improve the likelihood they don’t experience a form of imposter syndrome early on in their time with you. 

Of course, it goes without saying that everyone is different and some people will have a higher tolerance for how many meetings in a week they can handle comfortably. So consider using the time between dedicated onboarding meetings as a chance for managers and teams to spend time with their new colleagues where they can do as much as they are able for.

Think long term

Onboarding is so much more than an employee's very first week in the doors. It starts when they sign that offer letter and ends many months later. It is therefore important to stay consistent in planning and work no matter how late you are into onboarding. The first six or so months are when employees will find their feet and grow into their role and hopefully become high performing members of their teams. 

Scheduling regular check-ins over this period and maintaining good communication is crucial, there is little point in offering new hires a vast wealth of resources within the first week only for them to not understand how to use them or see the value in using them a month later. The idea of thinking in the long term is very dependent, therefore, on establishing and maintaining strong lines of communication. Letting new hires know that there is always a forum for them to ask questions and receive quick and honest answers will help them and get up to speed faster.

Gather feedback

Feedback and surveys are the best way to learn what it is you are doing well and what you may need to improve. It can also help to encourage employees from their very first day to think critically and work on giving constructive feedback to colleagues. This can thus be a great way to establish a culture of feedback and improvement. 

Running a survey dedicated to the onboarding experience can be an incredibly useful way to gain insights as to what they feel worked and what needs to be adjusted. Moreover, running an employee engagement survey within the first 6 months can also help you understand how they are settling in and if the role is as they expected it to be. 

Group onboarding sessions can also provide new employees with an additional resource and help promote a sense of camaraderie. This time efficient way of training a number of new arrivals at the same time can also help relieve any feelings of isolation we have all felt when walking into an office full of strangers. Making this a shared experience is another layer of support companies can provide. 

Experiment with unique experiences

We mentioned before about tailoring the onboard experience to the company and the situation of new hires, specifically when it comes to remote working or relocation. Also remember that A/B and other forms of testing are just as useful in the world of HR as they are in the realms of software development or user experience. 

Adjusting how many workshops take place in a week or how many people you onboard at once can help you learn a lot about your system. Experimentation should be done with the goal of optimizing the process and validating or debunking hypotheses you have about the onboarding process in general. 

Everyone’s a winner

We can unequivocally say that investing the necessary time and effort into developing a strong onboarding strategy will reap a wide range of benefits from the cost saving measures to increased employee satisfaction. Both employees and employers stand to gain from this process and the upsides speak for themselves. 

Online onboarding guides can help provide a proven and effective base upon which you craft your own framework for all future onboarding sessions. Perfecting the onboarding flow is a process that will likely take a number of iterations to improve and potentially perfect. To help get started however we have an onboarding template you can use and download to help welcome all those fresh faced new hires on day one. Best of luck!

New Employee Onboarding

New Employee Onboarding