7 Steps to Creating an Outstanding Employee Onboarding Process

Larissa Lewis April 27, 2021 HR

employee-onboarding-process

You finish sifting through hundreds of resumes and conducting dozens of interviews. Finally, you’ve found the perfect candidate—someone looking to serve as more than employee #427, but produce meaningful work that has a lasting impact on your organization. Think it’s time to pop the champagne and celebrate? Think again: the employee onboarding process is where the rubber really meets the road, an important phase that determines whether your rockstar hire sticks around or does an about-face right for the door. 

Studies show that 30% of companies take a back seat when it comes to the onboarding process. So many organizations are missing out on this valuable opportunity to welcome, impress, and retain top talent. Unfortunately, new employees aren’t willing to wait around while you sort through a disorganized onboarding process—a bad first impression sends 64% of new starters sprinting right back to the job hunt

When quizzed on the most desirable workplace perks, managers cite free snacks and standing desks. However, the top-most driver of employee satisfaction, loyalty, and productivity is appreciation. Experts reveal that the team members who feel most appreciated at work can be up to 50% more productive. Onboarding is your first chance to demonstrate how much you value your team’s hard work.  An inefficient, chaotic process leaves nothing but a sour taste.  So how do you create an onboarding experience that positions your company as a phenomenal place to work?

7 steps to building an employee onboarding process every new hire will love

An onboarding process is more than successfully ticking off a list of to-dos. It’s a critical time to showcase your company’s culture and corporate values. A warm, welcoming, and timely onboarding experience brings new hires into the fold, giving them an immediate taste for how you treat employees.  Here’s how to do it. 

1. Establish a measurable game plan

A completely open-ended onboarding process is as bad as no process at all. To reap the benefits of a spectacular onboarding experience, you must establish a crystal clear timeline and set of objectives. Ask yourself the following questions: 

  • How long will the entire process take? The typical onboarding process can last between 90 and 120 days. It’s important that you set starting points and bookends on each step. 
  • What are the key takeaways? What do you want your new hire to learn in this time period? How should they feel? What do you want them to be proficient in by the end of each phase? Assign a trackable outcome to each phase.
  • What are your KPIs? How will you measure success? Create concrete objectives for each step so afterwards, you can easily determine what areas were a resounding success, and what areas need improvement. 

With these goals at the foundation of your strategy, you’re ready to build an onboarding experience new employees will love. 

2. Prepare a comprehensive onboarding kit

Bringing on a new hire requires a tight coordination beyond their immediate team. You must involve IT, security, payroll, procurement, and more. Show new hires your company is well organized (and considerate!) by preparing a comprehensive welcome pack. This kit should include:

  • Company policies
  • Office perks
  • Introductions to team members and important names to know
  • An understanding of your management structure and where to go when they have questions
  • A clear rundown of paperwork and other forms needed by HR
  • A detailed explanation of job duties: Nearly one-quarter of people who have left their job say they left because they had trouble understanding expectations. Beat this stat by writing up a detailed dossier of responsibilities. 
  • What to expect from the training process: a schedule, links to videos, pre-arranged times to meet with different managers

If you work in a large organization, these documents frequently change.  The right workflow platform can help make sure your onboarding kit is always up to date. Pandemic advisories subject many organizations to remote work mandates and corporate travel bans, so it’s important to always keep employees informed on the latest policies. 

You definitely don’t have to keep track of this all by hand, automation gives you full visibility into what steps of the process each hire is moving through, and can also give them an opportunity to provide valuable feedback along the way. A fully digitized document management system also makes it easy to ensure forms are always accurate and allows HR professionals to quickly access necessary documents—even if they are working from home. 

3. Set up a ready-to-go workstation

Proactively plan for your new hire’s success. They’ll need access to the right software and all the proper tools and equipment. There’s nothing more discouraging than arriving on your first day to find a desk cluttered with a jumble of computers and cables—or even worse, no workstation at all. 

If you want new hires to hit the ground running from day one, you’ll have to put in the legwork. Sit down with IT and procurement in advance to ensure computers, phones, and all necessary peripherals are ready to go well in advance. Sort out computer and email passwords and make sure your new hire has immediate access to all of the apps, software, and databases they’ll need to perform their job duties. A study by Microsoft illustrates the importance of these “small efforts”—a working computer and a ready-to-go email address are quick ways to win over fresh starters. 

If you’re bringing on a remote employee, make sure all equipment arrives at their location well before their start date. Plus, make sure to set clear expectations of any personal equipment they might use, and what allowances are offered to fill any gaps. 

Consider all aspects of the job. Are there off-limits areas they will need access to? Proactively work with your security team to make sure you have the proper keys or credentials ready on their first day. Don’t forget the fun parts of the job either—if you send around an email to gather Friday afternoon lunch orders, make sure to add new hires to the email group or Slack channel. 

4. Creating a welcoming first day experience is most critical during employee onboarding

Leaving a good first-day impression is priority #1 for fostering a lasting relationship with a new employee. Just like real estate agents play host to potential buyers by staging a home with potted plants and warm decor, the right processes ‘stage’ your company as a spectacular place to work. Putting in the effort to make an unfamiliar environment feel like a welcoming home is a top-most way to please a new hire—after all, work is where we spend a third of our lives

Use this opportunity to showcase what makes your company special. If you tout a high-energy vibe, make sure your welcome materials and first-day activities reflect that. If you take pride in technology and innovation, make concerted efforts to digitize onboarding paperwork instead of sloughing off a stack of printed forms requiring wet signatures. 

Hopefully, you’ve already completed the step of informing your staff that a new person is joining the team. Encourage them to stop by to say hi or reach out over Zoom to put a friendly face to the name. Go the extra mile by pre-arranging a welcome brunch or a virtual coffee date—and get it on everybody’s calendar. Scrambling last minute to find a time that works for everyone is a bad look, so set the date and time well in advance. 

5. Handpick a mentor for each new hire—and involve the entire team

In the excitement of preparing for a new team member, you can’t forget to coordinate with your current staff, too. Make sure everyone knows the new hire’s name, position, and start date. Not every direct manager is a master of one-on-one mentorship, so play to your strengths and deputize the right team members to lend a helping hand. 

Everyone should also understand the new team member’s responsibilities, so they know exactly how they can assist during the training process. Larger companies will even play a form of co-working matchmaker, providing new hires with a guide that blends well with their personality and work style. 

In this phase, it’s very important to set 30-60-90 goals—concrete milestones to work towards over the first 30, 60, and 90 days on the job. Each goal should feed into an organization workflow so it’s trackable and measurable at the end of each month. 

6. Provide ongoing team involvement and access to further training 

Whether it’s leadership, collaboration, or communication, top performers never rest on their laurels—they have a high appetite for continuous training opportunities. So offer seminars and workshops wherever possible. Ask employees what kind of content is most valuable to them. What topics or technologies do they feel will empower them in the workplace? By creating training opportunities that reflect employee needs, you show how much you truly appreciate their contributions. 

Some organizations worry that training up employees will only qualify them for a better job elsewhere. Fear not: 94% of employees say that they’d actually stay longer with a company that’s eagerly invested in their career training

7. Measure your Employee onboarding process KPIs

Remember the goals you set at the beginning? Here’s where you review your progress and make sure you and your team hit every KPI with flying colors. In every employee onboarding process, there’s always room for improvement. Identify which steps you need to bolster, and which ones you can cut entirely. 

A well-oiled onboarding process is more than successfully ticking off a list of to-dos. It’s a critical time to showcase your company’s culture and corporate values. A warm, welcoming, and timely onboarding experience brings new hires into the fold, giving them an immediate taste for how you expect co-workers and clients to be treated as well. Don’t let your rockstar hire transition to offboarding just as quickly as they joined your team—set the future of your company up for success with a stellar onboarding experience new hires will love. 

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