Effective onboarding is a vital piece of the hiring process. It helps new employees familiarize themselves with your company culture while providing them with the tools and resources they need to comfortably hit the ground running. So, what are the best practices for onboarding, and does onboarding really make a difference?
Employee disengagement is a real issue – one that’s only been made worse due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, employees who are not engaged or who are actively disengaged cost the world $7.8 trillion in lost productivity – equal to 11% of the global GDP, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report. The more disengaged an employee is, the more likely they are to find work elsewhere, and the more lackluster your onboarding process, the less likely your new employees will ever become engaged.
Don’t allow this to happen. If you want to maximize company productivity and profit, reduce turnover and support employee wellness, a comprehensive and engaging onboarding strategy is a must. So, what does your current onboarding process look like? How do your team members feel about your onboarding process, and are they still ‘onboard’?
It may be time for an onboarding revamp. Let’s dig into the best practices for onboarding in 2023 so that you can set up each new hire for continued success.
Have everything prepared in advance
First impressions matter – and it’s not only the new employee who needs to worry about this. They are interacting with your company as a member of the team for the first time. If they show up to work on their first day and things are disorganized and unprepared, the employee could easily believe this lack of preparedness is the standard operating procedure for the company. In turn, this could lead them to believe they don’t need to give their best effort moving forward, new employees aren’t a priority or both.
Getting everything prepared in advance enables you and the new hire to hit the ground running. It lets the new team member know you’ve been eagerly awaiting their arrival and are excited to help them get started.
With thorough advance planning, you can let the employee know beforehand what they need to bring and expect on the first day. Of course, this will vary for in-person and virtual onboarding, but either way, let your new team member know what to anticipate and which tools or resources will be most beneficial to them as they get started. Also, note which tools and resources will aid you and your own team in the onboarding process.
Every organization will be a bit different, but here’s a list of a few important things that should be prepared before you begin onboarding an employee:
- Keys/ID badge
- Workspace – desk, chair and so on, or a virtual setup
- Employee handbook
- Payroll and benefits (tax forms, direct deposit forms, etc.)
- Noncompete or nondisclosure agreements
- Equipment provided by the organization (computer, mouse, etc.)
- Technical details, such as logins, security contacts and IT contacts, and
- Professional communication apps like Slack.
Utilize a pre-established onboarding checklist to ensure nothing is missed or forgotten.
Preboard to build excitement
Preboarding gets some of your onboarding tasks out of the way in the days leading up to an employee’s start date, and when executed well, it builds excitement for the new employee.
The key to preboarding success is to limit the work you pass on to the new hire. They aren’t being paid yet, and they likely already have a lot on their plate with the transition into their new role. Choose a couple of small tasks, such as setting up payroll or preparing their new email account. Be enthusiastic while sharing why these advanced tasks are to their benefit.
During the preboarding phase, you might send a welcome package that includes company-branded swag or a welcome gift. This is also an ideal time to share an agenda of what they can expect on their first day. Show them in advance you’re organized and on top of the onboarding process. Ensure they know just how excited you are to have them join your team.
Don’t lead with the rules
Sure, you may have a lot of rules, procedures and company policies to go over, but don’t lead with this on the first day. Leading with all the things the new employee can’t and shouldn’t do is a surefire way to put their guard up before they’ve even started.
Think of it this way – they haven’t even worked one full day and you’re pointing out all of the different ways in which they could potentially be fired.
Instead, show them how to access your company policies and ask them to take time to review them later in the day or within the first few days. This way, you have more time on the first day for meeting the team and getting to know what makes your workplace such a great place to be employed.
Introduce team members based on relationships
Take time to introduce the new hire to the main team members they’ll work with. Depending on the size of your team, you may have to choose a select few important team members for introductions and save a larger introduction for a team lunch or all-hands team meeting.
When making introductions, introduce people based on the relationship they’ll have with a new hire, not simply their title. For example:
- “Meet Sharon. She’s in charge of payroll, so she’s the one who will make sure you get paid. You can go to Sharon with any of your questions about payroll, expenses and tax-related forms.”
- “Let’s say hi to Alan, our project manager. You’ll meet with him and the rest of the team for daily stand-ups starting tomorrow. You’ll also have the chance to meet with him one-on-one once a month to discuss your progress, goals and ideas for how the company can improve.”
Understanding the relationship they’ll have with different team members is much more memorable than listing off titles; plus, hearing the human side of their role is a little less intimidating.
Have a lunch plan built into the first day
Don’t allow lunch to slip by unnoticed. No one wants to be surprised by an office meal they didn’t expect, or worse, eat lunch alone like it’s the dreaded first day of school. Making the new employee feel welcome is essential, and a free lunch surrounded by their new peers who are also getting a free lunch is a great way to do that. Nothing brings people together like good food!
Build a plan for lunch into the first-day onboarding agenda, and ensure the new hire knows what to expect in advance.
If there’s a team lunch opportunity or a chance to have a one-on-one meeting over a free meal, let the new team member know they won’t have to bring their own lunch. Just be sure to ask in advance about any dietary preferences.
If one of these options isn’t possible, make sure you do all you can to familiarize the new team member with the breakroom. What time do people typically take a lunch break? Is there a buddy or team they can eat lunch with? Or would they prefer a break on their own to recalibrate?
For more on common missteps, check out 7 Reasons New Hires Hate Their First Day.
Establish a shared definition of success
Build the definition of success together. What is expected of the new hire, AND what do they hope to accomplish in their first week, month or quarter? Not all of this will get decided on the first day, and it doesn’t need to be, but it’s important for both of you to get on the same page and agree in advance about what success looks like.
Use concrete, tangible examples of past successes and how they were achieved. Get specific, as vague, wishy-washy goals will only serve to confuse you both, and it can lead to misunderstanding and conflict down the road.
Make it clear to the employee that this is not a test. Offer guidance if requested, but keep in mind that this is meant to get them involved in the process. You aren’t just telling them what to do – they’re telling themselves what to do, which promotes autonomy and accountability.
Build in time for questions
Don’t just leave some extra time for questions at the end of the day. Build time into the agenda.
There’s a very good chance the new team member will continue to have questions in the days and weeks to come as well. Set specific time aside for questions, but be clear that questions are continually encouraged.
Ensure the new hire knows who they should contact with future questions. What’s the best way for team members to be reached? If it’s an urgent question, let them know they can reach out at any time. Or, for less urgent questions, they can make a list for the check-in meeting later in the week or the one-on-one meeting that will occur with you each month.
Schedule future one-on-one meetings
Phew! Now that the employee has spent a day onboarding, everything’s done, right? Far from it! Don’t leave the employee hanging at the end of the day. What happens next? When will their next check-in occur? How are one-on-ones scheduled?
Make it clear that you don’t expect all of their questions, concerns or ideas to be limited to the first day or even the first couple of weeks. Schedule future one-on-one meetings to let the employee know you will continue to be there to support them. You are there to offer guidance in a welcoming, one-on-one environment regularly.
This way, they won’t feel pressured to get out every possible question as quickly as possible or get something perfect on the first day. Scheduling future one-on-ones will help the employee remain engaged in the present moment so that they can focus on familiarizing themselves with the company culture as well as their new teammates.
During your future check-ins, ask if they feel like they could benefit from any additional training or support. Are they comfortable? How are they finding their workload? Do their goals need to be reevaluated? Maintaining this regular contact and support, and ensuring the employee feels comfortable in their role will greatly reduce the chance of employee turnover.
Enact everboarding – the latest onboarding trend
Onboarding is far from a one-and-done process. In fact, the latest trend for onboarding is called everboarding.
As the name suggests, everboarding is a continuous onboarding process that lasts well beyond the new employee’s first few days on the job. As opposed to approaching onboarding with a defined beginning and end, everboarding can help new hires steadily adapt to their new role and environment without the pressure to figure everything out right away.
New employees can rest assured they can (and should!) continue to pursue learning opportunities beyond day one. Onboarding takes time, and the more you rush it, the more likely you are to face the high costs of employee turnover.
Everboarding enables continuous learning and improvement, something that’s increasingly highly sought-after by employees. Eighty percent of employees prioritize opportunities for continuous learning when looking for a job, and a whopping 94% say they would stay longer at a company that invests in more learning and professional development.
When you get a new job, there’s a lot to learn and a lot to adjust to. This is even truer for remote employees, as it’s more difficult to fully immerse yourself in a company culture from home. (Another great reason to send your new employees plenty of company-branded swag!) Make the transition as smooth and effective as possible by acknowledging the transition will take time.
Curious to try a more humanistic approach to onboarding? Read Everboarding: The next generation of onboarding.
Onboarding success well beyond the first day
Successful onboarding begins well before an employee’s first day on the job. Prepare an agenda for the first day as well as an onboarding checklist that will ensure nothing slips through the cracks. Build excitement and momentum with preboarding, and continue that excitement by not inundating the new hire with rules upon rules on their first day.
The first day should include intentional introductions, a planned lunch break, time for questions, and discussion about what will come next. Continue the onboarding process with scheduled one-on-one meetings and ongoing support. Everboarding will continue the onboarding process throughout the employee’s journey with your company.
Download the Ultimate Guide to Employee Onboarding to learn how to welcome your new hires to your organization’s values, culture, systems and processes. This free eBook will not only minimize unnecessary costs but also help further develop your onboarding process – an absolute must for today’s businesses.