6 Steps to a Highly Effective Onboarding Process

Employer welcoming a new employee.

Every new hire knows those first-day jitters. But guess what, employers? You should be on your toes too. While often overlooked, the onboarding process — from day one to weeks and months later — is a vital building block in constructing strong relationships with your employees. Get it right and you can reap long-term rewards in terms of better performance, greater loyalty, and increased employee retention.

Despite the potential upsides, many companies treat onboarding as an afterthought. A recent Robert Half survey found a major disconnect between the experience of new hires and the way human resources managers rate their own onboarding processes. An overwhelming majority (92 percent) of HR managers surveyed said their onboarding processes were either somewhat or very effective. Yet more than half (54 percent) of workers reported at least one mishap when starting a new job.

How can you transform your onboarding process into a powerful launch pad for your new hires? With some well-timed care and attention, you can create a more personalized, dynamic and effective onboarding experience. And you can do virtually all of it with resources already at your disposal.

Here are six tips for supercharging your onboarding process. “Meets expectations” signifies a decent, run-of-the-mill operation; “Exceeds expectations” means you’re in supercharge territory.

1. Get the paperwork out of the way

  • Meets expectations: Get all the paperwork ready in advance so your new hire can take care of it all on the first day on the job.
  • Exceeds expectations: Send as much paperwork as possible ahead of time to new hires so they can complete it before their start date. This way, they can devote their first day to learning the ropes, bonding with colleagues and getting down to the job at hand.

Here’s a complete checklist of key onboarding activities, so you can plan ahead.  

2. Provide a well-stocked, fully functioning workspace

  • Meets expectations: Provide a clean desk for your new employee, and make sure your tech team is scheduled to set up computer, phone and security access.
  • Exceeds expectations: Ensure all computer, phone and security systems are ready to go before the new hire arrives. This helps them immediately feel part of the team and reinforces the message that they and their time are valuable. You can also stock their drawers with office supplies and schedule a stop-by from tech support to check on what they’ve set up. For an extra personal touch, add a welcome sign or balloons.

3. Emphasize the new hire’s value to the organization

  • Meets expectations: Go over the details of the new hire’s role and responsibilities.
  • Exceeds expectations: Explain why, based on the employee’s skills and experience, you chose them to join your team. Define how they will personally be contributing to the overall success of the company. By building these discussions into the onboarding process, you instill confidence in the employee and also help connect them to a larger mission — both of which are key to job performance, satisfaction and commitment.

Learn more about building strong teams.

4. Integrate new employees into their teams right away

  • Meets expectations: Meet the new hire personally when they arrive. Show the person around the office and make introductions to fellow team members. Explain the roles of those colleagues, including the tasks they will be expected to work on together.
  • Exceeds expectations: Schedule a team lunch to welcome new employees and help them start building relationships immediately. If a group lunch is not possible, set up a series of one-on-one lunches — plus, video introductions with team members in other locations. Clear your schedule as much as possible on their first day so you’re available to check in, answer questions and walk them to meetings.

5. Provide concrete, realistic goals for the short term

  • Meets expectations: Assign an initial task that keeps the new hire busy for the first few days.
  • Exceeds expectations: Before the new hire’s first day, send a schedule of their first week or two on the job: important meetings, deadlines and key activities. When people know what to expect from your onboarding process during those early days, they will feel less anxious. And don’t make the first day or two all about training and bureaucracy. They are more likely to feel engaged when they complete at least some useful work. In the same spirit of clarity and focus, provide a set of overall goals for the new hire over the next few months, and schedule check-ins along the way.

6. Provide mentoring 

  • Meets expectations: Have the new hire shadow a colleague. 
  • Exceeds expectations: Explain how you have carefully paired the new hire with a particular colleague for on-the-job training. Name specific skills and talents to watch out for (“Sally is great at keeping meetings on track,” or “Dave really knows how to put prospects and clients at ease”). And assign a longer-term mentor immediately — a veteran who can help them learn the ropes in a way that a training video never could.

Want to know more about onboarding? Here is a comprehensive look at the onboarding process — and three approaches to avoid.

Tags: Onboarding